Running and Racing Fears: Let it Go or Go with the Flow
Running & Fitness Running & Fitness Tips

Running and Racing Fears: Let it Go or Go with the Flow?

Now, had you listened to our latest podcast, you’d know I was initially going to call this post and Vlogtober video, “RACING FEARS: Pooping and other things to not worry about.” (Which tells you that, yes, there will be poop talk in this post.) But seriously, me telling others to not worry about something is rather amusing. At times, I’m the Queen of Worry. Just the other day, I rescued a bug flailing for its dear life in the toilet over my fear of being punished by Karma or a Union of Insect Spirits.

(How I rescued that bug, I’d rather not say.)

And as runners, we have fears and worries. Lots and lots of them. Some are valid and need immediate attention, like a pain that doesn’t go away with rest which means you better get to the doctors. Like, now. Or deep exhaustion due to over-training. Or whether you should back out of this weekend’s local half marathon because you did zero training. (My advice? Skip it so you don’t injury yourself. There’ll always be another race.)

But for other fears and worries, I think they fall into two categories: Ones you should pull an Elsa with and just let it go and ones that nearly all runners have, so there’s no use fighting it, you might as well go with the flow. 

Running and Racing Fears: Let it Go or Go with the Flow

Being Perfectly Perfect with your Training Plan

Yeah. As a Type A gal, this is something I struggle with. If a plan calls for runs on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays, then by jolly, that’s what I must do. And if I should happen to miss a day, leaving a box unchecked?

Total fail.

But seriously. Unless your plan has been custom-made for you by a doctor or qualified trainer, then you do have some wiggle room. While training plans found online might be prepared by qualified trainers such as Jeff Galloway, but they are still generic and not custom-made for you, so this worry falls in the Let It Go category.

So if it’s more convenient for you to do your long runs on Wednesdays, that’s okay, do it on Wednesday and wiggle your other days as well. The most important thing here is that allow enough of a recovery between your runs. If one day calls for speed or hill work but you’re tired and don’t have it in you, that’s okay, a slow, steady run is just as productive.

If you’re too sick, it’s okay to skip your run and leave that box unchecked. Just be careful to keep your habits in check. Missing a run because you’re ill or the weather conditions outside aren’t safe is okay. Missing a run because you want to binge-watch past episodes of Project Runway? Not okay.

Sleeping the night before a race.

Not being able to sleep the night before a race is one of my biggest worries. My runDisney insomnia issues are very real and very frustrating, but I have learned one thing: worrying about it only makes it worse. And those races that I had to do with little to no sleep? I survived, since at least my body was resting, so again. Let it Go.

There are some things you can do to help get a good nights sleep. The biggest is to be ready early. If you’re hustling frantically around your house trying to get ready, it’s really hard to then just hop in bed and say, okay, now it’s time to sleep. No, you need time to unwind and settle down. So if your race is local, have your outfit and everything needed lined up hours before bedtime, so you can then spend that time relaxing, reading, watching television. If you’re going out of town, try to be packed the day before.

Putting your bib on straight.

Oh my gosh. I used to be SO OBSESSED with this! But really, unless you plan on bringing a level with you, forget it, not gonna happen. Especially if you’re a gal like me with … proportion issues. So just slap that baby on, take a glance in the mirror or ask your friends if it’s even, and then let it go.

Just don’t be like me and get fussy during a race, re-pinning your bib while waiting in line for a character photo. Why? Because you just might pin it on upside down.

Perfectly tying your shoelaces

Perhaps this should go under the let it go category but you know what? I’m saying go with the flow on this one because hey, you have to do something with your nervous energy, right? So re-tie away until they feel just right. Just don’t do it when everyone is standing in the corral, crowding to the front because that puts you in a danger zone of being tripped over or worse. Farted on. Happened to me once. Wasn’t pleasant.

Packing every essential item in your race belt.

Total let it go one, here. There was a time when I try to pull a boy scout by being prepared for any occasion. I’d stuff my race belt with things like hand sanitizer, antibacterial wipes, mini-sunblocks, or a tiny flashlight for dark, pre-dawn port-o-pot visits. I remember the night before the 2015 WDW Half Marathon, Jackey took one look at my pile and started taking things out, saying, “You’re not going to need this, you won’t need this, and seriously? A flashlight?”

She was right. The only thing over-packing accomplishes is a bouncing, uncomfortable race belt and fussy moments when you have to dig through for what you really need. So be sure to pack the things that you’ll really need. Like racing fuel, tissues and identification.

And lipstick, of course.

Dressing perfectly for the weather.

I’ve been running for, what. Four years now? Well, I’ve yet to figure out how to dress so for me, this falls into go with the flow territory because I hate being cold and I always overdress. At least now I know that if you dress in layers, it’s easy to strip.

It’s Taper Time.

Ugh. Tapering. Tapering drives me CRAZY because what if I lose my conditioning? What if my fitness level drops? And what about those runs I had missed throughout the previous weeks. Wouldn’t it be better to make them up now?

No. It wouldn’t be better because tapering is so important. It gives your body time to regroup and recover, filling back up the tank that your previous high mileage has drained. Still. Me saying let it go for this one is completely hypocritical. So I’m calling tapering fears a major go with the flow instead, since I know I’m not the only one!

But I do force myself to get plenty of sleep and water during tapering, and it also helps to view those mornings spent relaxing with a cup of tea instead of running long distances as a bit of a pre-race reward.

It’s all in how you spin it.

Not pooping.

Look. You knew I wouldn’t be able to cover the topic of running fears without bringing up poop. So come on. Let’s do this.

Here’s the thing. [Major TMI warning … look away if ya gotta.] I rarely poop on vacations. The second I get to the airport, my bowels throw on sunglasses and a floppy hat before kicking back on a lounge chair with a margarita and a DO NOT DISTURB sign.

How’s that for a visual?

Over the years, I’ve tried EVERYTHING to put that lazy bugger to work. Fiber pills. Fiber drinks. Probiotics, even laxatives. Nothing works. And those articles about how to poop before a race? Yeah. Nice try. Don’t work unless one of the options is going up their with a shoe horn.

Again. How’s that for a visual?

So I’ve come to accept my constipated calamities. And me and my stubborn bowels have survived many races … including the four-day, 49.6 Dopey Challenge when I didn’t poop once.

Now I’m making you uncomfortable, aren’t I? My apologies.

So seeing I’m classifying this worry as a let it go because if you let it go, then maybe your body will relax and you’ll be able to go with the flow toward a bathroom.

Speaking of flow…

The Dreaded Runners Trots

Nope, total go with the flow, here, because it’s a perfectly legitimate worry that rumbles in the belly of nearly every runner.

Get it? Rumbles in the belly?

Okay. Again, my apologies.

But seriously. Let’s think of stats here of how many runners actually have pooped themselves during a race. I’m betting it’s very low … probably because not many folks would want to confess this in poll. I know I wouldn’t. But it has to be low, so maybe our worrying really is for nothing.

That being said, however … I would still never trust a fart.

Running a Perfect Race

Look. I don’t care who you are, someone running a 5k for the first time or a seasoned-pro doing their 100th marathon. You’re gonna make mistakes. It’s unavoidable because every single race offers a new learning experience, so let’s all just go with the flow with this one.

And think about it. Mistakes make for a more interesting story, right? Imagine hearing the following post-race recaps:


Oh my gosh, everything went perfectly according to plan. I got tons of sleep the night before, so I got there early and scored the best parking spot. There was no line at the bathrooms, so I took an amazing #2, and got to my corral in time to be right up front! It was chilly but I nailed my running outfit and was prepared with just the perfect amount of fuel.

So you know what? I rocked a great pace and got a new PR so my finish line photo is absolutely perfect. Wanna see?


Oh my gosh, everything went wrong, I couldn’t sleep and got there late so I had to park in no-man’s land which means the bathrooms were packed so of course I couldn’t go and then I was stuck in the back of the corral freezing my butt off because I had dressed all wrong and of course, as soon as the race started my body was like, “Okay, we can poop now,” but it was too late and so was getting the Gu gel packs I had left in my car.

But you know what? Despite all these screw-ups, I still rocked a great pace and got a new PR, so my finish line photo is absolutely perfect. Wanna see?

Which picture do you want to see?

So let perfection go. Do your best and welcome the learning opportunities that come with each new race!

Now what about you?

QOTD: What are your running and racing fears? And how would you classify them, as a Let it Go or Go with the Flow?

Also be sure to check out Heather Jergensen’s Vlogtober follow up video where she chats about Nothing New on Race Day!

Until then, thanks for reading, take care and have a joyful day!

Laura Bowers

Laura is a writer, runner, reader, runDisney addict, blogger, vlogger, wife to an amazing guy for 26 years, mom of two wonderful boys, excellent chili maker, and obsessive list keeper. She still thinks Spice World was an awesome movie and feels no shame about that plus she can quote most lines from Talladega Nights. Shake and bake!

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