I suffer from a chronic case of "Pre-race jitters". I'm fine in the days leading up to a race, but when I stand at the starting line and the official shouts "Runners take your mark!" I begin to feel lightheaded; my palms begin to sweat and my heart rate triples. On several occasions, when the starting gun was fired, I found it impossible to even move. The stress is so great, that I feel as if I might pass out! Is this intense fear common among runners? - Fighting The Fear Factor
Dear Fear Factor,
I was describing my preparations and training for an upcoming Fall marathon to a friend, who laughed and told me "You runners are a strange breed". He might be only slightly correct in calling us a "breed", but I'd classify our "kind" as more of a "genus", or a class... in the words of Merriam-Webster: "A group marked by common characteristics, a category of biological classification ranking between the family and the species".
We runners are, indeed a strange genus…each with widely different habits and responses to external stimuli. We share some of the same characteristics with many of our friends from the animal kingdom. Some runners are fast, as the cheetah, others are limber, like the snake. Some are powerful, like the polar bear, while others are defensive like the turtle.
And some are as afraid as goats.
"Goats?" you ask. "Who says goats are afraid?"
Science Timmy, it's one of the wonders of nature.
I submit for you, fearful runner, of the genus Capra: the genetic plight of the Myotonic Goat (also known as the epileptic, nervous, stiff-legged, wooden leg, scare or fainting goat). As its name suggests, this American bred creature carries a neuromuscular genetic trait that causes them to stiffen and even fall over when startled.
Following my logic to the bitter end, my suggestion to you is that your "fear" is merely a neurological reaction to the high decibel pop of the starting gun. Thus the solution to your conditioned reaction is to accept your Myotonic Goat-like instincts, and limit your exposure to startling situations.
If it is the sound of the gun that is causing your acute "myotonia", you might try wearing earmuffs to dampen the sound, or "drown out" the sound of the gun with headphones and some soothing music, or one of those "sounds of nature" tapes (perhaps the soft bleating of a Myotonic Goat?).
Take deep, relaxing breaths just prior to the start of your race. Try to think in a positive manner... separating yourself from any self-induced stress. Try repeating this mantra:
And as the race starts, take your non-startling visual cue from the other runners, and off you go!
One last point: if anyone asks why you are calling yourself a goat, and where you got the advice to repeat such a silly thing, I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention my name. I can imagine someone, somewhere, passing the word that the source of your advice was from "The Goat Guy", and that's a title I'd rather not be labeled with right now.
Run long and taper.
Run The Planet would like to thank James C. Knapp, Jr. for the permission to reprint the photo published in the article "Fainting goat" by Rina Abdul Jamal.