Every now and then, while I sit by myself, I shake my head or put a finger to my lips. Sometimes I’ll sigh. Other times I’ll angrily say “No” to no one in particular. Maybe I’m having a conversation with myself and I’m disagreeing with what I’ve said. Maybe I’m trying to suppress a memory.
Sometimes other people see me acting like this, but I’m never embarrassed. If I need to say something to myself, I’ll say it. Whether I like it or not. Sometimes, when I have a conversation with myself, I think about fear. I think about running. I think about wind sprints.
I haven’t liked running since I was a sophomore in high school. It was a Tuesday night in April. My coach was upset with my team’s performance, so she made us run wind sprints as soon as the first half ended.
“Don’t get water,” she said. “If you’re not going to run during the game, you’ll run now.” I felt my stomach churn. I felt fear.
We ran. Cleats hitting the ground, hands touching the sideline, arms pumping. I couldn’t breathe, but I was keeping up with the leaders. I ran hard, but I was in pain. I was angry and I was afraid. Something snapped inside of me that night. Something shook me up. In the second half, an opposing player tripped me and took me out of the game. I was almost thankful for the injury, because it meant that I wouldn’t have to run sprints after the game.
That night, the pain in my leg and the fear in my heart woke me up. I kept replaying those sprints in my mind. I hated the pain. I hated the breathlessness. I hated the idea that I would have to run wind sprints again if we didn’t play better. For the rest of the season, I anticipated each practice and each game with fear.
What’s to fear about running? I don’t know. It’s irrational. But that night of wind sprints completely shook me up. Something got into my head. You either understand what that’s like or you don’t. But I don’t blame my coach at all. It’s not her fault that I became afraid. She was trying to make a point.
I’m probably the only person that remembers that game. I’ve talked to people about what happened, but it’s hard for them to understand. How can you understand? It was running. It was wind sprints. Deal. Right? Wrong.
There have been times where I thought I had conquered my fear. Listening to music makes the actual running easier, but the anticipation still gives me a stomachache. The fear is still irrational.
Every now and then, when I sit by myself, I shake my head or put a finger to my lips. Maybe I’m having a conversation with myself. Maybe I’m telling myself, “Don’t be afraid.” And maybe it’s not working.