There are moments in life that are heavy with anticipation.
In these moments it becomes difficult to live immediately in the present. You are within hours, minutes of something that you’ve looked forward to with excitement, joy… possibly dread, but at any rate you have planned and prepared for it and it’s here now. You can’t turn back. Or, you could but you won’t because you are braver than that.
There are few times where these atmospheres are so evident as the morning of a race.
As light begins to shatter the edge of the sky, runners emerge from cars or busses, covered in loose mismatched clothing, much of which will be discarded along the sidewalk later. There’s some chatter but mostly it’s quiet. People are nervous, excited. Some attempt deep breathing in order to calm themselves before they call on their lungs to power them forward.
This is after the early alarm clock, the ritual of slipping into uniform and the accidental stabbing of safety pins into the chest while affixing your number to your shirt. This is after the pre-race breakfast you’ve thought out well ahead of time, the bathroom break, the double and triple checking that everything you need is ready, waiting or finished.
Those are the pieces of race morning that belong solely to you.
Then comes the time when you join a hundred others just like you who have committed to this thing, this race, this effort, this battle.
This is when we jog in easy loops, loosening our muscles and releasing some of the nervous energy that’s settled in the pit of our stomachs.
Eventually, some deep and crackly voice will interrupt the pop music that blares in the background to invite athletes towards the start line.
We shuffle slowly into our corrals, jumping up and down in place once we arrive to stay warm. We retie our shoelaces, say a silent thank you / let’s do this / something to prepare ourselves for the battle ahead.
The national anthem begins to play and with our hands over our hearts and hats at our chests, chills shimmy their way down our spines like so many firemen down a pole. We come close to tearing up, the emotion of months of training about to allow you to prove yourself… Your heart beats faster, ready, ready….
The crowd counts down and the gun goes off, one single, solitary shot.
To get you out of bed. Maybe you slept, maybe you didn’t. It doesn’t matter now. get dressed. Drape your spirits in the excitement, the drama of anticipation:
As you make your way, by car, by foot, to the race. As you are finding that quiet space in which to prepare, mentally, physically.
As you are warming up, loosening your muscles, getting ready to release the stored up energy inside. The last songs before you put your headphones away and immerse yourself in the moment.
And now it’s time.. Use the bathroom one last time if you have to. Swing your legs, do some strides. Immerse yourself in the soundtrack of the moment, the quiet buzz of electric energy emanating from the runners surrounding you. Head to the starting line with music in your head and your heart in your legs.