Monday, September 19, 2011

I am thankful for my fear

Fear is defined as a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. There is real fear and imagined fear.

Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.
Japanese Proverb

Real fear is described as a physiological reaction that happens when, for example, a dog attacks you, an intruder enters your home or when you are in a car accident. These instances raise real fear, causing your brain to send your body hormonal and neuro-chemical responses.
When the hormones are released, they begin to trigger changes. These include raising adrenaline and cortisol levels, increasing your heart rate and respiration. You may know this as the “flight or fight” response. 

These triggers are meant to stay active for only a few seconds and usually last no more than a minute. This is enough time for you to react to whatever is causing the fear. 

When imagined fear is raised, the same physiological response of adrenaline and cortisol release occurs, but it can remain in the body for a longer period of time because you don’t react quickly. Instead, you prolong the fear. This reaction adds more stress to your body, which can cause exhaustion and lead to other problems.

Most mornings I wake up with a "oh no" feeling. I have an imagined fear of running in the Redwood Forest. This fear has been brought on by family and friends informing me that I have every reason to be fearful. I live in bear and cougar country afterall + I am a woman, I shouldn't be alone in the woods.

I choose not to let fear consume me because it can be destructive. When these imagined fears come up, I acknowledge them. I try to think about something else. I look at the beauty around me and I ask myself why? Why do I feel fearful, do I have anything to be afraid about? 

In truth, I am thankful for my fears. I could not call myself a trail runner if I gave in to my fears. It is my driving force.  Without fear, I would not take the risks that I take. I would not have the desire to run Western States or Badwater. Fear makes me stronger on the inside. I learn to overcome them.

“Courage is resistance to and mastery of fear — not the absence of fear.”  Mark Twain

I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Frank Herbert

Here is a story of a marathon runner/mountain climber who has overcome fear:

Marathoning and Mountain Climbing
A runner achieves an unprecedented feat of marathoning and mountain climbing

By John Hanc
PUBLISHED 10/12/2007 Seven is evidently Jeanne Stawiecki's lucky number. it was on her seventh attempt to quit smoking that she kicked the habit and took up running, which led to seven consecutive Boston Marathons. So two years ago, when Stawiecki heard that no woman had ever done the 7-7-7 challenge--run a marathon and climb the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents--she decided to test her luck.

Such a monumental task wasn't always within Stawiecki's reach. In 1988, the nurse anesthetist was a two-pack-a-day smoker, juggling 40-hour weeks at one hospital with 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. weekend shifts at another. "I had no interests, no hobbies," Stawiecki, now 57, says. "All I did was work and smoke. I turned 38 and I decided that I wanted to change the person I had become."

Step one: quit smoking. Fearful of the weight gain that often comes with nicotine withdrawal, she started running. "I went half a block and felt like I coughed up a lung." But she stuck with it, eventually building the lung power to run her first race, the 1994 New York City Marathon, which she ran in a Boston-qualifying 3:36. "When I crossed the finish line, I had this feeling of accomplishment," says Stawiecki, who will be running New York again November 4. "To have challenged myself and succeeded was intoxicating."

A New Way to Get High

Recognizing the mental and physical strength Stawiecki had developed as a runner, a colleague, anesthesiologist Mark Nawrocki, suggested she try his passion: mountaineering. Stawiecki overcame her fear of heights and quickly graduated from beginner climbs to some of the most daunting in the world. "She compressed in five years what many climbers take decades to do," Nawrocki says.

Stawiecki tackled the 7-7-7 challenge with the same gusto. "The idea that I could be first woman in anything was exciting," she says. She planned an ambitious itinerary--three climbs (she already had four done) and seven marathons in eight months--all while maintaining her full-time job at UMass Memorial Hospital.

She started in August 2006 with Africa's Mount Kilimanjaro. Two months later, she hiked Mount Kosciuszko in Australia, three days after the Melbourne Marathon. By February 2007, she had reeled off six more marathons, placing first in her age group in Chile, Miami, and Antarctica and second in her age group in Melbourne and Dubai. Still, one lofty goal remained: Everest.

"When I reached the summit, I fell to my knees and started crying," says Stawiecki, who completed her mission on May 22. "It was one of the most amazing experiences I've ever had."

This month Stawiecki will return to another towering icon, the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. When she runs through New York City, the woman who has touched the sky plans to keep both feet on the ground. "I'm going to take in all the sights and sounds," she says, "and think about how far I've come."

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.
Eleanor Roosevelt

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