Marielle Genovesi, Culture Editor
If I were to tell you that I wasn’t a superstitious person, I would be lying. But, in my defense, I’m pretty sure some of the most superstitious people in the world have to be performers and athletes. It’s a behind-the-scenes kind of dirty secret. As a runner and a college athlete, I’ve both formed, held on to and will still swear by, the pre-race routines I’ve ritually practiced since I started racing back in Middle School. Call me crazy, but I’m ready to try anything that will mess with the good mojo needed once the starting gun goes off. This is not simply about how we runners hold superstitions because we’re insane, but rather about why we choose to handle situations of intensity in this way, because we are human, and humans do weird things.
I’m going to lay it all on the table for you; routine is a coping method, right? We do it every day. The same radio station plays in your car as you drive to school, you make the same PB&J sandwich for lunch and probably sit in the same seat every class- even though no one told you to. Likewise, I wear the same things every time I race the same socks, the same sports bra, the same ring on my ring finger, with my laces tucked into the tops of my shoe as they have been every other time I have raced. This isn’t because I realistically believe that the four mile race I am about to run in pouring rain, through mud and over hills is going to be determined by what I’m wearing under my jersey or what I put in my hair. It is actually about that same sense of control everyone looks for when they’re stressed, nervous or scared. Routine means security, and although playing it safe isn’t always your best bet, it provides a certain mental calm.
This being said, there is absolutely nothing extraordinary, peculiar or even wrong about being superstitious, in fact, most of the athlete’s I know hold some sort of pre-game/race superstition; whether it be eating the same thing the morning of competition, or listening to that same “feel good” song you have heard them mutter under their breath a hundred times over. But, when do these superstitions begin to alter your frame of mind for the worst? Holding superstitions also allow you to place blame, mistakes turn into superstitions you wouldn’t dare repeat, and then they turn into territory you wouldn’t dare encroach again. It all seems to be a vicious cycle, fabricated in your mind, placing a mental stop sign right between your determination to kick ass and your fearing that you won’t accomplish your goal after all of the hours of training you have put in.
After years of cautiously practicing superstitions and very much self –doubt before stepping on the line, I’ve realized not only in myself, but in the people I train with for hours every day, is that it takes a mental toughness to break your routines, to recognize that it isn’t the ribbon you wear in your hair or the watch on your wrist that will determine your state of mind once you’re running the race. It is instead your ability to leave almost all your mental preparation behind, and to go in fearless and confident, even if it is easier said than done. Anyone who believes that playing a sport is just about being physically fit is far from the truth. Being successful as an athlete is beating back your own demons, fighting your own superstitions, and being willing to be positive in the toughest situation. Not a bad way to look at anything you approach in life, I would say.