A New Direction: Running Towards My Fears

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by Ameerah Omar

This article is part of RUNGRL’s October Mental Health Series.

Have you ever been so afraid to do something that it feels like it has paralyzed your entire life?

It’s pretty safe to say we’ve all been fearful about major milestones, like the idea of a class or work presentation, admitting our feelings to a crush, telling your parents something you thought would disappoint them, or an upcoming race that is known for being super tough.

People often want the glory for their successes but are hesitant to talk about the fears and failures that led them there. In the past, I felt my fears could derail my life. Fear of rejection, of not being good enough or smart enough, of making mistakes. But, the truth is, if we aren’t making mistakes and challenging ourselves, then we aren’t really living. The opportunity for growth only appears when we have the courage to step outside of our comfort zones.

BREAKING NEWS: We’re all out here making mistakes.

Before I started running marathons, I was scared to death of distance running. I felt there was no way my body was capable of such a feat. Despite having been a track and field athlete (sprint distance), this was the story I told myself over and over again. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I finally got the courage to question that myth. Full of anxiety and the fear of “playing myself”, I showed up blindly to a group run here in NYC. I didn’t know anyone and I probably hadn’t run more than three miles (on the treadmill, no less) in many years.

The first run was okay. I didn’t die, but there also was a lot of room for improvement. I could have easily left and never looked back but something shifted in my story that first night. The “truth” I had believed all those years about my ability was suddenly fuzzy. I started chipping away at the fear until it disappeared. Eventually, I was a regular--three miles became 10, which turned into 20, and the next thing you know, I was registering for marathons.

I still get butterflies at the start line. I’m not sure they will ever go away but I know they are no longer because I am afraid to advance. I am excited to challenge myself beyond my beliefs. My mindset has shifted and that’s what’s made all the difference.

Fear is an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain or a threat. It’s important to draw attention to the keyword here, belief. We tell ourselves so many stories that, over time, it becomes hard to decipher between fact and fiction. The older I have gotten, the more I question this. When faced with a doubt or challenge, I ask myself, “What makes this doubt true?” Then I ask, “Who has the power to change this?“

The mind is a powerful tool. That’s why it is so important to be aware of what you feed it. One of my favorite quotes is by Marianne Williamson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” We’ve always been taught to believe that fear is a negative or scary concept but, in my experience, it can also be one of our strongest teachers.

Follow Ameerah’s journey on Instagram @ameerah_omar.

According to the Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health, African Americans are 20% more likely to experience serious mental health problems than the general population. However, only about one-quarter of African Americans seek mental health care, compared to 40% of whites. Seeking help is the first step towards the total wellness you deserve.

For questions about mental health issues, contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Help Line: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or info@nami.org. Other important help line numbers are below:

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Ameerah Omar


Ameerah Omar is a life coach based in Brooklyn, NY. She lives by the code that everyone has the potential to live their best life. Her work is designed to help others take responsibility for the way they show up in the world. Her greatest assets used to spread light are running and meditation.