To Run or Not to Run…

woman-running-on-roadIt’s true that running never gets easier, you just get better. But it’s also true that running can get harder on any given day of your training schedule. My last two runs are proof of that.

Many factors positively or negatively impact performance during a run. Training is all about stacking the deck in our favor: we try to eat nutritious, whole foods, stay hydrated, get a full night’s sleep, buy the right shoes and clothing, etc. But life throws obstacles at us and every runner has to decide whether to dodge the shrapnel or take a hit in order to stay on schedule.

At mid-week I’d planned to do a 6-mile tempo run on Wednesday, cross-train on Thursday, rest on Friday and do my long run — 8 miles — on Saturday. But life started hurtling obstacles on Tuesday afternoon.

I had a fender-bender accident on my way home from work on Tuesday. It was my fault; I was attempting to make a left-hand turn out of a parking lot, inching across a lane of traffic. A car actually hit me, driven by a woman who could not have been driving defensively. There’s no way she couldn’t have seen me, had she been looking out her windshield. But that’s neither here nor there. If I hadn’t been in her lane, she wouldn’t have hit me at all. My bad.

It was stressful, to say the least. My car was munched, I got a traffic ticket, and the other driver wouldn’t stop yelling at me. I’d missed lunch that day and the accident report took a long time to complete, so I missed my mid-afternoon “meal” too. I didn’t sip water all day long. Camel. Gah!

I slept badly that night and was up early Wednesday morning in order to fit a 6-mile run in before work. It was no shock that my run sucked. My body felt sluggish; I needed to walk a lot. My overall pace was just plain sad. But, I completed the workout.

Fast-forward to Friday. It was another busy day at work and again, I worked right through the lunch hour. I left a few minutes early to check my daughter out of school because we had back-to-back eye doctor appointments. The appt. ran long, and we got back to our neighborhood right at the dinner hour. We dashed into the grocery store to pick up something to eat. Coming out, the car wouldn’t start. Turning the key resulted in nothing but silence. Battery was completely dead. Long story short, I was outdoors in 97 degree weather dealing with it for an hour and a half, got nice and dehydrated, and didn’t eat dinner before 8 p.m.

I decided to postpone my Saturday run.

It’s a delicate balance when you’re training for a race, deciding when to stick to the schedule and run through any “issues” you may be having, verses when to know it’s best to deviate, give yourself the time you need to perform to the best of your ability.

One day later, on Sunday, I did my long run. It was still tough, but I know I got through it better than I would have if I’d run Saturday after the dehydration and lack of adequate calories from the day before.

You can’t always put off a run. And let’s face it, life could throw an obstacle at you the day before race day. You have to be ready for anything. But sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself is take a day off, or run less miles with less intensity than you’d planned, in order to perform better and preserve the mental balance you must maintain through your training.


About Nicole Ducleroir

I write stories and I run. Sometimes at the same time, though it's really hard to read my handwriting afterwards. *Note to Self: Buy a portable recorder* To read examples of my short fiction, visit and click the Published Work or My Short Stories tabs.
This entry was posted in Running, Training Strategies and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to To Run or Not to Run…

  1. c says:

    Hey Nicole. So sory about your accident. I’m glad you’re okay.
    I’m trying to start a running schedule. Not sure how I will do it since I haven’t run in a very long time. Life gets in the way of many things and I tend to put my writing first when I have any time to myself. I just have to figure out how to fit it all in. That’s the challenge. Any advice on how to put together a running program for the inexperienced?
    Thanks and best wishes.

    • Hi C! Sorry for the delay in my response — busy work week! I have found that the best way to stick to a running schedule is to plan out the times you know you can run, plot it all out on a calendar, and stick it to the front of the refrigerator. I cross each workout off when finished with colorful highlighters and make little notations about how the run went. Having it all on the fridge, in plain view every day, motivates me to stick to it.

      As far as putting together a running program for an inexperienced runner, I suggest going with 3 running days per week. For example, on Monday do a track repeat workout to build up your VO2 max, such as:

      10 minute warm-up
      6-8 X 400 meters, running each lap at (for example) 2:30. Walk 200 meters between repeats to recover.
      10 minute cool down

      On Wednesdays do a tempo run. For example:

      Mile 1 run at easy pace
      Mile 2 run at mid-tempo pace (there are calculators on the Internet to determine this, based on your 5K race pace)
      Mile 3 run at easy pace. (Increase distances as you get stronger!)

      On Fridays do a long run. This may start out as 4 or 5 miles, but each week increase by .5 miles – 1.5 miles.

      On Tuesdays and Thursdays, and possibly one day on the weekends, do a cross-training workout for your legs that is not weight bearing. Try riding a bike/Lifecycle, swimming laps, or doing the rowing machine. Weight training for upper body only — not legs.

      That should get you started! And there are lots of variations of beginners workouts on the web. I’ve tried many, and usually end up adjusting paces and distances to better match my levels of strength and endurance.

      Good luck with it! Thanks for the comment!!

  2. RunKateRun says:

    Yikes, sorry about the car! But well done on the decision. It is so tough to know when you need to give yourself a break! I’ve switched to running after work in winter to avoid running in the dark, cold mornings, but it’s so tempting to crawl up on the couch and just snooze away a stressful day. I often battle to decide when my day was actually hectic enough to be forgiving and stay in!

    • Hi Kate! I’m such a morning person that regardless of the time of year, if I don’t run by noon it just isn’t going to happen. Even on weekends when I have the whole day free! Just have to get myself out there in the a.m., and all is right in my world. Ha!

  3. tracy says:

    Awesome post! It is such a balancing act. I find that when I don’t feel well, it is also a hard decision because sometimes it makes me feel better and sometimes worse. Good you took a rest day! Sorry about your accident, never fun. Here is to this week being a better one!

    • That’s it exactly! Running is the best stress reliever out there. And I’d even go as far as to say 90% of the time I feel better during a run despite the challenges I’m facing. But when those 10% days hit, man it sucks, right? Thanks for the awesome comment!

  4. Great post, sorry to hear about the fender bender! I am happy it wasn’t anything more serious. Training and sticking to a schedule is challenging in itself. For myself as long as I am out there doing something active towards my goal, I am reminded that if I didn’t finish or do something on my schedule, it is okay. As are rest days, which become more difficult as the goal gets closer. 🙂

    • Thanks, and you’re right, thank goodness the accident wasn’t worse and that no one was hurt. I admire your commitment to your goals — doing something, no matter how significant, is better than doing nothing.

      Thanks so much for the reading and commenting. Happy training!

Comments rock my world. So go on, let me know you were here!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s