Competitive runners are planners. We have our training schedules and race calendars and organize busy days and weeks around running. Some plan a week ahead; some months or even a year out. And there’s a huge range in terms of depth and detail in that planning. I have seen planning logs by day for an entire month (mine included!), weekly targets for mileage and quality, and more basic monthly and bi-monthly goals.
Why do we do this?
Presumably it’s because we value the payback: feeling good when we run and the ability to race well. We prioritize our travel to accommodate races. Bottom line, running is part of our psyche and social fabric. So, we make space for it and all that entails.
But what happens when those plans go awry? Sometimes for small things; other times big things. With injury, we might at first be mired in disappointment, and perhaps that is a necessary form of grieving about missing a key race or races. But eventually it’s important to reset the table and create new plans.
My latest bout with this happened recently when a mile into a 5K race, I felt a sudden pull in my left lateral hamstring, where it attaches above the knee. Dismayed, at least I had the sense to stop immediately and walk back to the start, probably keeping a mild strain from being something worse. Looking back at my training and race, this should not have happened. Very unexpected! So, it was time to invoke Plan B. After a week off, I started working back – slowly. For sure, a couple of fun year-end races were off the table.
This was a very minor setback and I don’t mean to make a mountain out of a molehill. There are much more serious illnesses or accidents we have all faced. That said, the process of adjustment is the same: assess the reality and make a new plan. Often, easier said than done. But what’s the alternative?
In planning our running, we tend to focus on flow rather than ebb. Arguably, the best planners build ebb (rest and recovery) into their training and racing. At some basic level, ebb enables the flow. But we are always looking for an edge, wishing to maximize our running output within time constraints. Often that means short-shrifting rest and recovery. Injury is a stark reminder of that practice!
We find ourselves in a world full of expectations. Overall, that’s probably good. It pushes us. But one downfall is we may be unprepared for the unexpected. Things happen! And we either respond expeditiously or get pushed aside. As is said, “It’s a tough world!” Running is a wonderful part of our lives and we celebrate that! But it’s wise to embrace the unexpected when it comes. And press on with Plans B, C, or whatever is necessary to prevail.