I’d never give up on a run I set out to do!
So I thought. Today, I began my weekend long run, which was a compromise of 24km, down from the 32 that my marathon training plan called for. The plan change was due to some foot pain I’d been experiencing (I’m sure you are connecting the dots here). I did everything according to my pre-run routine: I mapped my route, had a carb-laden breakfast (croissant with raspberries), drank a green tea, fussed with my exact choice of outfit, picked a podcast, and hit the pavement!
The dull ache on the top of my right foot began immeditately. I was patient with it, running slowly, and avoiding pavement as much as possible. After about 5km, I stopped. For no reason. Very unusual. I’m the type that hits a red light, and changes the route so I don’t have to stop. I kept on.
I had included a little loop-around on my route, so I covertly stashed my waterbottle behind a tree to pick up later. My pace had bottomed out. I felt weak and cautious. I stopped to avoid a muddy section briefly, rekindling the foot pain. When I returned to my cache, I found the waterbottle empty—the cap had fallen off. I looked at my watch—11km. I squinted up at the glaring sun. I suddenly felt starving. I’d never felt hungry on a run before. I thought about the concept of finishing my run without any water or fuel. That didn’t seem smart. I suddenly realised that continuing would not be doing me any good.
I did the unthinkable: I gave up on a run, and called a cab!
When To Think About Giving Up
1. You Have An Injury
From the above story, you can tell that I am a stubborn gal. I shouldn’t have gone out on this run in the first place. If you find yourself running with any pain beyond muscular discomfort, please give up on your run!
Finding it hard to know the difference? Take time to scan your body mentally while you are doing tough, normal workouts. Focus on the sensations of your feet, your calves, your thighs, hamstrings, etc while you are doing hills, tempo, or interval runs. Knowing your baseline for “discomfort” can help you later distinguish this feeling from “injury”.
Additionally, any pain that is markedly asymmetrical (that is, one foot/calf/thigh hurts much more than the other), is a warning sign of injury.
2. You Are Stopping Suddenly
If you find yourself pressing pause on that Garmin more than usual, or taking a longer time to get going after a traffic light changes, you might want to rethink the run. If you are a highly disciplined runner, you might be mentally fighting your body more than you realize—and it is starting to rebel.
Look at your stride and pace. Are you engaged enough to pay attention to your form, and be aware of traffic around you, or are you just shuffling along in a daze? Is your heart rate higher than usual for the pace you are running? These are all possible signs that your body is not in a recovered enough state to be doing a hard run again.If you continue to run in an unusually fatigued state, you are at a higher risk for injury.
Do some mental detective work. Have you upped your mileage, or completed a very hard workout in the past 48 hours? Have you eaten enough? Have you slept enough? Your criteria here will be unique, depending on the intensity of your training and experience as a runner. Think, “Will my body be better or worse off if I complete this run?” If you have a race coming up, or another hard workout in a day or two, you may want to give up and call it a day.
3. You Are Afraid
I’m no stranger to fear and anxiety about completing a long distance, but another kind of fear can crop up on a run. Maybe you’ve started late, and forgot your lights. Now you are stuck out on a dark road. Perhaps it is getting icy and cold, and you find yourself slipping. Don’t let your conviction to your training plan override your basic instincts.
When our adrenaline is going, and we get into a zone of focused training, it can be hard to think of the bigger picture beyond completing this current tempo run. Ask yourself: “What are the risks I am taking right now? Is this individual run worth those risks?” Think about the run as just one tiny component of your training as a whole. One run will not make or break it.
Sometimes, listening to your body is a challenge. But like our mental fortitude, and our physical strength, awareness is a skill that we can improve with practice and training. Stay safe and run smart out there!