Saturday, April 14, 2012

Do Nothing Foolish

Saturday morning for me in Salt Lake City.  It's partly cloudy and 42 degrees. There is next to no humidity. This is one of those days where if you were to be running a marathon, and are trained well, you are probably going to set a huge PR.

Across the country in Boston, while tens of thousands of runners are getting ready to run in the most famous footrace in the world, the exact opposite is brewing. Projected highs in the mid-80s are being coupled with bright sunshine for Monday morning. For a race starting at 10 AM (mercifully moved from noon a few years ago) that means virtually everyone will be still running when the apex of the temperature and heat and humidity will be blasting down from above. Let me sum up the thought process of probably 99.9% of those runners for you: "Craptastic."

I despise racing in the heat.  Heck, I despise racing in 60 degree weather. As my years of racing have gotten a little greater, I have gotten better at racing in the heat. Please note the use of the comparative adjective. "Better" does not mean "good".  It also does not mean that I have conditioned my body to running in warm weather.  In fact, I might have made myself 10% better at it during this time. But what I have done is become a smarter runner. I now know that if it is hot, I am simply not going to be running what I want to run. I can shoot for a sub-3 hour marathon, crash from the heat and struggle across in 3:45 or decide that sub-3 is not going to happen and run a conservative 3:10 and look like I went out for a jog.  That's the difference: the mindset.

I am hoping those running on Monday have that mindset.  If the current weather forecast stays the same, use your head. If you forget to use your head and you find yourself in some dire straights, there is nothing wrong with a DNF. "DNF" usually means "Did Not Finish".  It is dreaded by many.  It is deemed to be the utmost of horrible things. However, to me, "DNF" sometimes means "Do Nothing Foolish".

My first Boston Marathon was in 2005 in conditions that were very similar to what will happen Monday.  I half-listened to myself. Not nearly as wise as I am now (it was, after all, just my 8th marathon) I went out too hard in the heat. However, when I realized it was not going to be a good day at all, I slowed the pace. I walked. I rested. At the time my PR was a 3:07. I did a 3:24 at Boston.  It stung not to do my best time but to only be 17 minutes off, mixing in walking breaks in the sauna-like conditions, was something I was very happy with.

Boston is wonderful.  It is historic. It means so much to so many people.  But it is just a race, people. Remember that.  If you find yourself needing to stop, do it. Your long-term health and long-term running career depend on you being able to use your head when you body is not working. I absolutely promise you that there will be another race down the line.

Let's have you around to finish it, OK?


Tamara MacLaren said...

Absolutely! Great advise for any run - live to run another day.

TravisLi said...

Thanks Dane, for the timely reminder. I appreciate it.

Don VanOteghem said...

Thanks, Dane! Great advise. As Scarlett O'Hara would have said, if she had been a runner, "Tomorrow is another race."