There are some things that, despite sounding like common sense, you should make a conscious, explicit decision on when you are clear-headed and far removed from the situation where it might come up. For example, the decision to stick to the grocery list should be made before you get to the store, and the decision not to get on stage at a karaoke bar should be made before a single sip of anything stronger than water touches your lips.
The same is true in running; there are many things that seem obvious that you need to tell yourself while they still seem obvious, rather than in the middle of a run. This is particularly the case in any type of run that could impair your judgment – for me this includes long runs, very hot runs, and races, all of which put me in a situation where I am not thinking clearly.
Deciding not to pour water on my head during a hot run when I plan to clip my iPod to the back of my hat. “Duh!” right? But when it’s hot out there and I am desperate to cool down, I might forget that the iPod is there if I haven’t said to myself, “iPod! No water over the head.”
Conversely, deciding not to clip my iPod to my hat when I know I might not be able to resist dumping water on my head.
Deciding on a route before I leave for my long run. Once I am nicely warmed up and endorphins have begun to flood my brain, I risk deciding I could go forever or tackle the killer hill on 4th Line – either of which is very likely to result in a death-march home.
Deciding on a nutrition plan. If I leave it up to how I feel, I know I won’t think to take in my carbs soon enough, and by the time I need them, I will feel lousy and won’t want to. If I decide ahead of time to eat a gel at kilometre X, Y and Z, I know I will do it and won’t leave it to chance.
Setting a firm race plan and sticking to it. When I am on the start line, another great chemical impairs my judgment – adrenaline. Without a plan I risk suddenly drastically revising my race goal – and the very logical sentence “yikes, 30 seconds per kilometre is big!” can easily become “it’s only 30 seconds per kilometre!” when you’re doped on stress-hormones.
Setting my mind to running all the way up the hill on County Road 29. I know I CAN run all the way up – I have done it loads of times. But unless I decide I WILL before I get there, “I know I can! Let’s do this!” can easily become “I know I can, so I have nothing to prove today.”
…and finally, deciding not to get on stage at a karaoke bar. Ever.
So how about you? What seemingly-common sense decisions do you need to remind yourself of before the various ups and downs of running impair your judgment?