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cost-benefit analysis ...

Posted Oct 19 2011 8:00am
I get asked a lot of questions about running. I'm not sure if this is because people know that I am a running coach or if they just think that I spend every waking moment of my life obsessing about the sport. (Note: Just because the vast majority of my clothing was purchased from running stores and there are running gear/magazines/medals/etc all around my house does not indicate an obsession.)

Either way, I feel like I'm usually answering one of the following questions
  • Non-runners: "How do you run so much? I'd die if I had to run a mile."
  • Runners: "Can I run through XYZ?"
To the non-runners, I say, "I just do. I wanted to run, so I started. Over time, I started running farther. I promise you will not die if you run a mile."

To the runners, I say, "Maybe, but probably not. If you have to ask the question in the first place, the issue is probably serious enough to warrant concern. But, go ahead and try. If it's too uncomfortable, stop."

Fortunately, I haven't personally been affected by too many of these questionable situations. I've been relatively injury free (i.e. no pains that have lasted more than a day or two) and I don't get sick all that often (other than the occasional runny nose - which is usually allergy related).

On Tuesday morning (OK, Monday night, if we are being honest), I had one of those questionable situations. I wasn't feeling well, but the ick was contained to my head. So, I got up at 4:30 for my 10 mile run, even though I wasn't sure 10 miles was a smart idea.

Within the first 4 minutes, I had decided that the whole run wasn't going to happen. Even after I warmed up, my pace had slowed considerably from usual. By mile 5, I was drained, but was left with no option but to run the last two miles back to my car.

I shook it off. No big deal. I'll probably feel better later and then I'll just rearrange my workouts for the week. I planned on trying 10 again on Wednesday.

That was until 3 p.m. I started to lose the ability to breathe normally. The thought of running pained me. Almost as much as the thought of not running did.

I tried again to rearrange my schedule. Started playing scenarios in my head.

"I'll skip the run in the morning. Then if I feel OK, I'll run it on the treadmill that night. I can always double up if I have to. I can do it all. I'm epic like that."

Truth is, I'm not epic like that. I woke up and felt worse than expected. I'm confident that the Bat Pig Flu has invaded my home. That's when I realized that I needed to apply some of those fancy principles I learned in college to my training. Specifically, cost-benefit analysis.

Cost-Benefit Analysis:
a systematic process for calculating and comparing benefits and costs of a project for two purposes: (1) to determine if it is a sound investment (justification/feasibility), (2) to see how it compares with alternate projects (ranking/priority assignment). It involves comparing the total expected cost of each option against the total expected benefits, to see whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and by how much.

Let's consider the facts
  • I'm sick, I know I am sick. But, I also know that I don't like to miss a run.
  • I'm just 18 days out from the NYC Marathon. I've logged nearly 1,600 miles this year. Missing 10, 20 or even 50 miles this week, isn't going to make or break my race performance.
  • Running some or all of those miles while in a weakened state probably won't help my training in any way other than making me feel good about accomplishing what I'm "supposed to."
  • Running some or all of those miles while in a weakened state may cause me to remain in a weakened state for longer than necessary.
  • When faced with losing my sanity due to not running or losing my PR due to running while ill, I'd rather be completely insane and unbearable than finish without a PR.
  • Running 2,000 miles this year is of lesser importance to me than running the marathon that I have trained for.
Looking at the facts, it's clear that the risks being stubborn and continuing my training uninterrupted far outweigh the potential benefits. And it's even clearer to see that the possible negative impact of my stubbornness could derail my ultimate goals.

So, I am making the executive decision to take the next few days off (I know, pick your jaws up off the floor).

No running today.
No running tomorrow.
And who knows, I might just take Friday off too.

I just hope someone hides my running shoes ...
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