Once upon a time there was a kingdom filled with runners, where machismo was the coin of the realm. It didn't matter what the weather conditions were like, or how ill or sore they felt. When the alarm clock rang out they would stiffly make their way out the door to the track or the road run, depending on the day of the week. Eventually, their illnesses became chronic ailments; their little tweaks turned into painful disorders. All for the want of common sense.
Where was it written, that rule which compels otherwise wise and prudent men (women, too!) to fill up calendar squares, and then eventually the appointment calendars of orthopedic specialists? Even Bill Bowerman, notable for saying "there is no such thing as hard conditions, only soft people," was known to have forced easy efforts, even rest, on his athletes. Kenny Moore writes about it in the opening chapter of his (most) excellent biography.
Yes, even Kenny Moore learned when to say when.
I believe it was Cosmas Ndeti, three-time Boston Marathon winner (1993-1995), who described in a Runners' World interview about ten years ago, what can simply be called the "two-kilometer rule." (There are other athletes who have said something along these lines.) He said that on those days when he felt less than strong during the morning run he would make an effort to keep the first two kilometers close to home. If he still felt bad at the two-kilometer mark he'd call it a day, walk back to the house and rest.
Yes, even the Kenyans know when to say when.
I've talked about having a "plan B" workout for those days when the conditions or circumstances were not going to be in your favor. There are days, and physical conditions which call for each of us to be brave enough to have a Plan "C" (Cosmas Ndeti, if you like), and call it a day rather than try to struggle through it. "Wooden legs" will probably make it through the two klicks just fine. Depending on the degree of ache in the muscles, and which muscles are aching, that mile-and-a-quarter might just let us shake things out.
Those overuse injuries, on the other hand, are probably going to continue to "talk" to you at 2K. It happened to me last night at my group track workout. I wear three different types of cushioned shoes, all made by the same manufacturer. One is wider in the heel or the forefoot than others, which leads to a "mismatch" between shoe and sock, shoe wriggle, and impact shock.
Rather than be smart and remembering (my coach's coach Bob) Schul's dictum: 'you get no glory points for running through pain at a workout,' I stuck it out through the five miles of near-90-degree slog. I felt fine (better!) once I went to bed that night, but the morning workout turned from "Plan B" to "Plan C" in less than thirty minutes.
Silly me. I still need the reminder: Know when to say when.