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Runner's guilt

Circular Quay in Sydney this morning.

Almost every regular runner knows about runner's guilt - that feeling you have when you miss a scheduled run.  Thirty years ago, I felt runner's guilt if I did not run twice a day.  Once past my prime, the standard slipped to once a day, and in the last five or six years to six days a week as I have bowed to age and accepted that my body recovers better if I have a day off after a long run.  Each time I lowered the standard, I felt guilty for sometime, but eventually accepted the wisdom of the change.

Sydney Harbour Bridge this morning.

Yesterday, after Sunday's 47 km trail run, I walked 5km as planned.  Today, I should have run 10km.  I had an appointment in Sydney in mid-morning, which meant the run would have to be at 5:30am, but that's not a big deal.  I ran at that hour for decades of my working life.  As I went to bed, I got my gear out ready for the early start, but when setting the alarm decided that it would be better to get a good night's sleep and give the run a miss.

My rationale was that I still felt short of sleep after several days of early starts, and that my body still had some sore spots after Sunday's long run.  However, I know in my heart of hearts that you can always come up with a justification for any decision.  I suspect that I could have gone without the extra sleep, done the run, and be just fine.  Maybe even marginally fitter and lighter by the end of the week.  On the other hand, I also know that whether or not I ran 10km today will, in itself, make pretty much zero difference to how fit I am in a month or year's time.

Looking east up Sydney Harbour from the Opera House
this morning.

It's easy to say that runner's guilt is simply the manifestation of an obsession or addiction, and should be ignored.  However, this overlooks the positive aspects.  Firstly, the more days you run, the fitter you will get, so if you want to be a good runner then don't miss more days than necessary.  Secondly, the fewer days you do miss, the less likely you are to miss days in the future.  Guilt at spoiling a good record or failing to adhere to a plan will get you out running on days that you would otherwise miss.

It's not that you have to run every day, but you need a plan and then the dedication to stick to it.  My current plan is to run six days a week and to walk on the seventh, generally the day after a long run.  Today, I failed to adhere to the plan and just walked six kilometres around Sydney for exercise.  It was a beautiful sunny day, but I did feel a bit guilty.