Adapting to running while ‘on call’

In April I ran a 5k while on call and felt like I came away with a faster time because of it. Though there was a risk I’d need to stop and take a call during the race, I was hustling to get to a point where I was within 15 minutes of the finish, which meant I could’ve waited to return a call until I was done. No call came, but simply having that in mind helped.

Saturday morning I really wanted to run 6 miles to get ready for an upcoming 10k thrown into the Adams County 5K Challenge. I could carry the phone with me, but a lot of calls are scheduling questions regarding the many houses our agency maintains for intellectually disabled adults, which mean I need to have access to a fairly cumbersome binder. So I decided to run 4 x the 1.25 mile loop at the Ossian Trail, knowing I could get back to the car (and the binder) in just a few minutes.

Once again, having that “on call” status in mind proved a worthwhile distraction. It was already pretty steamy when I started around 8 a.m., and it’s always hard to stick out a certain number of laps when each time you cross the starting point it’s tempting to find a reason to stop.

As it turned out, I took a call shortly after rounding the halfway point on Lap 2. Sure enough, it was a scheduling question. I told the caller I’d call her back in 5 minutes, and picked up the pace. By the time I got to the car I was streaming sweat and out of breath. But I was also at the halfway point of my run — perfect time for a water break. I chugged water while I returned the call, then headed back out for two more laps.

Looking ahead to this 10k, I wasn’t sure what my strategy would be. Should I just jog it at an easy pace, getting my participation points without fretting about my time? Should I try one of those 4:1 run/walk strategies that has sometimes allowed me to go harder with short recovery walks and end up with a faster time? The only problem with that is I don’t have a great watch for monitoring those intervals, and I didn’t want my mind tied up following that blueprint.

On this run, it was nice to just roll with whatever came. Not knowing whether I’d get any more calls and have to hustle back to the car again — and given the ever-rising heat — I figured I’d run at an easy pace.

As it turned out, no more calls came on that run. So I did manage to get in my 6 miles, with one fairly quick half mile and one fairly quick water break. I sort of liked how that worked out, breaking the run up into segments. So now I’m thinking my strategy for the 10K will be to run a little quicker, but take a short recovery walk at each aid station.


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