“I’m not controlling. I just want things done the right way, and I know what the right way is.”
Even as those words were coming out of my mouth, I knew they were the wrong thing to say. My wife just stared at me, letting the words hang in the air for inspection. I don’t remember what we were arguing about, but I’m pretty sure I lost that one. But I knew what I was trying to say.
We all develop strategies for getting through life, from big decisions to the many very small daily decisions. Many of these small choices are too mundane to share with anyone – who could possibly care where you like to put rubber bands and paper clips? – but taken together, they are our guidebook for making it through the day, every day. I call them micro-strategies. Each one of them represents a solution to a minor but persistent problem.
Here’s an example: I bike commute, and on my route , as I negotiate through and around traffic, pedestrians, and various permanent and transient obstacles, there is a right-hand-turn-only lane. I don’t want to take that turn. While it’s safest for me to be on the right while cycling, if I stay on the right as I approach that turn-lane, I’ll be cut off by turning cars, and might get hit by a driver who doesn’t notice me. I could avoid this by riding in the middle of the street, in a center lane, but then I’d be in the thick of traffic, annoying drivers who want to get around me, and who might accidentally hit me.
Te solution is all in the timing; I’ve learned exactly when I can safely shift from the right lane to the center lane and back again while minimizing my exposure to faster moving cars.
But that’s not all that I think about on that stretch of road. I know that there’s one small spot in the road about 20 yards from the corner where the asphalt has buckled. To get past that obstacle without veering wildly about – an absolute no-no in morning traffic – I need to do a very quick, slight, left-right maneuver. If I fail to do that, I could end up hitting that bump hard and losing control of my bike. Also not a good idea in morning traffic.
So my commuting strategy for this one spot is stay to the right, watch the flow of cars and the traffic light pattern, do my quick little zig-zag, then shift left and back to the right as I clear the intersection.
It works like a charm. And until now, I’ve never bothered to tell anyone about it, or about the other hundreds of little cycling micro-strategies I’ve developed for getting around my home-town. And no other cyclist has shared their micro-strategies with me. Generally, we all keep our many micro-strategies to ourselves.
This is especially true in long-distance running. Every runner is a collection of superstitions, knowledge, and habits. The superstitions are often similar, like not wearing a shirt from a race until you’ve finished that race. The knowledge is gained from experience, from running friends, and through articles and books (including Smart Marathon Running). The habits form over the years, and are the framework for each season’s training and racing routine.
But there’s more to running than just that. There are the many running micro-strategies that we follow on a weekly and even daily basis. In coming posts, you’ll find my solutions for a wide range of little problems that all runners have to deal with. Incorporating even a few of them into your regular training and racing routine could make the difference between a good running day and a great running day, or even between being healthy and getting injured. And if you have some that have worked well for you, please share them!