Earphones, check; sun visor, check; sunglasses, check; water bottle, check; laces double knotted, check. Am I sounding like Melvin Udall from the movie ‘As Good As it Gets’? Don’t worry, I step on cracks on the sidewalk, and I open doors without using a tissue.
Admittedly, I do have a mental checklist of things I go over before I head out the door for my daily run. I’m pretty sure most runners do the same thing. “That’s just nonsense,” my mother would say. “Just go for a run.”
Nonsense or not, all those things on my checklist, play a role large or small in my success and safety while I run. That’s because they’re all linked to your senses, which travel with you — whether you’re running one mile or ten.
Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing.
Obviously, sight has a lot to do with running. You see where you’re running. And you’re aware of traffic and potholes, gravel and other oddities on your route. It is a lot more difficult running in the dark or fog, or even the rain. But you adapt and adjust quickly. If you’re an early morning runner, you acclimate yourself to the pre-dawn light in no time at all. If you’re a trail runner, you see upcoming twists and turns, puddles and mud. And if you’re out on a long run, you’ll end up seeing some pretty bizarre stuff. Just the other day, and this is no exaggeration, on Winton Road I saw: a net that you catch fish out of an aquarium with, a full size pizza crust (no sauce or cheese) and one, of course one, ladies shoe.
You’ll also smell some pretty crazy stuff if you spend enough time out there. I’ll never forget the time I smelled someone cooking Indian curry before sun up. And if you’re lucky enough on a Saturday, you’ll smell fresh laundry venting as people catch up on a weeks worth of clothes. What you may not immediately think about though is allergies. Runners who have allergies combat ragweed, and all sorts of airborne allergens – especially in the fall – which make for a stuffy run!
If you’re on a long run you’ll ultimately end up tasting salt and sweat, which means hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Having the proper nutrition before, during and after a run is important. If you’re running more than 90 minutes, you’ll need to replace those spent electrolytes — that’s why so many races offer sports drinks and goo, pretzels and chews. If you can manage to choke down some goo, the performance benefits can be amazing. A shot of energy — filled with caffeine and carbohydrates go a long way if you just hit the wall.
Page 2 of 2 - Whether you’re at mile five or fifteen, your body will begin to start feeling things a little differently — think ‘The Princess and the Pea’. Ever step becomes a little harder because of your sense of touch. Your perception of everything becomes a little more acute, because your neural receptors are behaving differently. Pressure on your feet, your chaffing skin — I’ve even had my hair hurt. You can combat some of those problems by using products like Body Glide and Vaseline. Comfortable, good fitting sneakers are key too; as is running gear that is going to react well to potential hours or sweat and rubbing. What I’m trying to relay here is — do not underestimate the sense of touch. Make sure to take off any unnecessary jewelry before you run, don’t make the same mistake I have when I forgot to take off a bracelet before a 12 mile training run. How can a wrist chafe? I don’t know how, but it did.
You may have heard me whimpering on that run if you were listening close enough, because your sense of hearing goes with you everywhere, runs included. Whether you’re listening to some tunes on your iPod, your breathing or just the sounds around you, your sense of hearing can be key to your safety. Which is why USA Triathlon sanctioned events do not allow audio devices of any kind. And to be honest, that’s why I only run with one earphone in. You want to be able to hear things happening around you, whether it’s a car, a train, a dog or another runner coming up behind you.
No joke, your senses play a key role in your success and safety while you’re running. And it’s not like you can really ignore them, because they’re with you for the long haul. No forgetting them on the kitchen counter. So be aware of them, use them, and enjoy them!
Nicole LeClair Jones is the Special Events Coordinator for Camp Good Days and Special Times, which serves children and families affected by cancer. She’s the mother of two young children, and an avid runner (5:50 a.m. you’ll find her running somewhere) She serves as the race director for the Just Clowning Around 5K to benefit Camp Good Days. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re ever looking for a running partner or if you’ve got a story idea.