Runners are naturally a driven, unbending bunch. In 38 years of running, I've known way too many compulsive knuckleheads who will run despite circumstances.

It was 92 degrees, not a lick of shade anywhere to be found on the track, and I had 90-minutes. Yes, I am going to do this and I’m going to do it now and if my brain oozes out of my head, so be it.

See, I schedule my training based on a four-week schedule, with three hard weeks and one easy week. Within those three hard weeks, I select a specific number of workouts (long runs, tempo runs, track efforts, hills, and even easy runs). The rigidity is that I will complete those workouts. The flexibility is “when.” I have 21 days to complete the selected workouts, then seven days of easy running and rest.

So what happens when “stuff” gets in the way? Runners are naturally a driven, unbending bunch. We see a trail, we run it. We have a group run on the schedule, we get up and we meet the group. There’s a race and a family reunion on the same day? I hope Uncle Stewart doesn’t mind my stink.

In 38 years of running, I’ve known way too many compulsive knuckleheads who will run despite circumstances. A former running partner refused to miss a day. He simply refused. He trudged along day after day and for a while after high school, remained pretty competitive. I don’t think he’s run a step in 25 years now. Another friend refused to finish a run at 7.75 miles. It HAD to be eight miles, or 10 or whatever round number was next. His recent knee surgery put him out of racing action permanently. Another buddy sustains injury after injury, simply because he hasn’t given up being 26 years old.

One of my keys to longevity in this sport has been my willingness to “listen to the wind.” I’ve learned the difference between discomfort and pending injury as well as between fatigue and staleness. And when in doubt, I always error on the side of caution. Well, almost always.

In 2005, I returned to marathon training after a few years away, scheduling two marathons in one year. The problem was I also maintained the rest of my racing schedule without giving up something. Unfortunately, 2006 was a miserable injury-plagued year, in which I missed nearly eight months of running due to multiple issues. Insert my picture on the milk carton of knuckleheads, please.

No matter how you plan your running, training and racing, it’s a good idea to also include a healthy dose of common sense in the form of flexibility and caution. Even many younger runners, who in my opinion don’t train hard enough, could use to remember the axiom that work doesn’t help us improve, it’s the rest AFTER the work that does.

So did I run the track workout I mentioned? Well, I had the time. I also had an off-day scheduled for the next day, but the forecast was for 95 degrees. Yeah, the knucklehead in me ran the workout, but with a huge dose of flexibility in the form of longer rest intervals, water breaks, and a reduced total distance. It was a solid effort under extreme conditions, and the following day’s rest helped me recover stronger for the next effort.

Just remember, when “stuff” gets in your way, keep a close eye on the knucklehead in you. Uncle Stewart may have a thing or two to say about your malodorousness.

Former standout Lock Haven University runner Andy Shearer is a member of the Middletown Athletic Club, the Greater Philadelphia Track Club and USA Track and Field.