FOUL Syndrome: Malady or Myth?


I named it the FOUL Syndrome, but my guess is that a lot of you suffer from it.  You’re the ones who will agree it’s a malady.  Those of you who don’t deal with it probably think it’s a myth and consider us sufferers to have a touch of OCD.

What is FOUL?  Fear Of Unknown Logistics.  When you don’t know how something works, or how to get somewhere, how long something will take, or how things are likely to unfold, well, there can be some angst.  I find that FOUL is most dominant for me on race days, especially when I am going to a race for the first time.  It starts with the alarm clock, and the routine, and wanting to make sure that it goes as smoothly and as typically as possible.  For me, part of my running “success” happens when I am in the zone.  Remember, my zone is my zone, and my zone only…it’s the unique combination of factors that make me feel comfortable and settled and confident.  And it starts with sticking to a routine that works.

Setting up the timing of that routine is where the first signs of FOUL creep in.  I try to back into it, but if there are too many variables.–parking, registration, walking back to the car, porta-potty line, etc.–then there are so many places to build in buffer time. I worry about traffic, and walking distance from the parking area to the registration tent and back, porta-potty lines, etc. I know everything will be ok, but I want everything to go smoothly, relaxed not rushed, etc. I have all this angst about not wanting to have any angst!

It’s not just races…it could be meeting new people at a new restaurant in a new neighborhood.  Yikes!

Finding a balance between the comfort of routine and the needed excitement of trying new things is another area that I’ve needed to actively manage as I’ve tried to introduce some (sustainable) change in my life.

It’s often said that you can’t keep doing the same thing the same way and expect a different result.  But I think sometimes we let ourselves believe that an external force that is outside of our control is the thing that is preventing us from getting where we want to be.  So we approach life thinking that if we keep plugging away and that thing in the way changes somehow, then PRESTO!, the mother lode.

Here’s what I tell myself when I find myself caught in that trap:

  • You’re wrong.  So no matter how hard you try or how long you wait, you’ll never get what you want (or need).
  • You’re blaming.  Assume responsibility.  Be accountable.  Maybe it is an external force but why sit back and wait on it?  Make it happen.  Then it doesn’t matter whether you are right or wrong.  Neutralize it.
  • You’re afraid.  You have FOUL. Of course you’re afraid. But you have to put yourself out there and try something different, IF you want a different outcome. Trying something new might seem scary.  But if you look at it as exciting and take an approach that is relatively low-risk, yet doesn’t accept failure as an option, well, you’ll start surprising yourself.

In a little time, you’ll see different results.  You might not see the exact results you want in the desired quantity or volume right away (or ever), but you’ll start to see your actions tied to results.  The results don’t matter as much at this stage.  The actions do.  And learning that you can make things happen is totally empowering.

One small change I have made is this: even after the worst of nights, every morning before my feet hit the floor, I tell myself: you are going to kick today’s ass.  Every day I try.  And at the end of every day, I document the good in it.

So, stop reading and go kick today’s ass.


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