Saturday, January 5, 2013

Miles...How Far?, How Fast?...Hard Question!

"If you put all your eggs in one basket, you better watch your basket" - Mark Twain

Having been a runner for over 3 decades, I've been repeatedly asked "How many miles per day do you run?". The questioner could be someone who might see me run often, like in my neighborhood. Or it might be someone who just knows that I run, like a patient or a casual acquaintance. Or it might be someone who has just found out that I run, like at a party or meeting. But usually this is commonly the sort of person who assumes that I follow a periodic routine, and that I run pretty much the same amount every time I go out. The most frequent expectation is that I run so much per day, which all runners know is miles (no pun) from the truth. The "per" designation is just a handle by means of which one may discuss averages, which themselves may or may not be meaningful.

And so, it's not unusual to be asked often "How much do you run every day?". There is no answer to that question if taken literally that is both easy and correct. I could do a mental calculation in the knowledge that this past week I ran 35 miles, so could say "about five", when the real answer is that I did a couple of short runs, took a couple of days off, a 10-miler on Saturday, and ran 15 on Sunday. Or I could say "about 30-40 miles a week", or I could say so many miles per month. But when you're dealing with someone who asks the question in passing and really doesn't give a Rat's Tail to a specific answer, that's not the time to get into a big discussion or to present a lecture on how runners train.

My own routine is surely not much different from most thoughtful runners. I record all pedestrian miles covered while wearing running clothes for the purpose of "working out" on a daily basis, often in GPS measured miles to two decimal places, whether I'm going for a short jog in my neighborhood or a long run on some technical trail at Oak Mountain. A training session for me can be anything from a couple of easy miles to over twenty. The distance is almost always predetermined, usually at least days and sometimes weeks in advance.

In turn, those daily accumulations add up to seven-day weeks. In my log I record the week as measured from Monday to Sunday,  including  rest days. That number can be a good predictor or reflection of how well I'm doing or it might just be some needless record for my own self-satisfaction. Weeks add up to months. Week and month totals tend to build and diminish over the course of a year, but then of course, these months add up to years. In the 30+ years my feet have hit the pavement or trail, I have logged over 78,000 miles! I used to run over 3000 miles a year, but these days, I struggle to be within shouting distance of half that. But that's ok, I'm still moving forward. 

A few weeks ago, I ran into a former patient I hadn't seen in a long while. He was going one way, I was going another, but he asked  "How did you do on your last marathon?", knowing that I was a long distance runner. Well, the last race I had done was the very technical Crusher Ridge Trail Marathon at Ruffner mountain. I said "A little over 8 hours!". As we glided out of conversation range, knowing he wouldn't have a clue what I was referring to, I wanted to explain to him that this time didn't mean that I had suddenly become a mere slow walker of long distances and I wanted him to know that it was a pretty difficult effort. But, he shouted back, "Very good!" in a voice that clearly indicated he had no reference as to what time or distance meant and didn't understand my answer. But, his response seemed sincere and I said "Thanks". 

As runners will do, I'm always happy to discuss this topic in any amount of detail with persons who are really interested and have the time. With those other folks who are just making conversation with "How far do you run every day?" or "How fast can you run the mile?", be tolerant of their lack of knowledge. 

Actually, the only question that STILL irks me is "What was your pace?" after a tough, root-strewn, hilly, muddy, 50k. You tell them "Oh about 14 minutes a mile". They look at you and say something like "I ran a 7 minute mile when I was in High School!". Aaaaagggghhhh!! Shouldn't bug me, but it does! Life goes on. And we go on.

Ok, just a reminder to those training for the Mercedes Marathon - next Sunday (January 13th), we will run from Boutwell Auditorium,  the starting line of the marathon, at 6:30 and do one loop (13 miles) of the course. Half marathoners will run to the 7 mile mark and return via 20th St for a total of 8.6 miles. Thanks to Valerie and the Trak Shak guys, the lobby to the Auditorium will be open (warm), and they will also supply water and Gu for the run and coffee for after the run. Thanks guys!

I'll see you all on the roads - AL  

"One child lost is too child saved can change the world"


Run, Karla, Run! said...

I never know how to answer "How many miles per day do you run." I usually say, "It depends" and throw out a weekly average. As for the pace question, I hate that one as much as you do! How many miles per day is innocuous--like you said, usually someone making conversation--but the pace question says more about the asker than the askee.

AL said...

Good to hear from you Karla. I like when they follow up the pace question with "What happened?". I want to answer "Well, I just thought I would dog it for a change!" Geez. Thanks for reading and commenting

Sam Anabtawi said...

My aunt - who’s never ran a day in her life - asked me how fast I was running so I told her. Then she converts my minutes/mile number to a miles/hour number and says “Oh! So you’re not really running running, you’re more like just jogging!”

Yes auntie, just jogging, all downhill with the wind on my back.

Al D. said...

Sam - that's hilarious. Wait till she finds out you WALK some in the marathon. then she'll really expose you as a poser! Good luck with your jogging training.