Saturday, September 21, 2013

Recording My Runs...Then and Now

"You know you're a long distance runner if you get more phonecalls at 5am than at 5pm" - Thomas Kennedy

I began running on August 8,1978. Well, I probably began running when I was about 3 years old, but as an exercise, as in I'm-getting-too-big-around-the-waist-exercise, I began running, and with that I began to record the distance and time I ran in a small, spiraled notebook. Once the new year began, my record keeping got a little more complex and the notebook filled with numbers. With numbers my tendencies tended towards a sort of compulsiveness. Once it was recorded, it was later reviewed, then manipulated, analyzed and, ultimately judged. Time, distance, pace, elevation, calories. Splits, averages, fastest, longest, most, best...worst. Goals and disappointments.

The first couple of decades, I maintained written logbooks, but eventually moved to an electronic one. I was always meticulous about recording my runs. If I didn't have my log with me on a trip, I would record the time and distance on some random scrap of paper and transfer it to my journal when I got home. Miles would be calculated from maps or estimated (roughly) in their absence. If I would run a new route, I would then hop in my car later in the day and ride over the course using the always accurate Ford Fiesta odometer. I even sent away for this gizmo that was like a pen that had a small wheel on the end that you could roll over the route on a map and it would give you a highly inaccurate distance. but, it was something...remember, I was compulsive about the numbers I put in my logs.

Then came the miracle of miracles...an online mapping software version of a Topo program became my best friend. I remember Rick Melanson gave me an older version of a program CD to download on my computer. With this God-sent program, before a run I'd use it to explore possible routes and alternatives; afterward, I'd retrace the precise path I had taken. Not only was this highly accurate, but it showed the nirvana of stats - elevation. This was the precurser to MapMyRun. I was actually fairly resistant about getting a GPS watch for some time. I always said it was just one more thing over which to obsess. But, secretly, I think I really enjoyed the process of adding miles up on the map--mentally
re-living the run along the way. In a past life, I must've been one of those ancient map-makers trying to figure out what the shorelines of these new lands looked like from above.

Eventually, I gave in to the GPS. After all, I am a gadget lover as well. Simplicity of recording meant more time for post-run analysis. With programs like GarminConnect, Nike+, Strava, Smashrun, etc, I could review trends: daily, weekly, monthly, even yearly! I could even generate custom reports; my obsessive nature delighting in the minutiae. With such tools, I can now figure out the difference between my average pace on Wednesday afternoon versus Thursday morning runs over the course of a given year! What more could I ask for? 

But, with these new online sites, the one big thing I lose bigtime is the sitting down at the end of the day and writing in a journal what I saw, how I really felt, what my true mental ups and downs were. I love numbers, but numbers don't have feelings. We don't just run to see how fast, or slow, or high we can go. We run to see the deer in the woods, feel the cobwebs on our face on early morning trail run, enjoy the warmth of running in a summer rain, or the pure enjoyment of running with friends. I look back on my old running journals from when I first began to run, and I feel like I'm reading a stranger's journals. They are so full of excitement and meeting new goals. The electronic age opens the world to us, but I feel it closes out the real daily reason we run. 

Sure, I could go back to writing in a journal, but I used it long ago because that was all I had. Now, it would have the feel of redundancy to go back because I'm not going to stop downloading my runs into some cold, calculating program. I love to write and that's probably why I love to write this blog. I don't know if anyone else enjoys reading it, but I write because I have thoughts. That's what my running journals used to be.; thoughts about my runs and goals. Ah, it's just life moving on...no big deal. Just some thoughts of a runner who's been on the road a long time...a real long time. 

What about you guys? Do you record every run? Just numbers? Lavish descriptions? Let me know, I'd love to hear from you all. Ok guys, that's about it for this week. Have a good running week. Fall is coming tomorrow...time to dig out those long sleeves, darn it. How far till Spring? Just around the corner, right? I'll see you all on the roads - Al


"One child lost is too many...one child saved can change the world"

6 comments:

Jonathan Fague said...

Al DiMicco I really relate to your blogs. After not running at Red Mountain for at least a couple of months I found myself out there twice last week. I had a feeling during the 1st run like when you see a long lost friend. When the run was done I felt like, "this is why I run", However my notes say nothing more than, Red Mountain, 7.5 miles no time. If I do have notes it's usually how something when wrong as to explain my slow time. Maybe it's time to switch gears and just document why I run. Recently, I was looking at a stack of race number bibs from this year and I was wondering why I bother keeping them. As I'm writing this I'm thinking about typing a race report and maybe adding a picture if one is available and taping it to the back.

Jonathan Fague said...

Al DiMicco I really relate to your blogs. After not running at Red Mountain for at least a couple of months I found myself out there twice last week. I had a feeling during the 1st run like when you see a long lost friend. When the run was done I felt like, "this is why I run", However my notes say nothing more than, Red Mountain, 7.5 miles no time. If I do have notes it's usually how something when wrong as to explain my slow time. Maybe it's time to switch gears and just document why I run. Recently, I was looking at a stack of race number bibs from this year and I was wondering why I bother keeping them. As I'm writing this I'm thinking about typing a race report and maybe adding a picture if one is available and taping it to the back.

AL said...

That's a great idea Jonathan. I have most of my bibs that have the race name on them in a big manila envelope, some with time written on them, some not. Thanks for commenting. Guess I'll see you at the 3 stage race.

Ekkehard said...

Al, the essence of your story is that every run is special in some way. Whether you felt good or not well, who you ran with, the inspiring sunrise on a cool fall morning... - that's where it is more than just about the miles. I log my miles in a spreadsheet to maintain stats about my physiology but have three extra columns for comments (i. e., "great Sunday AM run Lakeshore with Al's group") - the psychology. Man needs both to be fulfilled.

Yo Momma Runs said...

So you started running the year I was born. And that just confirms what I already thought, you are one of the coolest running warriors I know. Also, my blog is definitely my running "journal." Otherwise it's just the cold hard facts in my running app.

AL said...

Thanks Lisa. Not sure about the "cool" part, but sadly...no, not sadly, I have been running for a long time. I'll keep running if you do. Deal?