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Keeping Track
One aspect of running that appeals to many is the fact that it can be so easily quantified. Since running can be distilled down to a function of time and distance, one can easily track those variables if they are so inclined.

Keeping Track

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By Don Allison
Posted Monday, 18 February, 2002

One aspect of running that appeals to many is the fact that it can be so easily quantified. Since running can be distilled down to a function of time and distance, one can easily track those variables if they are so inclined.

It seems to me that keeping-or not keeping-a running log is one of those traits in which runners fall firmly into either one camp or the other. Those that do keep a log of their running almost always do so with a zeal and precision that borders on obsession. Each mile is carefully recorded, as is the elapsed time. Weekly, monthly, and annual totals are added up, divided, averaged, and analyzed in every possible way.

On the other hand, many other runners view all of this logging and record keeping to be a big waste of time. These individuals seem to experience running on a completely different plane. While they may be just as serious about their training and racing, and may also be aware of time and distance covered, they do not feel compelled to record the data in a book or a computer. Others still have little regard for how long or how far they have run, happy just to experience the sport on an aesthetic level.

When I first began running more than a quarter century ago, logging mileage had a great appeal to me. Like many beginning runners, I was fascinated with how quickly the totals added up. By logging 40 miles per week, I saw that within six months I would have covered a full 1,000 miles. It was hard to fathom how those six-mile runs could add up to the distance between Boston and Ohio.

My log book soon became a source of motivation. Looking at the numbers from previous weeks and months, I could see how diligent I had been about my training. The zeroes were hard to look back upon, but there weren't too many of those. In the late stages of a difficult run, I could take solace in the thought that a solid number could be later entered into the permanent record of my running, never to be taken away.

After a while however, I stopped making entries in the log book on a daily basis. Other things got in the way, and I let it slip. A week would pass, maybe two, before I would remember I needed to update the log book. So I would rack my brain to recall the distance of the runs I had completed on those missing days. Once up to date, I would vow to be more regular in keeping my log book.

Then, an injury. Like many others before me and many after, I tried to keep running, although the distance totals were sharply reduced, and paled in comparison to those previously entered. My log book had become more a source of depression than motivation. Soon I was forced to stop running completely for a period of time. Since there was nothing to enter into the log book, it remained on the shelf.

Thankfully, I was eventually able to resume regular running, but found I had lost my desire to keep track the accumulated mileage. A few half-hearted attempts at tracking the miles eventually lapsed into large empty spaces in the book. It seemed pointless after a while, so I stopped completely.

The funny thing is that I still keep track of my running-in a way. The difference is that now, I only keep a rough count of mileage in my head, and only as the week progresses. I set a rough goal of the mileage or hours I hope to run during a certain week, and keep the totals in my head as the week progresses. Once the week is done however, I start back at zero. Although without writing it down or entering it into a computer I have no permanent record of my running, it still provides a source of motivation. In addition, since many of the routes I do these days are on trails, it is impossible to keep accurate mileage totals anyway.

Still, I am slightly envious of those that have tracked all their mileage. It would be nice to know how many miles I have racked up in more than 25 years of running. By now, it would surely be equal to several trips around the globe. I do know that I run whole lot less than I used to. Do I run less because I am not motivated by entries in a log book? Or have I lasted longer in the sport because I have not become a slave to the tyranny of the log book? It all depends upon how you look at it, I suppose.

I do know that freed from the pure mathematics of my training, I have come to learn that there is much more to be appreciated about one's running. The simple enjoyment of movement and being outside in the fresh air are aspects of the sport that I appreciate more and more as the years progress. Simply covering ground is a freedom and a joy that I value greatly-regardless of the elapsed time or distance covered.

When I comes to a log of the races I have done through the years however, well that's a completely different matter…



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