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Redefining Junk Miles

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From the Hip

Christy Nielsen-Crotts LIFE and THE MARATHON

By Jennifer Bostwick
Posted Wednesday, 17 November, 2004

I recently read a definition of “junk miles” in the June 2004 copy of Runner’s World. Junk miles were defined as,

“Miles run at an easy pace, added to a training program only to reach a certain weekly or monthly mileage total rather than to achieve any specific training benefit. That said, not all easy miles are junk miles, as they can aid recovery.”

Since I rarely do speed work, wear a watch inconsistently, only guesstimate my mileage and run nearly every day, I wondered if all my miles could be classified as junk miles. I considered the idea of rating runs and miles. Clearly, for an elite athlete, training must be of a certain caliber and quality in order to set and achieve professional goals.

However, I am a recreational runner who runs for fun, fitness, challenge and happiness. When not training for a race, my running consists of one-hour runs that meet my need for alone time, relaxation, sweat and fresh air. I can’t imagine my life, my sanity, myself without these “junk miles”. Not only do I problem solve, analyze and daydream during this hour, I also enjoy the rhythmic sensation of my feet hitting the ground, the cool morning air and the warm semi-strained feeling in my muscles. I thrive during this hour.

The miles I run save me from becoming overwhelmed with life and allow me to feel proud for being disciplined enough to maintain a regular running routine. During these miles, I am able to revisit yesterday, ready myself for the day ahead and look forward to tomorrow. I rarely feel overtired from running. I am rarely injured. I handle long runs well and feel strong and challenged at races.

It is difficult for me to call the bulk of my running “junk miles” when I am improving myself physically and mentally. In fact, I love my junk miles and wouldn’t give them up for faster paces.

On recent junk mile runs, I have been uplifted by a beautiful sunrise, saw a bunny scurry across the trail, surprised a fox in the bushes and watched a falcon's rise on the wind. If I had been charging ahead, pushing myself hard and maximizing my speed, I would have either missed these events entirely or been unable to fully enjoy the wonder before me. I will continue to run the majority of my runs at a pace that allows me to take in my surroundings

My junk miles also help me to succeed in my life. I am a more patient mother and a wiser woman. I am grateful everyday for the ability to run and the life I lead. I have solved my most complex life-problems during runs. I have written articles, planned the remodel of my bathrooms and refocused on the important aspects of my life during junk mile runs.

Maybe we should judge the time spent running by our own personal rating system. Do you feel fulfilled when you run? Do you feel better after you run? Does it benefit your life to be a runner? Because the joy I feel when running provides me with infinitely more than just "training benefits," I will continue to define all my running miles as valuable, rewarding miles. They do more for me than a quicker finishing time ever could.

Follow up by Jennifer Bostwick - SheRuns publisher

I have created SheRuns because I believe women runners need a voice and a space for expressing themselves. Although more women run than ever, there are limited magazines for running, in general, and insufficient magazines and articles aimed at women, in particular. Running is individual, for certain, but as a group, I believe women make up an amazingly connected presence with unique perspectives, goals and lives. With SheRuns, I hope to address issues that directly relate to running and how it fits into our lives as women. Excerpted articles for the current issue of SheRuns will be posted here monthly. This is the third article to be published. Be sure to come back and check out next month's article! Send me a note, let me know what you think.
Happy Running!
Jennifer Bostwick



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