As I write this, there’s nothing I can do about it.
The end of the year is quickly approaching, and I realize I’m nowhere near where I was last year when it comes to yearly mileage. Actually, that might not be entirely true – I’m afraid to look to see how far off I actually am. Maybe it’s not as bad as I think.
It’s kind of like when I look in my bank account. Or clothes closet. How bad is it, really?
For the past six or seven years, I’ve tracked my mileage on an Excel spreadsheet created by the Dead Runners Society. It’s a glorious spreadsheet – you can track daily, weekly, monthly and yearly mileage. And if you’re organized enough, your lifetime miles, importing the new base number every year.
You can choose which of five pairs of shoes you wore for a run, so if you’re like me and have road shoes and trail shoes and sometimes shoes and old shoes you grabbed in the dark one morning, you can see when you’re quickly approaching max mileage on them (and then peek back into that bank account to see if you can save yourself).
My level of fancy with my running log is pretty limited to those features, but if you want, you can add commentary on each run or what kind of workout it is – a race, a tempo run, a recovery day. You can put in a plan and see if you hit it. Or track your weight (worse than the bank account). It’s a pretty sweet spreadsheet – and has something called a “parrot predictor,” which takes the fastest 26.2 miles you ran in a given week and predicts your marathon time. It’s a fun way to see if you’re getting faster or slower over a year, or what your average training paces were a different year.
What I love the most, though, is just going back to see what my training looked like at different times – how did I ramp back up after that stress fracture? What was my peak mileage before that race, and did it pay off? Why do I always end up with such a crappy February? I blame the short month, not a waning motivation before a spring panic.
Not everyone tracks their mileage – but when I asked people in the 605 Running Co. community, Sioux Falls Women Run and the Sioux Falls Area Running Club if they do, I got a ton of responses. It’s fun to see how many people still adore the red paper spiral-bound log – runners Chris Anderson and Sara Lefebvre have years of them, with notes and commentary from various runs. (Full disclosure: I tried this one year, after being full of jealousy about Chris’ lifelong journal held together by miles, and I stopped writing in it about a month after getting it – shameful for a writer to admit. I blame arthritis. If I could type in it … . )
Others use online programs, from relying on the sketchy tracking of Strava to uploading from a Garmin. Others join different social media groups, trying to reach a mileage goal every year – a common one is to run the year, so 2017 miles this year.
A year can bring a lot of changes – from injury to motivation to life getting in the way. Ice storms and lightning, heat waves. Sick kids, spouses, work conferences. Lunch breaks bookended by meetings, so you can’t sneak out for an extra 15 minutes and another mile or two.
You name it, and it can happen over the course of 365 days. That’s part of why I don’t set a hard mileage goal for myself. Instead I try to get close to a certain weekly mileage, don’t worry too much when I don’t hit it, but I also don’t let too much time pass between, so I don’t get lazier and lazier.
But with every instance that can derail us over the year, there are just as many that can push us closer and closer to whatever our goals are.
A perfect spring day, the sky clearing as you step outside. A trail run that feels so good that you add on another half hour, just because. A crisp winter day, blue, blue sky and no wind – you have to take advantage. An offer from a friend to take the kids to basketball and the realization that you can clean your house another time, what you need right now are a few miles alone.
Runners are made day by day, week by week, month by month.
Year by year, mile by mile, uploaded from a phone, written on a wall calendar or scrawled into a notebook next to a box of tangled medals and crumpled bibs, the pins dangling from the corners.
However you record it, they’re your miles. Go run them.
Jacqueline Palfy is a longtime runner, reader and writer, marathoner, mom and board member of the nonprofit Sioux Falls Area Running Club. Her contributions to the 605 Running Co. blog will appear each Tuesday. You can follow her on Twitter @runnerJPK or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Story ideas are encouraged.
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