NeologisticsRunning → Streak

More Than a Pink Hat and Hugs

September 1, 1998

In August I completed a substantial running task, one that I'm quite proud of. The purpose of this article is to brag^H^H^H^Hreport about it.

But first some background.

The Broken Record

No, this part is not about breaking a running record. It's a reference to the sort of scratched vinyl recording disk that gets stuck and keeps repeating itself.

In previous writings I have droned on to our mighty aggregation about why I believe it is important both to set and to accomplish achievable goals. In this regard, it seems I must have a slightly different perspective from some who have responded, ones who view personal running goals more casually.

Their approach seems to be to get out there regularly, do what you can, have a great time, don't worry, be happy, que será, será. Mind you, this technique works for a lot of people. Whatever system makes you happy and keeps you on the path and healthy is superior to giving up. Keep doing it. Far be it from me to criticize another's methodology.

However, for me it takes more than a pink hat and hugs to run a marathon. And I daresay the same is true for many of us.

In short, my credo on goal setting can be summarized as follows. If progress in running is what you desire, then

  1. Analyze your present status objectively.
  2. Set new goals that are realistically achievable.
  3. Hit the roads and make those goals.
  4. Measure everything.
  5. Have fun along the way.

The fourth step is something I just now threw in. To me it seems obvious, but perhaps that's because I'm an engineer. I'm sure many people don't do it, and so have only a vague idea of whether they are progressing. But executing step one effectively depends on having a record of what you have done so far.

Step two is the tricky part. The new goals must be challenging, but it is absolutely essential that they be reachable, because consistently falling short of goals that are set is disappointing and discouraging.

Step three speaks for itself. Just do it.

Whatever method a person uses to record runs, whether writing in a training log or typing the data on a computer, measuring distances, times, perceived effort, or whatever, is irrelevant. The information kept should be of the type against which a person can project future goals. If a runner writes down only that he ran eighty miles this month, then what baseline is there for measuring increased intensity the next month?

The fifth step I added for the sake of cynics who have incorrectly assumed that in being methodical about running I may have forgotten to enjoy myself along the way. Nothing could be further from the truth. If I didn't thoroughly love it every time I go out to run, I wouldn't do it.

The Big Month

In early January of this year I decided that I would attempt to streak the month of January, i.e., run at least three miles every day, and for an average of 35 miles a week throughout the month, and if that went well, which it did, I would do it again in August.

This is not a goal I would recommend to everyone. The body needs recovery time, especially at my age and fitness level. But it is something I wanted to do for myself, just to get a taste of what it is like to be a streaker.

Last month I upped the ante a bit. I determined that I would run five miles every single day, and ten miles every Saturday. Furthermore, I determined that I would run every single run at a sub-10:00 pace.

Don't laugh. Running 10:00 a mile is not difficult for me, but if I am very tired or running longer than about twelve miles, it can be challenging. On very long runs, I drop back to as slow as 10:40. To sustain a sub-10:00 pace every day for a whole month meant that I could not slough off any day. I had to keep pushing.

With one minor exception, I accomplished my goal completely. The exception came on the third of the month, when I ran a 10:04 average for my five miles. The reason for this was inattention to the clock. I had no idea I was going that slowly. If I had been better attuned to my pace, I could have finished under pace easily. I made up for this minor blip with my overall pace for the month.

In the process I managed to set five PRs during the month. Without a database of measurements, I would have no record of, and therefore no realization of having set PRs. But because I do measure my training activity, I can cite the following:

Now I can say with confidence that with carefully applied effort, I have increased the average intensity level that I run at, and therefore also my personal level of fitness, which is a little more intangible.

I think I may have even lost a couple of pounds in the process. But because I didn't measure that statistic, I can't say for sure.

And today I get to rest. I earned it. Tomorrow it will be time to begin preparing for Tucson Marathon in early December.