D is for Data

DI wrote this haiku last year after my massage therapist suggested I might enjoy hearing the birds during my runs:

If I run without
My Nike app or Fitbit
Will the miles still count?

Well, of course they will still count, but towards what, exactly? Yeah, yeah, my overall health and well-being, toward my general fitness level, and in the grand cosmic scheme of things. But what would I know about my run? Did I do better than the day before? Did I run more miles or fewer? Most importantly, perhaps, how many miles did I put on which pair of shoes?

My running buddy April (she of A is for Accountability), calls me Rain Man—a nod to my semi-obsession with my statistics. If pressed, I can’t really come up with a stellar explanation about why I’m so enamored of stats. I guess it just comes down to the fact that I enjoy looking back over time and tracking my progress. I love that I can scroll back through the months and see how far I ran and how fast on any given day, in any given race.

Karen, Moi, April at today's Tulip Run. Photo by April Eaton
Karen, Moi, April at today’s Tulip Run. Photo by April Eaton

The very first year I started running—2012—I averaged a mile per day (not per run, but per day)—365 miles run over the course of the year. When I realized in late December that I could reach that milestone with a little bit of effort, I got excited and added more miles to my daily runs.

When December 31 dawned, I still had seven miles to go to reach my goal. I had never gone that far in one day, but, determined to make 365, I laced up my sneakers and set out. I finished that run on the middle school track near my house and called Nancy to pick me up because I couldn’t take another step. I finished. And it was exactly seven miles from my front door to the door of the Jeep in the parking lot. I have the data to prove it.

Sometime during that year I realized that I always hit mile two around the beginning of the same song, Florence and the Machine’s Dog Days of Summer. I began measuring my runs in songs instead of minutes and knew exactly where I should be, mileage-wise, depending on who I heard in my earbuds.

Last year in about October I noticed that if I pushed myself I could make 1500 miles for the year. I didn’t quite make the miles I needed—I wasn’t willing to kill myself to reach that goal—sometimes life intervenes and other things take precedence over running. But I came close, within 50 miles or less, and I am happy with that achievement.

I have a new playlist now, the third or fourth one in as many years. If I hear Cher before mile three, I know I’m doing very well. If I hear Rhianna, I know I’m smoking it. I don’t need to see the stats, but I’m happy to know that I can if I want to.