Monday, May 9, 2011

on running: what counts as running mileage?

as you know, i can (at times) get a bit obsessive about things.

when i start stringing together running workouts, so it happens with running.  and, probably similar to some of the reasons i like baseball, i am a stats junkie when it comes to running, adding to the obsession.

i use two different apps to track my runs, both running on my iphone.  the first is called runmeter, probably my favorite tracking app in existence.  it has very cool features like auto-stop, which will detect when you stop running (using GPS signals) and pause your workout to auto-resume when you start running again (this is great for those of us who commonly have to stop at intersections or for heart palpitations).  the reason i use it in additional to another tool is to keep my tools in sync, as i use cyclemeter (same company) for cycling (which i also do a lot of), and because these both sync to my outlook calendar with tons of relevant data; i like to use them both in tandem.

but my primary tool for running has become the nike+ gps app for the iphone.  i started using the default nike+ app on my iphone after i realized my running shoe (currently the nike lunarglide) has a chip that helps track running data on my phone.  i also liked the app because it integrated well with the ipod controls on the iphone and primarily because it has a very cool online site.  the site allows you to track and view mileage, calories burned, pace, and then run reports over time  spans to view your run data.  there is the added dimension that you can "challenge" yourself or other runners in various ways like number of runs during a timeframe, or amount of miles in a timeframe.  this was initially a good motivator in getting me back into running... but has since become the obsession.

as you ALSO know, i'm ridiculously competitive. the nike+ gps app tracks and automatically uploads your workout and gps data to, which is very convenient, but you cannot upload, add or edit run data otherwise (apart from minimal calibration, if your GPS is wrong).  it is also a good way to ensure your competition isn't "cheating".  since it's gps based, it's kind of hard to flub.  you actually have to travel the course to get the post...  and given that pace is also recorded, you couldn't really walk it (3-4mph), ride your bike (13+ mph) or drive (20+ mpg and a lot of honking at that!!).  

but then again, what counts as a run?  i've got this dilemma because i'm currently in the middle of a very competitive "challenge" on the website of the "first to 50 miles in 30 days" variety.  right now i sit around 37.5 miles, and my guess is, by wednesday i will be just shy of 50.  i am currently in 1st place against 2 other competitors and i would think, pending some heavy changes in patterns, that, were this to be a normal week, i would win (it would be close, but i'm sure i would win).

problem is, i'm going on a backpacking trip this weekend...  thursday i cannot exercise due to time constraints, and friday i'm heading out after work for the adirondacks with todd and his brother chad (todd is the faster brother*...  but unfortunately, they're probably both faster than me).   during the weekend, we'll be grinding our way through the high mountains region of the adirondacks, meaning, i won't be recording any mileage... and surely, given my competition at, i will be overtaken and lose.  

the thing that hurts is...  i'll be on my feet and getting a HUGE workout when i'm out there hiking.  i could record this mileage and not feel terrible about it....  from the standpoint of fitness....

but, the problems are:

1. it's a flat out lie...  we're tracking our RUNNING on a RUNNING website and it's not running it's hiking.
2. the avg. pace of the hiking would be abysmal...  lowering my overall avg. pace and not giving me an accurate assessment of whether i'm getting faster or not

simple fact is, i wouldn't earnestly consider tracking, nor will i track this mileage.  

really though, when it comes down to it, how would i feel if one of my competitors were to log a 10 mile "run" with a 3-4 mph pace?  to be honest, exercise is exercise...  i don't care how fast you go, if you're on your feet and you're self propelled, have at it.  the more people who exercise, the better, IMO.  i think a lot of people shy away from group exercise because of the snobbery that is rampant among runners and cyclists.  i'm a big proponent of the "walk before you run" school of thinking, and even walked a lot leading into my more recent foray back into running.

what do you think?  is mileage mileage or are you a running purist?  what are the limits to what YOU consider "running mileage"...  or do you not care at all?

* just in case chad ever reads this


  1. Personally, I think you hit it at the end. Whatever works for you personally is the way to go. I don't begrudge people that get into numbers and records, but to me running - and specifically racing - is me against myself and a number. (And whatever poor sap happens to be immediately in front of me.) In hiking, its the folks who like to "bag" 4000 or 5000 footers... personally, I don't get it. As long as you're exercising and digging it, you do your thing.

    Having said all of that, I also agree with your thoughts on your contest. Logging non-running mileage on a running site with a running app seems unfair.

  2. Hmmm. What does "first to 50 miles in 30 days" mean?

    Is it the cas that the FIRST one to 50 miles wins? If so, then you just need to run a few more miles before you go on your hike, and you'll win. But in that case, what purpose do the 30 days serve? (If nobody makes it to 50 miles in 30 days, then everyone loses?)

    But it sounds as if the competition will simply be won by whoever gets the most miles in 30 days. If so, what purpose does the "first to 50 miles serve"?

    What am I missing here?

  3. i guess the point is to put a goal in that "stretches" your training a bit beyond plan... pushes you to run more using competition as a motivating factor. you choose the distances and duration, so it's customized to your plan...

    they ALSO have most miles in 30 days challenges. that's just not the nature of this particular challenge.

    i sit at 49.1 miles as of today....

  4. Dude - really? .9 miles remaining? Bust that out by running down to the store and picking me up some beer for tonight! Problem solved.

    More seriously, goals really should stretch you out a bit, although you tend to choose very ambitious goals. (You're still looking for another Chad to compete with.) My goals are more modest, like "run 10 miles before the kids quiet time ends but without hurting myself."

  5. I'd note that the song Beer Run (B Double E Double Are You In?) has an awfully good beat for running . . . .