Sunday, December 01, 2013


We hit reset on our watches every day, while the weekly schedules reset and what was a big running week on a Sunday becomes a big fat zero on Monday morning. Running is a sport that lets you accumulate, build, add step by step, then ultimately, we wipe the slate clear.

There are so many other reasons for running, of course, but I find it amazing while running my same routes -- up and down the downtown streets or back and forth on the water's edge, that it actually adds up to something. This morning's run was more than the 10 miles that I logged at the end of a route that saw hills climbed, sidewalk and asphalt passing by and bumping into a running friend at a stop light (we weren't bouncing). At the end of the run I see time (1:15) pace (7:33 miles) and distance (16.12K).

Add it all together, zoom out to the wide view, and you see something much different. Although this was a higher than usual mileage year, most runners training for marathons pile on hundred of miles a season, even up to 200-300 miles a month. Recently I passed the 2,000 mile mark. Today, I passed 2,046, or more than 3,200 kilometres. If I flew the distance, I mapped out where I could have travelled in that one year.

Amazing, isn't it. In about a week, I would have travelled as far as it takes to fly (as crows do) from Toronto to Vancouver, or most of the United States.

Pull out beyond the 50,000 foot view, and you look at the steps and how they add up to something much bigger, something much more impressive to many who may nod when you say you went for a run for an hour, or are on a running streak.

An hour over a day can add up to 16,850 minutes, or two hundred and eighty hours on the roads. A hundred or so calories burned over a mile adds up to 234,618 and while I don't remember many hills, 92K metres kind of seems like a lot.

Those 280 hours on what I sometimes jokingly call my second job pales in comparison to the hours sleeping, working, eating and for some watching TV or doing other activities. When busy people say they can't make time for exercise, I neatly just look at the time of the day they parcel out  and if we're asking for 30 minutes from a 24 hour day for physical movement, then are we asking a lot?

Training for marathons, and for goal races, sharpen the focus, and frankly forces me to see miles and hours logged as a necessity. Think about all those professional athletes and the '10,000-hour rule', that notion that Malcolm Gladwell helped propel into popular discourse -- 10,000 hours to develop expertise (most in arts and brainy fields), but when I look at the time I put in -- at a clip of 200 hours a year, then it all adds up.

That is to say, my 1300th hour of running was much easier than my first 300. Week 13 of an 18 week program you start to feel like what fitness feels like. And a race at the end of it all is a great way to see all those hours come piling back when you need to recruit it all.

Last weekend was one of the first cold blasts of winter. I looked out the window, shrugged off the forecasts and dug out my heartiest of winter layers. As I hit the trails, I thought back to January, when I embarked on a 72-day running streak. Last weekend, though, I wasn't alone. A lot of runners were out there, tackling the cold, embracing winter, adding time on the roads, distance to the meter, flying like crows.

Related post: Time to put in

The last post Why We Run, which I cross posted on HuffPost has gone more viral than anything I've written here. I've had other posts here that have resonated (ie Scotia bag fiasco or Sporting Life 10K finish issues) and brought a tonne of traffic but nothing I've written in a positive has gotten such a wide response.

I realized after the fact that it was this Facebook post (among many) that cast it to a wider audience. Lovely that it was Hal Higdon's page (not sure if he does the posts), but I love it, having looked up to him for years. My very first marathon was using Hal's training program so it feels pretty amazing to get the link.

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