Wednesday, January 4, 2012

913 miles

I didn't know that finding out the sum total of the distance I’d run in 2011 was literally as easy as the touch of a button. But it was.

I knew the website I use to maintain my running log,, had a feature called “Week View”; I use it often to see how one week of running compares with the one that preceded it. But not until I opened my 2011 running log on New Year's Day did I glimpse a feature I’d never noticed before: not only does it have Week View, but Year View as well. I clicked on it and found a button that said “Total Distance.” And just like that, I had the results of the preceding 365 days of running in front of me: 913 miles.

It sounded like a lot to me at first, with its proximity to the lush round number of 1,000. It sounded like a worthy reflection of another 365 days of running: days 1,239 through 1,603 of my now more than four-year running streak. Then I divided by 365 and discovered it averaged out to only 2.5 miles a day. I would have guessed more, but the important thing to me was that I’d run all 365 days, ane when I thought about my usual pattern – two miles per day most weekdays; four to six miles per weekend day – that average made sense.

Then, just curious, I clicked on my 2010 running log and checked my yearly total. 926. Huh. Thirteen miles fewer for the year that just ended than the one that preceded it. I’m not sure where those thirteen miles went, but most likely they were buried in the snows of last winter. Once there’s so much snow that the town no longer clears the footpaths, running becomes a lot more dangerous and I tend to restrict my route to our common driveway. By running up and down it a couple of times, I can easily clear a mile, but it gets boring quickly, and I don’t often do much more than the minimum. Last winter was a long snowy one.

I suppose it’s natural to be a little bit disappointed that I lost 13 miles between 2010 and 2011, even though it’s not a specific goal of mine to increase mileage every year. And of course, well past the age of 40, I know it would be fair to give myself a little bit of a break, not necessarily expect more and faster (I don’t even bother to track speed of my running these days) from one year to the next. It’s not like I really expect my fitness level to increase every year, now that I’m undeniably in the midst of middle age.

The goal wasn’t to run farther or faster; it was just to keep running. In some respects, that doesn’t seem like a particularly impressive goal, either literally or symbolically: just keep maintaining the status quo? That’s enough for you? Really? On the other hand, the fact that I haven’t missed my daily mile in over 4 ½ years continues to amaze me, not for what it says about my fitness skills or even commitment level but rather about my good luck. Another 365 days without injury, illness, catastrophe or emergency. Truly a blessing of astounding dimensions.

My shortest run of the year was one mile, done on the morning of Tropical Storm Irene, when I was too afraid of falling branches to go farther than the end of our road and back. My longest distance was six miles, a couple of different Saturday mornings; and there were plenty of entries in the 5-mile-plus-a-few-tenths range.

In between those two were the usual variety of runs that fill out any runner’s year. The hottest run: mid-eighties in the early morning during last July’s record-breaking heat wave; I was lucky to get out before 8 a.m., since by noon the temperatures would register well over 100. The snowy runs: by February there were snowdrifts more than four feet high lining the driveway. I discovered new running routes once we moved across town last spring, though I still run the familiar routes around the center of town most days. Because we now live close to a state park, on weekends I found myself in the company of other walkers and runners more than I was previously accustomed to. I headed out one Saturday morning intending to run three miles, then turned back after one mile due to lightning flashes not far ahead. I ran in Massachusetts, New York, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Maine, Washington DC and Colorado.

So it was another good year of running and another solid 365 days. Perhaps I should make it a goal to reach 1,000 miles this year, just this once, though I’m not sure where I’d add on another 87 miles compared to last year. If I can make it another 366 days – it’s a leap Year, of course – that will be enough for me.

Snow. Lightning. Heat waves. Tropical storms. With a little luck, I can do it all again.

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