Monday, May 21, 2012

All Hail Garmin!

At one time or another some fat guy or gal, in an effort to make him or herself feel better about a lack of fitness, will tell you about how bad running is for your health, usually while inhaling a bag of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and chugging a 3-litre bottle of Dr. Pepper.

(Some find this irritating and use their anger productively by running faster than their current physical limitations allow for farther than common sense dictates, injure themselves, begin eating Pop Tarts intravenously, gain 120 pounds, and tell other people that running is bad for them, when in reality, it’s listening to people who ingest more M & Ms in a minute than bad jumpers Kobe Bryant takes in the fourth quarter of a playoff game that’s bad for you.)
Occasionally, a semi-well-intended non-runner will semi-incredulously ask you why you punish yourself so. If you’re like me, and let’s be honest, you’re probably not, you shrug your shoulders and strike up a conversation with the three hippos gargling butter who tell you that running is bad for you.  Since striking up conversations with hippos gargling butter, elephants snorting whip cream, rhinos injecting ranch dressing, or negative people who never exercise is bad for you, I decided to explore this clich├ęd, over-analyzed topic in the most refreshing way possible.

Why do I run?

Garmin Forerunner 101 Waterproof Running GPS
Dear Garmin, I love you! (I own this sun dial).
I run because I like numbers. 

I’m fascinated with them.  I knew how to calculate batting average, earned run average, shooting percentage (26% by the way is Kobe Bryant’s shooting percentage in the last minute of playoff games with his team trailing by one possession for his career, yet he’s considered the “greatest closer of all time?”), heart attack rates of marathoners compared to the heart attack rate of those whose idea of exercise includes slurping crusted, dried ice cream from under the sofa while applauding Richard Simmons, and just about any other statistic before I knew how to do any of those things that were being measured.

I don’t run because I like running.  

Sure, I enjoy physical activity, dripping in sweat, smelling like rubbing alcohol, and teetering on the verge of vomiting, but there are other ways of accomplishing those things.  So why running?

Running is measurable.

I enjoy lifting weights for the same reason, but my muscles give in long before the feelings of complete exhaustion envelope my body.  A good workout video—Insanity, for example—gives me the same feeling running gives me and the Insanity fitness test does measure progress, but it’s difficult to compare one person’s fitness test to someone else’s due to differences in technique.  In addition, it’s not really communicable.  Someone asks you how you’re progressing with your Insanity workout video and you reply, “I did 64 power jumps this morning,” and he replies, “huh,” smiles and tells you how bad running is for your knees.  Running numbers, on the other hand, are simple.  You run from here to there and tell me how long it took.  Very easy to compare.

What would Billy Shake think about running?
I’m an English teacher.  That’s irony.   

Biking offers the same number simplicity, but so much depends on the bike.  Swimming is good, but you spend too much time in the pool and once you reach a state of exhaustion, you drown.  If you drown, you die.  If you die, you can’t calculate pace.

Here are some numbers that probably won’t interest you, but it’s my blog and they interest me.  They’re my PRs.  I don’t limit PRs to actual races because I refuse to pay exorbitant race fees unless a race presents an difficult to attain goal or it's free.  These PRs have all been set in the last 5 months.  I’ve been running for 15 years (not continually; that would be a record).
  • 3 miles – 23:37 (I’ve run three mile segments much faster than this during half marathons but that doesn’t count).
  • 5-k – 24:37 (I ran back-to-back 5-ks faster than this time, but I needed those for my 10-k PR)
  • 5 miles – 39:09 (On hills.  One of my best efforts ever)
  • 10-k – 48:02 (The best run of my life)
  • 10 miles – 83:23
  • Half Marathon – 1:49:55
  •  20 miles – 2:59:04


  1. I like numbers a lot, and keep track of my running stats in an Excel Spreadsheet.

    To my recollection, you're the first runner I know of to have this type of motivation for running. Nothing wrong with that.

  2. It's more of a subconscious motivator to get better. At times it's a demotivator. Either way, I love figuring things out.

  3. I want your 10K and half-marathon PRs! Maybe then I could reasonably expect to get my marathon goal (I still think it's unfair that yours is so much harder given we're about the same age).

    I like numbers too. I want to do a lactate threshold test like 2Slow4Boston's. I guess I should actually be *running* first, though.

    Oh, and I'm not an English teacher, but I was an English major and a journalist for a while (8 years reporting and editing). Does that count?

    1. You were a journalist, meaning you have actual practical experience in applying what you learned in school. That just doesn't cut it in the world of education. We teachers only deal with impractical theories which don't actually work in the real world.

      I've been destroyed by many female runners, including my wife--although I did beat her with a sprint at the end of a 10-k once when she was 8 months pregnant and didn't know we were racing. I am nowhere near, Boston...yet.

      Hope you get better soon!

  4. I can't say that I love running JUST for the numbers, but like you, I enjoy tracking my progress over various distances with several different metrics. I do truly just "enjoy" being out running, especially when the world outside is quiet (few, if any people out), but I'm not yet "purist" enough to forgo a timing device of some kind (I like my toys too much).

    I don't track anywhere near as many things as my friend Paul (over at, but in addition to time and distance, I frequently track things like elevation change, heart rate and weather conditions. A 10K at 48 minutes is impressive indeed (nice effort there), but I honestly believe one needs to also factor in temperature, humidity, and elevation changes at least to do a meaningful comparison....those things can REALLY make a HUGE difference. That kind of time on a 40 degree morning with a light wind and low humidity is very different than the same time on a 75 degree morning with a stiff wind and high humidity.

    By the way, thanks for the chuckle about beating your wife at the end of the 10K...too funny. :-)

    1. You hit the nail on the head about PRs. I have had better efforts in worse conditions without the time being the "best." I just read The Perfect Mile and the reason Bannister got the four-minute mile before Landy was because the tracks in England were better than the ones in Australia. Landy was actually the faster miler and ran a 3:58 once he got to Finland where the tracks were good.

      I'm just hoping for cool temperatures and no wind on Saturday for my first marathon.

  5. HI Trent,

    Yes, I like crunching numbers to see changes in fitness too. I would run even without that but combining two interests is three times the fun!

    Good luck on your first marathon! Where are you running?

    1. Thanks Paul.

      I too ran before I owned a Garmin, but...

      Utah Valley Marathon on June 9.