“Numbers Never Lie”
Though I don’t have cable at home, I always devote an hour at the gym each morning to delve into Sports Center on ESPN. Scott Van Pelt and Neil Everett and Stan Verrett are the men who usually deliver the highlights and colorful commentary on sports for me at 5 or 6 a.m. each day. A segment during Sports Center I no longer notice much these days concerns numbers – numerous numbers. Though the show no longer exists, ESPN developed a show in 2011 about data and statistics called “Numbers Never Lie.” I wish it had gained some footing before apparently grinding to a halt.
Numbers Never Lie, aside from being a promising television show, is also a telling phrase for runners. I’m not sure how most runners feel about numbers, but I would surmise that it depends on which numbers are being considered and scrutinized. there are numbers for running distance goals and there are numbers for running distance time goals as well. I’ll begin with the numbers that denote race distances. A 5K race is 3.1 miles; a 10K race is 6.2 miles; a half marathon is 13.1 miles; and a marathon is 26.2 miles. These numbers exist to highlight the distance from the starting line to the finish line, but they can be frightfully daunting to those who haven’t run that far before – myself included.
On March 30, 2008, I set out to complete 26.2 miles for the first time at the Georgia Marathon. The number 26 feels immensely big and even frightening if you change the distance measurement. 26 inches, for instance, makes for a very quick run, as does 26 feet and even 26 yards. 26 miles, however, is a long trek on your feet. In the words of legendary distance runner Emil Zatopek, “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.” Four hours and nine minutes and fifty two seconds later, I completed those grueling 26.2 miles around the endless hills of Atlanta and a few of the surrounding cities. I stepped into a different life, the life of a marathoner like Zatopek.
Is there a race that is too far?
Having run for roughly nine years now, I suppose that I no longer fear the reality of numbers. I once thought one mile seemed like one thousand, and repeated this thought as the distance gradually increased with time. Having completed a handful of marathons over the span of nine years, I’m asking myself what’s on the horizon for 2016 and what will my running distance goals be. A 50K race? A 50 mile race? A 100K race? Is the thought of a 100 mile race outlandish, foolish, absurd? I believe that the answer is no. This is not an absurd goal as people decide to tackle the mightiest of challenges across the planet every year.
I’m reminded of these encouraging words by Orison Swett Marden on the subject of desire: “All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” I’m not sure what races I may pursue in 2016, but what I do like about owning a Garmin watch for a few years now is the fact that it highlights numerous metrics to gauge progress. Or – as I noted earlier in this article – the numbers that never lie.
My 2015 numbers
I decided to open the Garmin Connect website and run a cumulative summary from January 1st of this year to December 31st for some hard data. I waited to complete this task until the last day of December as I had one final run to complete before the year ends. And so, in their raw form, here are the numbers for me for 2015. I completed 256 runs; I ran 281 hours, 52 minutes, and 53 seconds; my average speed was 7.1 miles per hour; my average cadence was 172 steps per minute; I burned 218,276 calories; finally, I completed 1,990 miles.
Since we tend to think of distance in terms of how far we drive in a car from one point to another, I’d like to provide some prospective on those 1,990 miles I ran over the course of 2015. Back in July, I traveled with my wife’s family to see her grandparents in Orchard Park, NY. The distance from our house in Georgia to their house in New York is 860 miles. 1,990 miles is the equivalent of running to their house and back – with 270 miles to spare. That is staggering to think about.
2016 Running Distance Goals?
I’ve read about athletes who make running distance goals based off completing their age in miles for each birthday, along with those who run the year in miles. As the mileage total above makes clear, I’m 25 miles shy of running 2,015 miles for 2015. This is an admirable endeavor, but I’m not going to tuck away 25 additional miles later today to hit this mark. Maybe I will hit 2,016 miles for 2016 – and maybe I won’t. The numbers in the aforementioned paragraph don’t lie. This is what I did this year, and I am immensely humbled and celebratory of these figures. In short, I ran well.