Friday, April 30, 2010

Crap People Don't Tell You About Running: #4

In your stocking feet, you might be the love child of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking, but the second your sneakers hit the pavement, the intricacies of counting out anything beyond the simple one-two rhythm of your breath are beyond you.

As I set out for today's long run (just seven miles, but double-digit treks start in two weeks), I decided to calculate the mileage up and back down the hill that starts at my front doorthe idea was that if I could run an exactly equal distance beyond the halfway point of my route, my iPod would tell me that my seven-mile run was finished at the bottom of the hill, and I could stop running. In other words, I was doing my best to make sure I could walknot runup the quarter-mile hill that feels more like a mountain after I've covered enough miles.

If you ignore for a moment the way cutting out the one real hill on my route outs me as the raging wimp I am, you'll see that my theory was sound. Or would have been if I hadn't gone and run the full quarter mile beyond the halfway point. Worse, I didn't even realize my mistake until my iPod started to count down the homestretch way too early.

I was so quick to blame the iPod for miscalculating my mileage that it didn't even occur to me that the fault may actually have rested squarely with my own calculations until, exactly half a mile from home, the realization washed over me like a second wind: when adding distance to a round trip run, you sorta need to remember to add just half the total extra distance you want to go. Because when you add all of it, you end up turning around and retracing those steps. Which is precisely how I found myself a half a mile from home instead of the happy little quarter mile I'd been hoping to be.

Crap People Don't Tell You About Running #4: Jogging robs your brain of the oxygen it needs to solve complex math problems. Like counting. And addition.

Catherine Elcik is running her first marathon to raise money for a scholarship fund for Grub Street, Inc, and independent writing center in Boston, MA. Sponsor the run at

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