Tracking 10,000 Running Miles Over 10 Years
sports & fitness
Julie has been tracking her running mileage for the past 10 years while training for 15 marathons. While training and learning about running she began to pick up new “rules of thumb” to help guide her training and performance, but something was still missing. How did she know that she was sticking to these rules? Was there any evidence that training was working or that she was accomplishing what she wanted to? In this talk, she iterates her planning, tracking and training, and discusses what she learned.
Garmin GPS | pedometer
So the chart that you are looking at is the running miles per week and that’s the y-axis, and it ranges from 0 to 70 miles, and this type of variation that you are seeing is pretty standard for marathon runners.
I’m going to talk you through the chart, and what I learned starting with 2002. So in 2002, I ran my first two marathons, and you can see, I had no idea what I was running. So I wasn’t tracking year, and while I was training for these two marathons I was actually injured for both of them, and I started learning these new rules about running, but I didn’t know if I was sticking to them.
So the first two rules had to do with how you increment your mileage week to week and how you often you vary the intensity in days. And I knew I had to track in order to make sure I was sticking to these rules. So in 2003 I started tracking, and I ran three marathons, and the first two I stuck completely to the rules and everything went fantastically, and then I threw another one in there at the end because I had a time goal that I hadn’t reached yet. And I knew I was breaking the rules, and of course I got hurt, right after the marathon and that led me to learn even more rules.
So these new rules had to do with three different elements of training, the importance of running slowly, as now that you are going slowly enough, and also I learned what your body feels which trumps everything else because if you’re not feeling right you have to take a break.
So I stuck to the new rules and for the next year and a half I ran a few more marathons, and everything went great again. But you noticed that when I was training for that last Boston that the slope of that line is really consistent. I was super rigid in my training and I wasn’t listening at all to what my body wanted, so I broke that very important role and what I learned is that every time you do that you get hurt.
So I burned out, and this time I needed two months off, but I learned a whole bunch about how you can stay in touch with your body, and how you make sure that you are going slowly enough. So one of the things that I do is that I run to my heart rate, rather than a specific pace, and what that allows you to do is to see that if on any given day you are running a lot slower, which means your body is working to fight something and you have to honor that.
So in this chart for example, what happened the next day I did get sick because I was going a lot slower with the same heart rate, so I needed that two months off because of that burnout. And, right after that I really really wanted to get my mileage backup to speed in a hurry. So I broke all the rules again, and I got my mileage up very, very quickly in six weeks versus 11 in the past, and it led to an even worse injury than before.
So this time I wasn’t really really recovering like I had in the past when. I did make mistakes, and so I decided to go to business school and while I was going through the application process I snuck in two really quick marathons, and then you will notice that when I was at Worton, you’ll notice that my mileage was really low. And part of that was because I was at business school, but part of that was my knee wasn’t getting any better and I needed an MRI that really explained why I wasn’t recovering.
But after I graduated, I moved to San Francisco and this time I was going through all the rules, and I got my mileage up slowly, I was doing acupuncture, and I got back into half marathons and everything was going great, except I wasn’t able to focus on speed any more. Instead I decided to focus on fun.
So this was my first marathon back and we went to France and we were drinking wine and running through vineyards and it was in full costume. And it was an amazing way to get back into running but this time not for speed. And it really was a great start to the next few years, and even until now where I have been running very consistently and healthy. I’ve run a bunch of marathons and I became a certified running coach, giving advice regularly to other people which has been helping.
So I actually track on paper, the paper lives on the fridge and it lives on the fridge for a year. At the end of the year, it goes into a binder and I’ve done this for the full 10 years, regardless in whether I am training for a race or not. But if I am training for a race I have an additional step and that’s this Google docs that I’ve iterated over the past few years. It ends up with extra scripting, gamification and things like that. But generally, the way that it works is that what is in grey is my schedule and my plan, and when I type something in my mileage it automatically becomes yellow, and at the end of the week the grey roads just becomes automatically disappears.
So I measure my mileage and I’ve used many tools over the past 10 years, but my current favourites is the Garman four runner watch and I use Java on the iPhone and on the web. I use Gmap pedometer. And the data that is being collected from all these things I use in multiple ways and I am obviously looking at heart rate variation directly from the Garman. And I’m going back to my logs when things are going well and when things are going badly, so I can understand why. Also it allows for a huge source of confidence for a race, so I can look back and say what I’ve done to change in this race, and what have I done in the past and I can say yes, I’m ready for this race. It’s a huge help.
The Google doc that I use I actually used to train myself, but I use that to train other people, and we each have our own personal tab as you have seen, but we also have a summary page. And this allows us to see what other people are doing, also I have learned a few major things from this.
So the first thing I learned was that giving advice regularly helps me really stick to the rules, because you see how many times I break them. So the know that I say it, the more I stick to them. And I also learned what motivates me and works for me and not necessarily what is going to work for other people. For me, I’m personally motivated by phone and running in beautiful places and achievement. I constantly have a race on my calendar and I am motivated by training other people and helping them reach their goals.
So all in all, I’ve learned several things through this process. I’ve learned that you need to even know that you have to track or you don’t know what you’re doing, and everyone here knows that. Also, you need to learn all the rules, and in my case. Of course I learned many of them because I accidentally kept breaking them. And you need to learn to listen to your body and I talked about heart rate, but they are actually different ways to do that, and the more of those tools, the better off you are.
I learned that I need to keep it fun, but fun is not necessarily what everybody wants. So for everybody it is important to find a way that doesn’t dig into your willpower reserves. It needs to sit seamlessly and naturally, and it needs to be something that is self-reinforcing.
Also, I learned that you need a systematic way to remember the rules. For me, coaching other people is a great help, but anything that systematic to keep you from breaking these rules, which is so easy to do. So I’m very personally interested in training, technology, and running in motivation, and here’s my contact information. So please reach out to me at any time, thank you.