Matt Brundage

Running for the math of it

Running longer distances is finally getting easier for me. Last week, I ran 10 miles on the treadmill just because I felt like it. I had time to kill, so I figured I’d give it a try. I averaged a little over 6 mph — not a blistering speed, but perhaps more of a marathon pace.

There was a time, not so long ago, when I’d come home from a simple 30-minute jog and my legs would just ache. Now, I don’t feel uncomfortable during particularly long runs and post-run soreness is essentially a thing of the past. The only obstacle in my way (aside from time) is the sheer boredom of treadmill running.

I find myself performing minute-by-minute calculations to pass the time. I’ve established what I call my “baseline pace”, which is the 10-minute mile, or 6 mph. An easy pace — akin to treading water. Any sustained pace faster than that “baseline” is icing on the cake. This is where math really comes into play. I earn a “point” for every hundredth of a mile covered over the baseline pace. For instance, If I run for 60 minutes and travel 6.5 miles, I’d have earned 50 “points”. Lately, I’ve been viewing these points as a percentage — that is, if I reach 50 points, my run is half over. I’ve only attained 100 points once or twice. It’s extremely challenging, because unlike absolute distance traveled, points can go down! Let’s say I run 2.09 miles in 20 minutes. Nine points. But If I then slow my pace down below 6 mph, my points start to evaporate! So, earning points requires not just distance and stamina, but speed. There’s some symmetry to it, as well. If I gain 100 points in 50 minutes of running, I will have traveled exactly 6 miles. I’ve also started to calculate the rate at which I earn said points. On today’s run, I wanted to earn one point for every one minute of running — not exactly a difficult feat. This requires a 9 minute mile (6.6 mph). As the treadmill allows me to run in increments of tenths of a mile, I had to alternate between 6.6 and 6.7 mph.

Milestones also keep me on the treadmill. If I feel myself tiring, I’ll look at the time and think “oh, three more minutes and it’s an even 40 minutes.” But once 40 minutes comes around, I’ll notice that my calorie count is approaching 600. A couple more minutes later, and the 5 mile mark is within reach. Once I hit 5 miles, it’s almost guaranteed that I’ll hit 5.5 miles, because that’s the length of Iwo Jima, and I’m now drawing strength from the Marines and the Navy.

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