Saturday, May 7, 2016

May 7- Finding the zen of mathematics on a meditative long training run

Note: I anticipate that this topic will be a chapter in my forthcoming book. I have lots to say about math and running, so when my book does come out, instead of grumbling about how I have shared these ideas before, think of yourself as special, because you right now are part of the process and get to hear these ideas first! <3

I have grown to love long run training days.

When I started running, which I did only a couple of years ago, I did it just to see if I could. I figured I'd try to run a 5k, and took up one of those couck-to-5k programs.  Little did I know that a sport that I once detested would become part of who I am.

I ran a few little races, and found I really liked the 10ks better than the 5ks.  The 5k races were populated by so many fast runners, I always felt so sluggish. The 10k races didn't have so many sprinters, but people more like me, who paced themselves. 

I ran my first half marathon a little over two years ago, and loved it.  When you run a half marathon, it isn't about winning, or being fast, but you are amazing if you finish!  My first goal was to finish before the sweeper van picked up stragglers, which I did!  I also found that running these longer races was different in that people who ran had dedicated months to training, and often still had energy to dance at the after party! This was my jam.

But even more than the actual half marathon races, I found that I absolutely fell in love with the training.  The rituals of it, the rhythms, the long runs, this is what I thrive on.  Here's how you train for a long run: You start at least three months out.  You start by running three-five times a week.  You need some shorter runs, some speed/hill training runs, and always one long run a week.  Long run days are my absolute favorite day of the week.

Because I work in academia, I rarely work on Fridays, so generally long run day is then (although these last few weeks, I've had to shift to Saturday or Sunday).  Oh, what bliss.  I wake, have a light breakfast, grab my running partner (Copper), lace up my shoes and head out. 

My friend calls her long training runs "Meditative runs" which I think is a great name.  During a long run, I generally contemplate everything that has been on my mind.  I have conversations with myself, and with the dog. I make plans, and promptly forget them.  I find incredible peace in the beauty of the nature around me.  I look for birds, I save turtles, I smell the plants, I feel the wind, the sun, the rain.  Sometimes I listen to audio books, sometimes I listen to music, and sometimes I just listen to the sound of my breathing, my feet hitting the ground, and the wildlife on the trail.


One thing I always think about through my meditative run are my running statistics.  I have a Garmin watch which calculates data for me.  My distance is calculated with GPS.  The watch also tallies my average pace per mile, and my steps per minute.  Plugging it in at home, I can also see other data, like temperatures, elevations, fastest miles, etc.  I love seeing the data collected while I run.  I constantly do little math problems along the way.

If I maintain this average pace per mile, what time will I finish my run?

If I increase my steps per minute, how does that affect my pace per mile?

If I increase my stride, how does that affect my steps per minute?

Lately, Rob and I have done a number of long training runs together.  He's finally agreed to run a half marathon with me, and has been training for the Wilds HM next week with me.  When I run with Rob, I don't listen to music or audio books, and I don't think quite as much, but we do have a great time talking about everything along the way.  I was super tickled today to learn that he  likes to do running math, too!  I thought it was just something nerds like myself did.

Maybe math isn't as nerdy as I thought...

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