by Clara Grandt on November 29, 2012
While on training runs I have often found myself doing math. I’ve been running competitively since seventh grade, and I’ve run a lot of miles since then. In those miles I’ve done a lot of math. Why have I done a lot of math while running? Well, running actually involves a lot of numbers. Distance and time are the things runners are always pushing against. We are concerned with things that can all be calculated: distance, speed, acceleration. etc.
Almost automatically during training runs I’ll start calculating distance complete, distance to go, overall pace, speed, projected finishing times, and so on. There’s a loop course we do a lot of workouts on that is 1.1 miles long and every .1 miles has a mark, so when I’m on it a lot, I’ll start calculating my pace for tenths of a mile, almost subconsciously. If I’ve been running on a trail I know is marked, I’ll figure the fractions of miles I have gone and have to go. Sometimes its fractions like 5/7th of the way done 2/7th to go. Then I might take the time I’ve been running and divide it by distance to find my pace. Then I can project my finish time with that pace or I can plan on how much faster per mile I want to go to reach a certain overall time.
Why do runners do this, though? It’s not like we set out saying, “Hey, let’s do some calculations while we run!” That doesn’t seem very interesting or fun. I never really even liked math that much.
My theory, at least for myself, is that aside from being used to break up the monotony and overwhelming task of some long distances into multiple short distances, I use it as a form of motivation to go faster. Many times we are motivated by speed. We run to get farther, to go faster, and to go farther faster. So naturally, something as concrete as a number showing that speed over distance has increased can show a runner that they are improving, which makes a runner happy.
So, next time you go out on a run, or next time someone asks you what you think about while you run, see if you haven’t done at least some calculations in your mind concerning time and distance. From my experience, running not only is good exercise for the body, but also can provide a good brain exercise. Run smart!