Earning every mile

Nice marathon - oranges

The end of the year is time for my traditional running review post, much to the pleasure of absolutely no-one, including myself. Still, that's what traditions are for, so here goes.

First, the data part, because you're worth it:

  • Total distance: 1028 miles
  • Number of runs: 136
  • Total duration: 182 hours
  • Average distance: 7.56 miles
  • Average duration: 1hr 16mins
  • Average pace: 10.09 min/mile

Compared with last year, where I was a bit lost and only did a total of 831 miles, this was a big improvement, and I finally broke that 1000 mile barrier. Even so, this still only comes in at just over half an hour a day on average. That's not actually that much time is it? I probably spent this much time watching Masterchef. So there is plenty of time to do more. I like this video that asks, 'can you fit in all the sleeping, watching TV and being online time into 23.5 hours a day?':


The biggest single factor in increasing mileage this year was running two marathons. I did my first one back in April in an ok time of 4hrs 11mins and then a second one in November in a poor time of 4hrs 30mins. I learnt two things about myself from these experiences.

Firstly, ignorance is a kind of bliss. When I first started running I thought doing a 10K was a big deal. Then I moved up to, and stayed at, half marathon distance. But having done a marathon now, I have knowledge of long distance, and I don't think I could be happy with just staying at shorter distances. The problem is I like those shorter distances, and I'm even worse at longer ones. Sometimes newly acquired knowledge isn't always a blessing. Like when you begin to understand about writing or film making, you can't simply 'enjoy' a book or a film anymore, there is always some critical appraisal occurring. But of course, this brings with it pleasures of its own, and longer distances do have that. They also have a lot of really boring, slogging it out miles too though.

Secondly, I have to earn every mile. I am not a natural athlete. I know people who put in less training than me and complete a marathon in 3 hours. Even if I gave up work and concentrated solely on running, I couldn't do that – we're just built differently. This came home to me as I struggled around the second marathon in Nice. I hadn't put in the same level of training as for the first marathon, and it showed. There was no reserve of natural talent I could draw upon – every bloody mile has to be earnt.

In making my tenuous connection to learning, I'd say there are a lot of similarities. Some people can breeze through a course and an exam, others have to work hard, study long hours and fret through the night for every single mark. And no matter how hard they try most people won't achieve top marks, but they still study and learn and gain from it. Learning, like running, is about competition with yourself, not others.


  • Simon Rae

    Your last paragraph raises the issue of reward. I’ve always thought that the runner who does a PB in the final is often more worthy of a medal than the person who runs a tactical race well within their capabilities and wins. Similarly with education – what is it that we should be rewarding? Personal bests and ‘workers’ or those who haven’t really pushed themselves?
    PBs are good for the learner/athlete but don’t always cut it in the medal ceremony/job interview.

  • Phil Greaney

    Excellent stuff, congrats. 2011 was a big year for me exercise-wise (which doesn’t necessarily mean a comparatively big year for anyone else). For me, the stats were important and I found it encouraging to share some of my achievements, such as they were, as well as record them. As I’ve said before here, I find motivation by doing them and *then* sharing them. I use Garmin’s Connect and find it really easy to use and useful.
    As for rewards, I read on the ‘’ guide to running that one shouldn’t reward oneself with food. It kind of takes all the fun out of it…
    That video is great, too. I’ve done an hour today. I’m having tomorrow off.

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