Although keeping a training log is useful for many runners, sometimes the devil is in the details.


I was asked recently if I thought of myself as a runner who writes or a writer who runs. The question worried me. Anyone who has seen me run probably thinks I look like a writer. On the other hand, there may be those who think that I write like I run. The truth is, I don’t think of myself in either of those contexts, at least not in an exclusive way.

I started writing about running the way most runners do: with a logbook. In my early days as a runner, my logbook was one of the most important pieces of equipment I owned. Logging the miles and time and splits (once I figured out what splits were) was just the first step. I didn’t know what was going to be important to record, so rather than leave anything out, I put everything in. After each run I’d record when, where, how far, and how long I ran. I recorded the temperature and time of day. I recorded what I wore, which shoes and socks, and whether or not the combination worked on that day.

I tried to use runners’ words to describe my running. I called a run a “tempo run” even though I wasn’t at all sure that it was a tempo run. I did fartlek workouts. At least I thought I did. And even if I didn’t, I wrote in my logbook that I had.

Looking through some old logbooks recently, I laughed at how little I knew and how much I wrote about. Eventually, I made the move to online logs, in which I could see not only words and mileage, but also graphs. Multicolored, comparative, historical, contextual graphs. Time, speed, and heart rate, all there on the screen, in different colors!

As the years went on, however, I found myself writing less and less in my logs. I’d try as best as I could to keep track of the distances I ran, and in some general way I’d mention the pace or kind of workout. Gone, though, were the details. Every now and then I’d sit down with my watch and try to reconstruct the previous week’s runs, but without much success. I’d put down what I remembered and let it go at that.

Now, well into my second decade as a runner, I rarely make note of a run. I have a sense of how much and how far in my head, but it’s not very precise. I know I’m running and that’s about all I know.

For a while I worried I wasn’t being true to some essential feature of running. After all, if I couldn’t point to my log, how would I prove to anyone that I’m a runner?

And that’s when it hit me. Running is no longer something distinct from who I am. It is who I am. Running has become as essential to me as food, water, and sleep – to be honest, on some days, it’s even more important than any of those.

Maybe it’s ironic that I’m a writer who doesn’t keep a running log, but I rarely take a camera with me anymore for the same reasons. There’s no way for me to capture the fullness of any experience in the lens of a camera. I’ve stopped trying to look at my life through a tiny hole.

I’ve also stopped trying to look at my life as a runner through a series of numbers. Running has become so much more than an accumulation of miles and times. It’s become more than how far and how fast and when, where, and why.

For now, at least, I’m having too much fun running to try to write it all down.

Waddle on, friends.

RIGHT FACING typing-penguin-trans

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