Memory Lane

From an objective point of view, this week’s 20 miler should have felt tougher than last week’s. The wind gusts were about 50 mph along the Hudson (no exaggeration), I’m still getting over a head cold, and given that I ran 16 miles on Thursday, my legs weren’t exactly feeling fresh.

But that’s the funny thing about running – you can do everything right and still feel terrible. And occasionally you’re rewarded with a good run despite adverse weather conditions, poor nutritional decisions, or minimal sleep. Sometimes it really feels like each run is equivalent to rolling the dice, you know? Anyway, I hit the road a little before 8am this morning and after 5 solo miles I met up with some running buddies (hi Megan M. and Jane!). We logged about 10 miles along the West Side Highway before I headed due East over the Williamsburg Bridge. My end point was the Brooklyn Brewery for a special brunch featuring Mary’s maple porter beer, waffles with fancy toppings, bacon, and coffee. The brunch itself was a bit of mess (I did not enjoy standing in line for an hour+ for ONE waffle), but the idea was fun and it gave me something to look forward to during the run. So how were those 20 miles? Well, running for nearly 3 hours is never the bestest thing, but the miles seemed to tick by much faster this week. Maybe my head was just more in the game, maybe my running buddies were magical, I’m not sure. All I know is that this week’s long run >>> last week’s long run. (It’s possible the post-run hydration had something to do with it…)

Last night I played the well-behaved marathoner and skipped a night out in favor of a quiet night at home. I ended up reading through some old running logs and took a trip down memory lane.

Fact: I have logged every single run for the past 9 years, 8 months, and 8 days (I had been running for about 2 1/2 years before I started recording runs). Those early runs were logged in a plain blue notebook. Later on I bought an “official running log” from Barnes and Noble and used that until 2007 when I made the switch to an online log. “Well that’s great, Megan. But why do we care?” Well…I realize my old running logs might not be the most captivating subject, but I think they do show some interesting changes and trends throughout my running career. If this doesn’t interest you, I understand. You can always skip this blog post and go start your own running log!

Still with me? As I was saying, nearly 10 years of data tells a pretty good story of Megan + running.

There was my very first entry from June 2002. I ran 8.1 miles at the end of the week which was a HUGE deal for me at the time. I don’t think I ran more than 7 miles more than 1/2 dozen times before college.

Speaking of college running….this is definitely NOT how you want to prepare for joining a varsity cross-country team.

Our coach had given us schedules to follow over the summer – nothing crazy, just easy mileage. The problem was, I had never run more than 5 days a week or 25 miles MAX in my whole life. The prospect of running nearly every day of the summer, capping out at 40 miles a week was just unfathomable to me. I mean, I liked running, but it was more of a social thing. I ran cross-country and track in high school because it gave me something to do and all my friends had joined. I struggled a lot during the Summer of 2003. None of my high school friends were planning on running in college, so I had zero mileage buddies. And to be a successful runner, you have to really want it. Running because you want to look good in a bathing suit or your friends are on the track team will only get you so far. There needs to be a deeper desire for the activity…that’s the only thing that’s going to get you out the door each and every day.

Needless to say, running 10 miles a week when I was supposed to be logging 40 did not make for a great first week on the team, evidenced by this little gem:

Guys, I was serious about quitting the team. I mean, I wrote it down in my log and everything! Did I do it? I had a little speech all prepared for the coach “This just isn’t for me. I’m not cut out to be a serious runner, okay? I’m going to focus on my school work instead.” Alas, the moment for quitting came and went and by mid-October I was still on the team. Things had were a little better by then, I had gotten to know my teammates, and was in better shape.

Megan the runner from 2003-2007 was still pretty different from the runner I am today. For example, I took a lot more rest days. Even when I technically wasn’t supposed to…Let me tell you – running 9 miles/week over your 2 week Spring Break will not make for good track workouts when you return. It’s going to hurt. A lot.

Running isn’t always fun or enjoyable and it’s helpful to remind myself of that whenever I have a crappy day. The good thing about keeping a running log is that you can look back at the ups and downs over time and be comforted in the fact that no run, no matter how bad is going to last forever.

And for every 5, 10, or maybe 50 mediocre/crappy runs that you have, you’ll probably have one run that is so good that it will keep you coming back for more. I’ve had plenty of good miles, but the one run that was absolutely perfect? A 5k track race that I ran in 2007. It was my first time breaking 19 minutes and it felt nearly effortless, almost an out of body experience. I hope someday to have another race that good, it’s elusive, but I’m still chasing it.

My running has evolved over the past 12 years and if I’m still running 10 or 15 years from now, I’m sure it will change some more. There are some things that have improved – my purpose for running and love of the sport have solidified. I no longer do this as an “extracurricular activity” or because my friends are runners. I run because I love it (well, most of the time). I also run a lot more miles these days and I’m more experienced when it comes to racing strategies, nutrition, rest, etc. But on the flip side….my workouts are a lot less consistent. It’s not hard for me to do a 10 mile run, but a super speedy track workout? The demands of a job, a commute, and a social life get in the way of that more often than I’d like. Reading through these old logs also reminded me of how much better I used to be at strength training. Even if it was just some crunches and push-ups, they were a regular part of my routine. So while I’m looking to the future (Boston, I’m comin’ at ya), I’m also going to look back and try to re-establish those good habits.

If you’re still with me, congratulations. You deserve a gold star. And if you haven’t already, go start a running log! If nothing else, it will make for good blog fodder 10 years down the road…

  • I am so digging the maple porter right now. sooo good. 

  • Jess519

    What online running log are you using?

  • schottmelissa

    I read on another runners blog that some people are prone to injuries and can only run a certain amount of miles before their body will give in, like some people are built to be a runner and some are just not. I love running and have made it part of my routine. I have yet to run a race (apart from high school) but hope to see a 1/2 marathon this coming year. What do you think, can some people are just not cut out for running, or can anyone train to become one, with the right incentives?

  • Love this post! I wish I had kept a log during the early days of yore three years ago when I started running. The documentation of my first run (well, what I consider my first run, of course I’d run before that with tennis and such) would have read something like this, “OMG I JUST RAN FIVE MILES THAT IS PROBABLY THE FARTHEST I WILL EVER RUN IN MY LIFE AND OMG I RAN IT WITHOUT STOPPING AND I MUST GO TELL EVERYONE RIGHT NOW.”

    Seriously, I think I told everyone I saw that day that I ran 5 miles. 

    I’m glad at least I’ve kept one now (online first and now handwritten) for the past year or so. With my current injury, it’s nice to read about things I could do and think I’ll be back there (and hopefully better/faster) some day (and hopefully soon).

  • Phillip

    I really liked this post, Megan!
    I also had a blue book I wrote in in high school, although didn’t exactly keep those meticulous records, and needless to say those things are loong gone. But I certainly hadn’t run more than like 7 miles at a stretch or anything. Actually I probably hadn’t done a 10-miler until after college, and the first time I ran a half marathon, in 2007 (?) I think that was the longest long run to date. Ahh, so naive.
    But that’s cool that you have such a long history at hand. 

  • Please tell me that your log says the race of your life was in Middlebury. PS I know it was because it’s preceded by “busride to Vermont.” Can’t get anything past me.<3. I think it's a sign we're meant to be friends. PS I hear you and Ali are drinking wine without me tonight. Rude. 

  • Anonymous

    Yess!!!! It was at the NESCAC track meet, Middlebury College, April 2007 🙂

  • VERY cool! So neat that you have this all documented. I totally wish I did. Sometimes I think back on my marathon training from like 2001 and can only imagine how horrific it probably was, haha. I think a lot of runners go through periods of doubt, like you did in college (I know I certainly have) – and now look at you! 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

  •  Haha, I totally remember my first 5-miler, too. Something about that number. My high school XC coach had to “trick” me into running it, he kept telling me we were only around 3 miles or so when we were nearing 5 (haha, how did I not know?!) 🙂 And I totally told everyone I knew that I ran that far, too 🙂

  • I wish I had a log going back to my high school days, I would probably laugh at them now.  I still remember my first two weeks of high school cross country…junior high cross country was a total joke compared to it and I had no idea what I was getting into.  I pretty much ran only because my brother did (and he was cool, obviously), and I wasn’t good enough at any other sport to make the team…and running takes everyone.

    But I most definitely almost quit…my legs hurt sooooo bad and I wasn’t good at it and I even tripped and fell and gashed my knee open at a morning practice.  I have logs back to when I first got my Garmin (2007), and it fun to look back at how my marathon training has progressed…at some point I should learn from it, I suppose…

    Sub-19 5k??  That’s amazing.

  • Ah, what a great running log!
    I’ve been keeping one since 2003, but it’s not nearly as detailed… It does, however, do a good job of putting my running life in perspective. I wasn’t always fast-ish (and I don’t stay fast when I start skipping track work). Injuries don’t last forever…

  • Kudos to you …. what discipline! What online log do you use? And have you found any online system that allows you to PLAN runs, and then put what you actually did beside it? I have been looking for that forever! 

  • Anonymous

    I love looking at my old running logs. I have everything recorded on the same excel file with the training for each race on a different sheet. It is so fun to look back and see how much I have learned and grown 🙂 Glad you had a better 20 miler! It is funny how sometimes good runs just happen.

  • Anonymous

    I  LOVE that!! It’s so funny to see high school and college Megan the runner. I wish I would have done something like that when I started running so I could look back, but I didn’t start a log until 2008 (in an excel spreadsheet). It’s been really helpful to inform my training, figure out where injuries come from, etc. 

    I think I lucked out with the wind on the Hudson because it was mostly at my back during my run on Sat! Nice 20 miler 🙂 

  • sarah

    I kept (non-running) diaries from sixth through twelfth grade, and although they aren’t particularly illuminating into my life (“Took algebra test. Fight with Jess. Tired.”), they are a hoot to reflect on. The nerdiness of these logs just warms my heart. And I believe that you will beat the 5K PR one day. Soon. Seriously! Much easier to train for than bleepin’ marathons.

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  • I love this!  I am terrible about logging runs, and this post further proves that I really need to be better.  I would LOVE to see what my thoughts were when I first started running, and compare them to today’s thoughts.  Separately, that BK Brewery brunch sounds like an awesome idea– sorry it didn’t pan out quite as you hoped/expected!  

  • That’s amazing that you have running logs from high school, handwritten, no less! I wish I had running logs from the summer before my senior year XC season, when I first started consistently running more than 3 miles a few times a week. Right now I use Daily Mile but my posts are pretty repetitive.

  • Thats so cool. They must be fun to read.  I’ve been running my whole life but never kept a log until this year.  I think I might have avoided a few problems back in the day if I had kept one but who knows.  Certainly seeing a bunch of zeroes now in the diary makes me want to get out and train more. 

  • AmandaRunsNY

    I just started a running log and I love keeping track of my miles. I also keep track of what I ate before good runs….hopefully I’ll see a trend and realize my power food.  Hey, you never know?

  • Anonymous

    Personally, I think that anyone can be a runner. The idea that some people aren’t cut out for the sport seems like a cop out to me. Sure, some are blessed with better genetics, but DNA isn’t everything. There’s a saying that goes: Hard work will always beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard. 

    When I started running in January 2000, I could barely make it one lap around the track (1/4 miles) and now I can run 26+ miles. Prior to 9th grade, I was an overweight, couch potato…if I can be a runner, I think anyone can 🙂

  • Anonymous – I used it in college and just returned this year since Strands folded.

  • I do this sometimes and it is such a fun trip down memory lane!

  • Angela (SF Road Warrior)

    Lol…..This was so fun to read. It makes me wish I had logged my high school / college miles (in any way whatsoever) because I’m sure it would be equally entertaining to re-read them. 🙂