Runner’s Math

Running is not only an exercise in physical endurance, but also a test of mental acuity and numerical reasoning. Any runner can tell you that math factors into any run, no matter the distance. Most calculations relate to pace, which always ends up at an estimate of how long remains of the run, whether in miles, minutes, or some other bizarre measurement.

Remaining distance
Remaining distance is usually calculated based on the length of time I have been running (Why would I do that when my Garmin tells me how many miles I’ve already run? I don’t know. That just how my stubbornly illogical brain does things). For example: “My Garmin says I’ve been running for 56 minutes, and it feels like I’m running at least an 8:30 pace, so that would mean….56 minutes divided by 8.5 minutes per mile…OK, let’s try this a different way. 8.5 + 8.5 = 17. 17 + 8.5 = 25.5. 25.5 x 2 = 51, plus another 5 minutes, so surely I’ve gone at least 6.5 miles by now. I’m aiming for 14 miles total, so that means…carry the one…9.5 miles left. No. 7.5 miles left. But wait, maybe if I’ve been running for 56 minutes…oh, now my Garmin says 59 minutes, I might have gone 6.8 miles by now. Which means almost 7 miles left. But wait. What if I’m not running an average 8:30 pace? Well, I’ve been running for 62 minutes, and maybe I’m running at a 9:00 pace….” you get the picture.
Another example of how this calculation plays out: “Feels like I’ve been running forever. I’m probably at least halfway there. 7 miles left or less”

Remaining time
Now that I spent the past 1.56 miles determining exactly how many miles I have left in my run, what does that mean for time? This calculation looks exactly like the previous one, but in reverse. For example: “OK, 6 miles left at an 8:45 pace, so that would mean…well, let’s just round that up to 9 and I’ll be nicely surprised when I finish sooner than expected. 54 minutes.  Right. But what about that big hill coming up at mile 12? Maybe I’ll add in another minute for that one. So if I started at 5:48 and I’ve already been running for an hour and eight minutes, then I’ll be home no later than 8, right?”
Also: “This is the never-ending run!!”

Commute comparison
This is a particularly daunting mathematical calculation that actually requires no calculation, but does necessitate keen attention.  Best done immediately after filling up the gas tank. The commute comparison is when you watch how long it takes the odometer to hit 26.2 miles (duh, 26.2 miles), and immediately regret your life choices because you can hardly even drive 26.2 miles in 30 minutes, so what does that mean for running that same distance?! If at all possible, it is best to limit your drives to distances shorter than 26.2 miles so that you aren’t consumed with dread and regret every time you get in a car for the duration of marathon training.

running mathSimiles are mathematical statements that compare the remaining distance and/or time to something shorter (and therefore much more achievable, right?). For example: “9 miles left, that’s not even as far as running 3 5k’s! Just imagine that I’m running a 5k, then another one, then another one, and I’ll be there!” Or: “An hour and a half left? Movies are longer than that these days! Just remember when you went to see Minions. All 94 minutes of it. No problem!”

Random quasi-mathematical thoughts
Actually,  I only have one of these, but it recurs quite frequently. “I love it when I run past streetlamps in the dark because the angle of the light combined with the angle of my shadow makes it look like I’m running at least 3 times faster than I actually am!”

And to think, I was certain I would never use those silly equations outside of school. I use them every day!


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One response to “Runner’s Math

  1. Pingback: Runner’s Math (Natalie) | D.I.Y. Fitness Blog

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