Most of my runs happen inside these days; I pound out the miles on the treadmill while Katie plays on the floor nearby. Running fits best into our lives if it happens while Jonathan is at work, and I prefer this solution to pushing the jogging stroller. I listen to a podcast as I go, trying not to fixate on the way the time and the mileage trackers both seem broken, ticking forward as slowly as they do.
It’s a treat, then, to run outside under the pine trees, a treat I indulge in every weekend I can, reveling in those Saturday mornings when Jonathan is home and I can get away. I make my way down our steep hill to the shaded trail, take a deep breath, and head out to the sounds of the birds in the trees (and, lest the picture in your mind is too romantic, the sounds of the cars on the highway next to me).
I tried something new this week: I set my Runkeeper app to tell give me my current pace at specific intervals along the way. I’ve been pushing hard on the treadmill, trying to drive my time down, hoping to be competitive at the series of 5Ks in our area. Knowledge is power, or so they say, and so I thought knowing my pace might empower me to pick it up a bit.
It was a good thought, I suppose, but as plans are wont to do, it did not go as I anticipated. Between one status update and the next, I went from a reported pace of 5:50 per mile to one of 12:56. I was on level ground, near the beginning of my run, and I’ve hit the trail enough to have a general feel for my speed and whether it’s lagging or not. Neither of these numbers was even close to accurate; in fact, my actual pace almost certainly split the difference evenly.
I thought about this discrepancy as I ran, laughing to myself over my imaginary sub-six-minute mile pace, and my best guess is that either the hardware or the software (or both) I was using simply isn’t designed to handle such small increments of time and distance accurately. They do quite well when measuring longer distances, longer times, when looking at the changes in my position over the course of several steps. It’s when I try to track my progress immediately, minutely, as it’s happening, that things go wrong. I need the distance, the time, the perspective to get an accurate read on how I’m doing, on how I’ve improved.
Which, come to think of it, is an apt metaphor for life.