Running

Measuring Progress as a Runner

A while ago, the Ninja Turtle came across a few blog posts of runners showing off their impressive collections of running medals. While this blog occasionally features a race that the Turtle had participated in, the truth is that she blogs about 100% of all her races. They aren’t a selection of the “Best of the Best” – if you can count the number of posts about her races, you know how many races she’s participated in.

This got the Turtle thinking about how or what she’s got to show for her progress as a runner, if anything at all.

Like all relationships, runners have a love-hate thing going on with running. From the first step on the treadmill back in September 2012 to the present, the Ninja Turtle’s relationship with running has profoundly developed, and her identity as a runner has thus, evolved. What started out as a necessity has grown into a compulsion. The Ninja Turtle has transitioned from running for the sake of good health, to running as an interesting hobby, to not being able to imagine her life without running.

As with all good and lasting things in life, the changes came gradually, of course. Initially, she spent 6 months on the treadmill, working towards her first ever marathon. Believe it or not, it took another 2 months after that for her to dare to venture running in the local park. To be fair, a large part of this was being so unfamiliar with the dreadful climate in Metz.

Once at the park, she developed one running route, and stuck with it for another 6 months. It was a sort-of lap that came to a beautiful 1 mile (1.6km) exactly, and she simply ran the loop multiple times to make her distance for the day. On days she was feeling adventurous, she ran the route in reverse.

Fast forward a whole year and she’s added various cities around France, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the UK, Singapore and Australia on her list of places where she’s completed a run.

While she likes to measure her distance on her RunKeeper GPS, she sometimes has no mobile data on her phone when crossing borders. Her sense of direction is atrocious, but she’s learnt to memorise street names in foreign tongues, and recall the route when she goes back, to plot it onto RunKeeper manually.

She used to be pedantic about running first thing upon waking, for it was the only way to make sure running was crossed off her to-do list in the day. Now, she’s willing to remedy insomnia by commencing a 20-mile run at 3am, or pushing the workout back till midday to suit the schedule of a running buddy. Basically, she’s comfortable with lacing up any time of the day.

She’s seemed to make a reasonable transition of running at 6am on holidays in Australia and Singapore to avoid the heat, to running at 11am back in Europe to catch a glimpse of sunlight (except the two runs in Paris and Frankfurt, which were executed at 6am in complete darkness and the freezing cold because she wanted to run while GodzillaPin was still asleep, and free the rest of the day for sightseeing).

She used to spend hours ensuring she’s got the perfect running playlist, and not so long ago, she just completed a 32km run listening to nothing but the sound of her footsteps and breathing. (To be fair, she didn’t really want to do it, but her mobile phone only had enough juice for either GPS tracking, or music, but not both to last that distance.)

The first week back from halfway across the world, she completed 5 runs (one on the treadmill, most reluctantly, but she wanted to do some aggressive hills).

She has found herself running in weather like this:

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Still, the Ninja Turtle is human, and there are just some days when running is a struggle. GodzillaPin has been ill with the flu all week, and the Ninja Turtle’s been functioning on jetlag and interrupted sleep as GodzillaPin coughed through each night like he had tuberculosis. Worse still, upon returning from Frankfurt last night, poor GodzillaPin suffered a dreadful bout of gastro, and spent 4 hours projectile vomiting. Even the rice porridge that the Ninja Turtle boiled up for him was promptly brought back up.

This morning, with a weekend backlog of work to be done, the Ninja Turtle found herself staring at the computer screen at 7am. By 11am, she’s decided to take a break, and get that 10 miles in. Of course, with full concentration on her work, she’d forgotten all about breakfast and tried to remedy the situation with a cup of black coffee (thankfully, she ate a LOT over the weekend). There was no rain, but the wind was gusting 65kph (40mph) outside. She knew at that moment that all the odds were stacked against her favour, and it was easy to throw in the towel and say “you know what? nah…”

Instead, she laced up a brand new pair of trail shoes, and was determined to get them filthy. She found herself shuffling into those awful headwinds – yes, of 65kph – and hated every single second of it. Her eyes watered and her vision was blurred. Her lips were numb with cold, and her nose was running faster than she was. She no longer felt her legs, nor her feet, nor her hands. All she sensed was the mighty roar of the wind as she ran through a naked field, and she never felt more alive.

It’s not always possible to measure progress, but sometimes, progress cannot be measured, it must simply be felt.

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4 thoughts on “Measuring Progress as a Runner

    • Thanks for liking it! I’m glad you’ve thought about the matter too. It just seems like the world can be so bogged down with overt achievements, numbers and figures sometimes that we forget the experience itself.

  1. Really enjoyed this!

    The wind is in my face – I’m an old and pathetic runner. The wind is at my back – I’m a running genius. I’m sure that’s everything I’ve learnt about merit…

  2. Pingback: You Promised It’d Be Easier! | Just Run Lah!

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