I have this thing with training logs. The training logs of runners. Not with keeping them, though–though I do, and I have–but with reading them. Call it a habit. Call it a guilty pleasure. These runners publish their logs on the internet, daily, sometimes weekly. At regular intervals, while ingesting my daily dose of coffee in the morning, I will type in the beginnings of their names, which—as long as I have not recently deleted my browser history–are saved on my address tool bar, causing the full address to propagate, upon which I will click on the address and scroll down to the person’s most recent training, backtracking to the last day of training that I viewed. I skim over the easy days. I analyze the workouts: was it on the track? How long were the repeats? What were the interval? And how did it go? Most runners give simple numerical accounts of their workouts, but the runners that provide specifics as well as commentary are the ones that are worth coming back to, because learning about the person makes learning about the running that much more valuable for the reader. Call it a shared experience.
Just don’t call it voyeurism. Because it’s not, at least not in the traditional sense. Because these people are logging only the Safe for Work aspects of their lives, which removes the deviant element that is inherent to the legal understanding of a voyeur. Also, they chose to publish this aspect of their lives on for the public to see. And inherent in voyeurism is that that the act of observation shifts it from an ancillary behavior to a primary act, which is venturing into Being John Malkovich territory. I don’t want to be any of the people whose logs I am reading. Okay, if I’m injured, I may want to be healthy, but I certainly don’t want to thrown from mid air and onto a grass embankment in New Jersey. I want want to be informed. I want to be inspired.
The athletes may not know exactly who is viewing their training, but if it is a personal web page, they may enjoy the uptick in the view count every time they hit the refresh page, which is similar to the experience I have in writing this blog. There are different aspects of satisfaction that author or reader experience, but there is a reason that I keep coming back to writing entries and then hitting the “publish post” tab, just as there is a reason that I continue to read training logs. Perhaps the process of either creating or digesting information feeds a human need to understand something about ourselves or about the world.
I’m not sure the exact time I began reading training logs, but I know it was sometime during the post-graduate year I spent at Northfield Mount Hermon boarding school in Northfield, Massachusetts. On my first try, I was not rejected by the Naval Academy, but I was offered entry into the Naval Academy Foundation, wherein if I attended boarding school for one year and earned decent grades, I would be automatically accepted as a member of Class of 2007. I wanted to go to college. I didn’t want to spend another year in high school. I would just reapply the next year. But my parents pointed out the logic that if I turned down their offer, my application probably wouldn’t be looked at kindly upon with subsequent applications. So I said yes.
I was right on both accounts. High school sucks, especially when extended to five years. But it was a necessary process if I wanted to attend Annapolis. Northfield in central Massachussetts and a stone’s both New Hampshire and Vermont. Too far south to be considered the cool part of New England. Too far west to be considered real Massachussetts. I was a runner in high school, and was recruited to run cross country and track at Northfield, but those weren’t necessarily a good fit, either. Throughout high school, I ran on my own. Indeed, I was the only member of my cross country team.
Adjusting to the compromise inherent to fitting into the group was difficult, especially when I had legitimate issues for feeling out of place. At Northfield, we ran no more than 30 miles a week, together, no faster than 8:30 per mile pace. I hated it. And I didn’t have an outlet for the pent up energy that I was procuring—the normal outlet for that was running. In the interim between practices, I spent a lot of my time on the computer, alternating between doing homework and sending Instant Messages to girls from high school that I, at one, time, thought about talking to, but never mustered the requisite amount of courage.
Geraunigmo: This is Colin.
Geraunigmo: I was just saying Hey because you were saying Hey.
SaltnPreppy: So what’s up?
Geraunigmo: But I said it like “Heyyyy!!!” because I thought that would be funny.
(SaltnPreppy has signed off)
At one point I started reading training logs. I attended boarding school from 2002-2003, and that was about the time that Letsrun.com started to become mainstay American running culture. Mensracing.com existed at the time, which was a lot of NYC-centric news balanced with f in-depth interviews with elite athletes from all over the country. Run-insight.com also existed at the time, and they had a webpage entirely devoted to running training logs, with the caliber of athlete ranging from D3 to elite. And then of course Runner’s World, which doesn’t stray very far from its proven formula of running journalism, but which, even on the bad days, feels like comfort food, like chicken soup for my currently injured achilles. I read all of it. I read it everyday. I read it multiple times a day. I still do. But it was the training logs that were always my main interest, because of the immediate entry into the life and mind of a runner. If I wasn’t succeeding at running, I could at least experience what running was like for people who were.
If I had to assemble a “Greatest Hits” of training logs, in no particular order, I would have to start with Ryan Bak. He kept his training log on Run-Insight. He was 2002 DIII cross country champion while a student at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and his logs were always meticulous with stats and commentary. I still remember his entry where he wrote about watching “Donnie Darko,” a reference which gave him instant street cred. Next up is Tom McCardle, who kept a training log on Dartmouth’s website while he attended school there. I remember reading the entry when he logged about his 28:18 pr in the 10k. I remember the buildup for it, too. I remember his senior year of cross country, when he placed 11th at nationals. I remember when he hurt his Achilles that winter, and the arduous process of recovery that he went through to heal and to regain his fitness back to where it was. He never did.
I think about Adam Fitzgerald, who kept a training log while a Graduate Assitant for Connecticut College, the college I would have attended had I not accepted the offer of the Naval Academy Foundation. The college that’s located in my hometown, New London, Connecticut. The college where my godfather, Jim Butler was and still is the coach. I remember the workouts he logged, every one of which I recognized the location of. I remember when he ran 8:30 in a 3k indoors, seemingly out of nowhere. I remember the struggles he had on the outdoor track in running a 5k that he felt reflected that 3k race.
I could go on. There are many more logs that I used to read. The logs that I mentioned don’t exist anymore, gone when the website the wrote them on went away, and the athletes who kept the logs have moved on in their own ways. Ryan Bak does ultra races now, I think. Tom McCardle is a lawyer. Adam Fitzgerald works in finance.
And there are the logs that I read now: Donn Cabral, a 2012 olympian in the steeplechase on Running2Win; Joe Stilin, his former teammate at Princeton, who holds a 5k PR of 13:37; Ryan Vail, a runner with a 2:10 marathon to his name; Jake Klim, member of the Georgetown Running Club, who is coming out of retirement to train for the 2016 Marine Corps Marathon. I could go on with these, too.
The new crop of athletes continue the tradition of logging their training online. And I continue my tradition of reading it.
I know some of these runners personally. Most I do not. But whether or not I have met them, and whether they know it or not, I have been able to know them through the writing that they share with the world. That’s the power of story telling, no matter the story. And yet I’m not really one for keeping a training log. Even when I do, my heart’s not really in it, not like of those that I love to read. And I don’t really know why. Call it laziness. Call it a personal preference. Maybe it’s because I do most of my running on my own, separate from the world around me, which I observe from a preferred distance.