Running Logs - The Unwritten Word
Article by: Michael SelmanReproduced with permission of the author
I have actually been writing about running for a much longer time than I have been "writing" about running. It started way back on July 21, 1982, with the following entry.
"A tough 3 miles in warm weather."
I had already been running since April, but until this day, I had never made an entry in a runner's log. Although I wrote very little that day, I can still remember that the run took place along the road that looped in front of Nassau Community College, and I vividly recall stopping to talk with a couple of friends as I headed to the locker room to shower after the run was done. I didn't write down all the details of that day's run, but I still recollect the unwritten word of everything surrounding that run.
Runner's logs, and the runners they belong to, are often like that. Words can never capture the total essence of a run, and often don't try to. But the imagination and the heart will back up the feelings and the essence that no words can describe. Without the simplicity of the log, for many of us, the spirit of the run might also slip away.
On June 16, 1984, I made the following entry in my log.
"Found a new 10K route to use while they are working on the old route. I may have lost it for good. This is a nice route. 10K in 50.54."
Eventually, this old route WAS lost for good, and soon after I wrote this entry, Interstate 40 forged a path right through the heart of my old daily route. A routes loyalty, however, is no better to our own when it comes to running. I've moved five times since then, leaving the roads I ran behind. The relationship between the runner and the roads he traverses becomes so personal, that I believe the road can feel a loss when the runner no longer commutes along them. Sometimes, progress drives us away from the routes we love. But sometimes, so does our own personal growth.
On July 31st 1986, I wrote the following:
"Trying to come out of a deep running depression. 5 miles is a start."
As I read that entry, I recalled that I had been experiencing upper back problems for over a month before. I had not run for the later half of June. I tried to start up again at the beginning of July, but my mental and physical states were not yet ready. July had covered about 35 miles total.
So here it was, the last day of July, and I tried again. Five miles from a standing start. My lower back was hurting the next day, but I still managed a tough 1.5 or so. I ended up missing only three days in all of August, and my final week was my first 40 mile week ever. It was an ecstatic recovery period, and though the miles and times are firmly documented, the overall feelings were mostly documented in the unwritten words of my log.
From year to year, the story has been the same. Most of what is detailed in the log is embedded firmly between the lines. Nobody else could ever pick up your log and have a clue about all it encompasses. And without it, we would not have those memory tags, those hyper-links to the displays in our mind that can only be viewed by ourselves.
Last month, I went to visit my daughter in Israel. Of course, I took my runner's log with me. In fact, it was one of the first things I packed. As it turned out, I ended up running only one time while I was there, but sometimes, running has to take a back seat. I hardly even missed it, as the days were full of the types of things I could not do every day.
When I got back home, I realized that I had accidentally left my runner's log abroad. Fortunately, I was staying at a relatives house, so an e-mail request had it back on its way back home. But mail from that far away takes time. So I waited.
I'm a traditionalist. I like the physical act of writing in my log, so I was resistant to the on-line variety. I tried one for a week or so, and I actually liked it, but it wasn't the same. So I stopped using it. That was over a month ago.
It's been interesting running without logging over the past month. In a way, it reminded me of the old philosophical question "If a tree falls in the forest, and nobody is around to hear it, does it make a noise?" My angle was "If I run 30 miles in a week, but I don't enter it in my log, and I can't remember the miles vividly, did I run?" My heart knows the answer to that one.
Yesterday, my trusty log arrived in the mail. I have not rushed to retrofit the last month on the blank pages. In fact, I may even keep them blank, and pick it up again on tomorrow morning's run. To go back now, and try to paint the picture of the last month would most likely be a futile effort. To be effective, the original entry must be almost real time. Otherwise the paint dries before it even hits the canvas. You can't paint a good picture that way.
Besides, this past blank month, as I look back on it years from now, will no doubt tell a vivid story. It might even speak volumes. It's a perfect document of the unwritten word.
Michael Selman Roads Scholar Atlanta Georgia USAMichael Selman is a freelance writer who has appeared in publications and web sites throughout the world, including Runner's World, Footnotes, and CoolRunning.