Meaningless Numbers

Meaningless Numbers

This Sunday I’m running the Ed Erichson 5 miler in my old home town of Poughkeepsie, NY.  Back in November I ran my 5 mile PR of 27:06 at in that same town, and I hope to better it by 7 seconds this weekend to run 26:59.  All I have to do is run this race 1.4 seconds per mile faster and presto a PR.  My training has been going well and I feel like I am in much better shape now than I was 3 months ago so this should be a slam dunk right?  Of course not.  So many things have to go right on race day, many of which such as weather and competition are completely out of your control. 

My current 5 mile PR was run on a 45 degree day in November with no wind, and I had someone to battle with for first place the whole race.  The weather should be fairly benign and the course is as flat as any 5 mile course in Dutchess County can be, so the main uncontrolable will be who else is in the race.  The key too good competition is to face runners just slightly better than you who on a really good day you can just squeek out a win over.  If they are too fast they either leave you in the dust from the start, or you blow up your racing trying to stay with them early on.  If they are too slow you may end up with a win, which is always nice, but it is hard to run your best time when you don’t really have to.  I know there are a few Poughkeepsie runners who can run just north or south of 27 minutes for 5 miles, the question is will any of them show up at this particular race?

All this writing about PR’s got me thinking about the nature of our running goals.  where do these times come from?  It always seems like we want to get just faster than the nearest even number for me that comes out to 4:29 for the mile, 15:59 for 5k, 26:59 for 5 mile, 33:59 for 10k 1:17:59 for half marathon, luckly I’ve already run just under 3 hours for a marathon so I can leave that one be for now.  Is it because we want to say “Yeah I’m a 15 minute 5k runner” or “Oh the mile? I run sub 4:30 for the mile.”  Never mind that we ran a 15:59… it is in the 15’s and that is good enough for us, who cares if we are putting ourselves in the same boat as guys who run 15:04 and are just hoping to shave those last 5 seconds so they can tell people they are 14 minute 5k runners.

When it comes right down to it, our PR’s are really only important to us (although our wives, or girlfriends may amuse us by faining interest).  We could just as easily pick times that corresond with signifigant numbers in our lives.  I could set my 10k pr at 32:54 because I was born in 1974 and 1974 seconds in 32:54.  As I look at my racing time goals for the year taped up on the all of my cubical at work I wonder if I shouldn’t change all those 9’s at the end to 4’s or 6’s just to mix things up a bit.

2 thoughts on “Meaningless Numbers

  1. 1967, my birth year = 32:47…..now I just have to find the right distance. It’s too fast for me even in a 5 miler. Maybe later in the year or next year.

    Maybe there is something to Einstein’s theory of relativity, which as your readers know states time slow down for objects as they near the speed of light. Think how much more energy you (or anyone else that’s been running awhile) expend to improve PR’s that incremental second or two. Or maybe like you said…only your relatives care.

    Good running.

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