Statistics are human beings with the tears wiped off.
– Paul Brodeur
I love numbers. As a scientist I genuflect at their altar, and I understand the power of their use and (maybe more so) abuse. But I don’t so much love them in my running. Sure, like most runners I’m constantly chasing my next PR. But many of my training runs are unscripted, and I often leave my Garmin at home. Admittedly I do track most of my miles, but the idea of counting my every step flies in the face of why I run in the first place. I train, I train hard, and I try to get everything I can from everything I’ve got. I’m not convinced more numbers will help me do that.
On the other hand, I do acknowledge and appreciate their importance for many runners, and I’ve now read several blogs that break down 2012 by the numbers: total miles run, races subdivided by distance, average finish times, average pace, even the number of GU packets consumed (ok, I might have made that last one up… but I’m betting it’s out there somewhere). The head-spinning reams of statistics in the running blogosphere – together with lingering injuries – provide their owners with a clear, concise representation of their personal year in running. Naturally all these blogs got me thinking about which of my own running numbers matter the most.
And I realized that, aside from personal records, the only number I really care about is this one: 91. That’s my overall race percentile, meaning that I finished in the upper 9% of all runners at the ten races I ran in 2012. If I were to combine my seven half marathons, two marathons and one 50K from this past year into a Pangaea-like super race, I would have crossed the finish line 5,433rd out of 61,281 finishers. Or to turn that lemonade back into lemons, I finished in the top 9% of all losers. That’s the number I’m most focused on surpassing in 2013… the five pairs of new running shoes I bought in 2012 notwithstanding.
I hope you hit and surpass your own numbers in 2013, running or otherwise. I realize this blog, like running itself, is an inherently selfish act, and I appreciate your indulging my selfishness. Except for you Mom, I know you’re only here to make sure I wear clean underwear on every run.
Happy New Year!