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Keeping a Running Log: The DIY Edition

keeping a running log
Rachel's DIY Excel Running Log with a few [of the many] highlights.

by Rachel Pieh Jones

I started keeping a log in 2008. At first I used a word document and wrote the date and distance but quickly took it up a notch.

I’m still old school. I wear a Garmin but don’t like electronic ways of tracking. I want to make notes and mark shoes and I don’t want the “world” to know where I’ve been running. (There was a security kerfuffle recently in Djibouti because US military personnel were using Strava for their runs on the military base and anyone could download the data and discern when soldiers were vulnerable. It creeped me out enough to keep me satisfied with analog.)

Now, I use an excel sheet, a new one each year. I have twelve years of logs. That’s a load of data to help me determine progress, what makes me injury prone, how other life events impact my running, and more.

What kind of data do I put in my running log?
For me, the most important things to keep track of are: date, distance, time, pace, workout details, shoes, and anything notable about the run.

“Notable” could be whether or not I consumed Gu or gels, if the weather was strange, if I felt pain anywhere, what country I’m in, where I’m at in cancer treatments, or unusual encounters like the time I was chased by a baboon.

You might have other things you’d like to keep track of. For example, I just started marking my menstrual cycle this year.

How do I organize my running log?+
If you're doing an excel version, like me, your log will look different than mine. What I suggest here makes it sound like mine is clean and clear cut. It isn’t. It only makes sense to me, but that’s the only person it needs to make sense for.

The first column is the date, broken into weekly segments. Each run has a row, then the eighth cell says WEEKLY TOTAL. This makes it easy to compare weeks across the year.

The headings for the next few columns are shoes. I alternate between trail and road, minimal and supportive to keep my legs fresh. I have found that rotating shoes guards against injury.

Right now, the shoe column headers in my log are: Purple Brooks Ghost, Orange Altra, Checkered Zoot. Each time I retire a pair, I highlight it in red. Under the shoe column goes the distance entry for that run, that pair.

The next columns are time, pace, workout notes like quarter mile repeats, hills, or an easy day, then the “anything else” column, like being chased by baboons or an achy hip flexor.

Last week my red Brooks Ghosts felt worn out. I could tell in my hips and the soles of my feet. I checked my log, summed up the miles in the red Brooks Ghost column and sure enough, I’d hit 438. Time to pull out new ones, the purple Brooks.

It takes about 60 seconds to fill out each day, and it's well worth the time. Now I have all this data and encouragement to fuel my coming years of running.

Do you keep a running log?

How do you keep track of your running?

2 responses to “Keeping a Running Log: The DIY Edition

  1. I have kept a running log since my teens (30 years now) in a paper log book. I write down my runs, walks, bikes, etc. and a little information, but I am not good about doing it every day, and I sometimes forget for lots of days on end. Most of the time I just put the bare essentials of the route or the workout, with very little else. It is fun to go back every once in awhile and see some of the things that I have wrote. I also recently found a notebook that my college coach had us write in during Cross Country season in college. She would respond to some of my comments. It is hilarious! One workout I said something about feeling not so hot, and her response to me was along the lines of seeing people at the end of marathons who look better. 🙂 Anyway, keep up the logs!

  2. Yes! I keep a running log. I’m on year 2. Last year I kept a little purse calendar and wrote down mileage and pace. I would add up each month and circle it at the top. By the end of the year I realized I was close to 1000 miles and I kept going back to make sure I added correctly and it drove me crazy. For 2020 I made a spread sheet to keep things more organized. I have a sheet for each month with date, pace, mileage and notes. I also note weekly totals and when my new shoes start. My last sheet is a yearly total and now that I’m getting close to my 1000 again I have a countdown to keep me motivated. I just need 25 miles a week for the last 3 weeks of the year and I’ll hit my mark again. Its been a great motivator for me to track it all!

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