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.