Counting Miles

I ran with the Hopkins Marathon Team on Tuesday and met many inspirational runners. One runner told me about how she started logging miles in 2011, and has accumulated over 7,000 miles. That is like running from Baltimore to San Francisco and back. By foot.


How cool is that? Beyond the cool factor, I am realizing that keeping track of miles could yield benefits:

  • to see progress and lack of progress on paper
  • to diagnose gaps (Is it seasonal? Due to weather? Injury?)
  • to assist in goal-setting
  • to motivate further progress
  • to stay accountable to the self
  • to visualize growth
  • to inspire continued growth in running and other areas
  • to respect distance in our airplane-world in which it can feel that travel is instant. There is something humbling about arriving at California in a year rather than a day.
  • to keep a record.

However, logging miles also raises downsides:

  • the potential to compare myself to others
  • the urge to compare myself to myself in an unhealthy way (“I used to run 40 miles/week. What’s wrong with me now?”)
  • the reduction of a run to a number when in fact every run is different. 10 miles down Broad Street in Philadelphia is not the same as 5 miles up Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah; so what do the numbers mean?
  • the potential to trade quality for quantity
  • the fear of accruing “miles in the bank.” With money, my attitude, is: what good is it to watch it grow or let it languish in a bank? Is there a parallel for miles?

While there are pros and cons of counting miles, I am inclined to give it a try.

After all, whether I write it down or not, I know that there is a record of my deeds already: God keeps tabs of everything I do. I believe that there is an angel on my right shoulder and an angel on my left shoulder writing down each of my deeds. I acknowledge them in prayers five times a day, and when I die, I hope and pray that the good I have done outweighs the bad.

In the mean time, I have an opportunity to make each action count. Counting miles could be an attempt to write my own record and a way to become more mindful of deeds. However, I know that deeds alone do not suffice, as the following hadith (from Sahih Al-Bukhari) illustrates:

 Narrated Abu Hurairah said:

The Messenger of God said: “No one of you will be saved because of his deeds.”

They (the companions) said: “Not even you, O Messenger of God?”

He said: “Not even me, unless God bestows mercy upon me. So do good deeds properly, sincerely and moderately, and worship Allah in the forenoon and in the afternoon and during a part of the night, and adopt a moderate course, adopt a moderate course (he said it twice) whereby you will reach your target (Paradise).”

At the end of the day, it is the Mercy of God that saves. If I were to try to count the blessings of God, I could not. Nevertheless, counting might help make me more aware and promote the spirit of striving towards my target.

On Tuesday I logged 7 miles. On Wednesday, I ran 5. Today I took a break. Tomorrow, I anticipate 5-ish. The -ish leaves space for flexibility because while I count, I remind myself to value the spirit of the run over the numbers. When my legs become dead flesh, it will be faith, not numbers that bring eternal peace.