Monday, November 7, 2011

The mystery of missing time

That title could apply to so many things. It could apply to my Portland Marathon finishing time (which was missing but then was found). It could apply to weekends which go by so quickly that they are gone before you know it. It could apply to summer, and life, which sometimes seem to disappear like A Wrinkle in Time (a favorite book of mine).

Of course, on the other hand, you also have time which stretches interminably and feels like it takes far more than sixty seconds to complete every minute. That would pretty much apply to the first two miles of any run. Or a football game, in which fifteen minutes (a quarter) can last for 45!

But what I am specifically referring to here is the time it takes me to complete a run. That is, the total amount of time from start to finish, as opposed to the actual length of the run (running time). I have always known this happens. My hour long run that starts at 6:45 and ends at 8 a.m. An eighteen-miler that I do in three hours but return home almost four hours after I left.

I just noticed today that my Garmin data on the computer shows not just the running time, but the total elapsed time from start to finish. I looked at a few days' examples. Today, I ran 6.09 miles in one hour exactly. But my elapsed time was 1:09:20. (Nine minutes extra.) On Saturday, 18 miles in 3:03:01. Elapsed time, 3:38:44!

Obviously, those missing (or extra, depending on how you look at it) minutes are the times when I pause my watch for a bathroom stop, street light, or other random delay that I decide to stop for. It doesn't worry me that I allow myself to stop the clock for these things because it has never prevented me from running a half marathon or marathon straight through without stops (except for a bathroom stop, during which I let the time run, of course).

It is interesting, though. A ten-second variance in pace (from 10:00 to 10:10, say), is a minor blip in my overall time. On Saturday my average pace was 10:09, and my time was 3 hours 3 minutes. If I'd averaged 10:00, my total would be three hours. Hardly a difference, even though it probably would have required quite a lot more effort on my part to make every mile ten seconds faster.

But somehow I managed to fritter away 35 minutes on bathroom stops and other random delays. And almost half my run was on a trail with no stoplights! I recall when things were feeling difficult on Saturday that the five minutes it took to complete a half mile seemed very, very long. But I probably managed to spend two and three minutes at a time just stopping to look around at some random intersection (while checking my phone and drinking some water). And I did that like ten times! (I am attributing the other minutes to my bathroom stops. But really, I probably lingered far too long in the bathrooms too. As gross as park bathrooms and porta potties are.)

When I estimate how long I'm going to be gone for a given run, I always allow an hour for every five miles. I figure that will account for any kind of lagging pace plus random stops and delays. I hate the guilt that comes with saying I'll be back at a certain time and not making it. So I always try to err on the side of allowing too much time. But I rarely have "leftover" time.

As long as this doesn't affect my performance in races, I'm not planning on changing my practices. It's worked so far. And it's not the worst way to pass the time.


lindsay said...

i'm pretty good at making my runs longer than they really need to be... stopping at lights, tying my shoe, getting water, bathroom... it's kind of sad - i'm doing everything i can to NOT run while running :)

Laura said...

Sounds like you need to work on setting a new PEE-R :)