Canadian Running magazine had a poll on their site the other day asking if runners counted their runs in kilometres or miles, or if they “just run.” I’d like to suggest a third alternative: count your volume in minutes.
First, here’s an overview of the case for Ks and the meaning of miles.
Why count in kilometres?
- It sounds cool to talk about your volume in “kills.”
- People born after 1977 will actually know how far you ran.
- Inflated totals: 100K sounds more impressive than 62 miles.
What about miles?
- With non-inflated totals, you can actually aspire to get more work in.
- No one born after 1977 will know how far you ran.
- Miles maintain the British roots of the sport: if you count in miles you are probably of a certain age or you had a coach who is unabashedly old school.
OK, I suppose what we can glean from this is that it doesn’t matter much which one you pick. They are two sides of the same coin. But what about minutes?
I count my own runs, and encourage the athletes I coach to count their volume, in minutes. I find it more meaningful in terms of load, for one thing. Sixty minutes is 60 minutes, whether you run 4:00 min/K or 5:00/K. If I tell the group to run 10K, that’s a different workout for everyone, in a way. A 60:00 run ensures everyone has roughly the same stimulus. Counting in miles can discourage “arms races,” or doing extra miles when you shouldn’t just to hit a round number. It also discourages running too fast: if you have 45 minutes to do, you do 45 minutes even if you aren’t running as fast. If you have 10K to do and you aren’t feeling great, forcing the 10K at a slower pace will give you more volume than you need, want, or should have. A good example of this is “Badger Miles.” At the University of Wisconsin, the solution to the problem of athletes going over-board with too much hard mileage was the “Badger Mile”: you get to count one Badger Mile for every seven minutes of running. So, even if you ran at 6:00/mile for 42 minutes, you counted six miles, not seven.
I also use minutes to measure the volume to quality ratio. It’s pretty simple math to divide the number of minutes run at quality — we say anything at marathon pace or faster is “quality” — by the total volume of minutes. We look for around 20 per cent quality, but it depends on the time of year. Measuring in a unit of distance, rather than time, can be confusing, as 1K of intervals is quite different from 1K of jogging: it probably takes less time. So, in minutes we might see three minutes of quality and five minutes of easy volume.
I’ve heard many people say that only beginners count in minutes. Well, I know plenty of pretty experienced and fast runners who use minutes to manage their load. Maybe you can try it, too!