Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Directionally Impaired

Being the half marathon coach for a group of beginners has its challenges. One of the biggest challenges is that I have to plan the routes for the Interval running and also for the long runs. For the common person, that doesn't seem like a big deal. However, I struggle with this process because I tend to be rather directionally impaired when running. When I run on my own, I will take new routes and paths simply to break up the monotony of running the same route from my house. It rarely matters to me if on an easy run I do 6 miles or 6 1/2 miles. One of the benefits of living in Utah is that the streets and cities are laid out on a grid that revolve around two major streets—main street (which runs east and west) and state street (which ones north and south). Going off this grid rarely do I get lost.

When I am coaching, however I am dealing with runners who haven't run as much or as often. For many of them, the distance we are running is the longest they have ever run. I work to keep to the plan.

Map #1 Original Plan
On Saturday, the plan called for 8 miles. The route was relatively flat versus the past few weeks that had a few hills. Map 1 shows the route we were scheduled to take. The route planned for a loop through some of the more rural parts of the city. There were two hills at the beginning of the route to over the freeway and then flat after that.

The run started as planned and we made it over the few hills and through the first few turns. The problem came at the bottom of the map where there is a small run and then turns into a long stretch. Unfortunately the streets aren't marked well because they cross into county roads and also criss crosses over into another city.

Map #2 Finished plan 
That's where the problem begins. Didn't see the turn. We kept running. By the time we made it back to a major intersection, I knew we would not be able to finish the back loop and still keep the run to 8 miles. You'd think–no problem– just cut across and go back. This is exactly what we did, but going back meant crossing the same two hills we hit on the way out. In the end, the route ended up being 8.6 miles.

My running group are learning very quickly that running with me means that just because we have a map, doesn't mean we'll stick to the map.

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