Charting the Path Ahead

What made me angry Monday evening was that after I pressed the “start button” on the Strava app on my phone, put the phone in my pocket, and began my run, the app apparently started asking more questions about whether I would like to add some features. As a result, it never started timing. I didn’t know that until I got back from running and there were the silly questions. Which means, I had to get my reading glasses from inside the house to see what the app was asking so I could say “No” again.

So I asked my Facebook friends for recommendations for a different app. What I want is something simple that plots the route on a map (with elevation), records my time, calculates average pace, and then stops. That’s all I want. I would buy the premium version of an app like that if it promised never ask me to upgrade or chose more add-ons. There should be a “Pay $10 to leave me alone” option.

Run Log GraphI’ll confess I like to know how far I run. In the old days I measured all my routes with my car odometer, which meant I had to do some creative driving to measure routes down alleys and through parks and drainage ditches.

Through the years I’ve run with two early iterations of GPS watches. The first had a small satellite receiver that I wore on my arm, which was more of a fashion commitment than I cared for. The second looked like an over-sized running wrist watch and worked well except the rechargeable battery often quit before I finished my long slow lumbering runs. And uploading the data to my computer was confusing and unreliable.

I know there are better GPS watches nowadays and they’re easier to use and I would probably be happy with any of them (and I am open to suggestions, by the way), but it’s so easy to carry my phone in my pocket (now that all my running shorts have pockets) and I have the added benefit of having my phone with me in case I need to call Cyndi so she can rescue me from a pack of wolves or an angry hail storm.

One of my longtime friends, Jeff Blackwell, responded to my Facebook question with this: “Go old school..... run to enjoy it...use your muscle memory to set your pace. Electronics (especially cellphones) have ruined the reasons we ran to begin relax and get more in tune with our thoughts and nature. Maybe that is just me.”

Jeff makes great sense, and I can’t argue with his passionate plea. A lot of runners don’t have to record the time and distance of every run (I’m married to a runner who doesn’t), but for me, keeping that log is one of my favorite things about running.

More to the point, charting and graphing is one of my favorite things about life. It’s how I recognize trends and patterns, how I understand numbers, and more importantly, how I interpret the world. I have a notebook in my library full of run logs listing every mile I’ve run since 1978. They include more than numbers. They tell stories of vacations and business trips, races and marathons, and adventure runs in exotic locations. They describe training programs full of optimism and hope.

One of the things I like about myself is that I know I’ve run 36,874 miles as of Wednesday, October 29, 2014. I’m not the only one who knows, either. Psalm 139:3 says God charts the path ahead of me and tells me where to stop and rest. Every moment God knows where I am.

This is great comfort to me because of what it says about the nature and character of God. He cares enough about the details of our lives to chart our paths, and He knows enough about our individual energy levels and recharge demands to know where we should stop and rest. A God who uses charts and maps can be relied upon, it seems to me.

Well, I’m sorry to go on and on about my GPS problems, and some readers are already typing “That’s a first-world problem” into the comment section. But for those who appreciate the granularity of life, details like time and route hint to the bigger story, and log books indicate the future direction of life. Keeping track, charting and graphing, is how I pay attention and I’m not yet ready to give it up.

How about you? What details of life do you track?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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