Saturday, May 10, 2008

Missing Gene pt. II

Sometimes just writing about something can cause you to rethink and this is the case with my last post, which has nagged at me a bit.

Firstly I worried that the first paragraph sounded a bit dismissive of those who post statistics and properly analyse their measurements. That was not my intention and in fact would go against my whole philosophy of running. I believe that we all have to find the approach that suits us best and this is informed by a combination of our own motivations, physiology, and character. Because of this it is a good way to learn more about yourself and realise that whatever works is the right thing to do. In this way running is wonderfully permissive.

Trying to write accurately is always a work in progress and I often think I have not been totally clear. I am fairly used to putting such thoughts aside and telling myself to do better next time. This time though I was also worried that I was wrong in substance and this is what has been nagging.

My intention was to merely to describe something that has happened in my running – I have gradually become less interested in measurement whilst the general trend seems to be in the opposite direction. But the act of writing about it has made me wonder whether it is a good or not, is it careless or rational?

Coincidently I am reading about the six errors of thinking as listed by Thomas Kida, the first of which is preferring stories to statistics. So by this criterion I am sitting on the stupid side of the fence because I recognise that the best we to see underlying patterns and find the truth of our behaviour is to look at a dataset.

The data I keep is rather limited for this. I have a number of set runs which have names like: run to the border, monument to monument, or famous five. My diary entry is the name, total time, average heart rate, and times for the various segments of the route (plus any other descriptive stuff). These give me snapshots that can be compared and an idea of how I am doing. But I do not keep this data for all runs and often I just go out for a set amount of time.

This fits in with an underlying idea of keeping things simple but it is possible that I could get more out of my sessions if I measured more and kept an ongoing analysis.

But lets go back to the error of thinking and people preferring stories to statistics. In the area of public policy this is common and can be dangerous as a strong anecdote will trump a nuanced understanding of the actual situation (think MMR). However my running is totally my own anecdote. When I run I am looking for stories, whether they are about my surroundings, my experiences, or the exploits of others; I want some form of narrative. So by this criterion I am not being irrational in not paying too much attention to statistics.

It could therefore be that both these statements are true:

My current approach to record keeping is fully in accord with my reasons for running.
I could improve my running by more accurately recording and analysing my progress.

I like the ambiguity. The wonderful freedom of running is that I can easily change what I do, flip between approaches, and find what suits my needs at a particular time.

It doesn't matter what I do as long as I do it consciously.


tink said...

A great post. This has kept my mind occupied for many hours this week. I was gonna post a blog about it but you have beaten me to it.

Great :)

Phil said...

That above post was by me. Not my wife who i seemed to have signed in on sorry about that :)

Highway Kind said...

Thanks Phil

Yes it is amazing how you can gnaw of things like this