22 July 2011


I love my Prius. Who can’t love fifty miles to the gallon? But it, like most newer cars, is lacking one of the true joys of life: a real odometer. What kid – at least what kid who grew up before the age of digital odometers – didn’t love watching those numbers all line up and roll at once on every big milestone. It was like one nine grabbed the rest of them and pulled as hard as possible. You could almost hear the creaking (and often could hear a satisfying click). A thousand was cool. Ten thousand was awesome. A hundred thousand – the complete
rollover – was an epic event, worthy of documen- tation. When newer, more reliable cars added that sixth digit, well, even better. Well into my adult years I still loved these events enough to pull to the side of the road and record them. When my trusty Corolla rolled over for the second time, well, geek nirvana. Rollovers are cool events.

Or they were. The world is digital now, like it or not. No more pops and cracks on your LPs, even after you’ve lovingly cleaned them with your Discwasher (c’mon, admit it, you remember it, you owned one, and you even used the special cleaning fluid they provided). No more faded sounds on those long distance phone calls. And no more rolling over those odometers; a digital blip and it’s over. I tend to miss it, since the single multi-purpose display is usually on the trip meter. What a loss.

But milestones are still cool, and they are the reward of being geeky enough to keep track to know when they occur. A big one came around last week: ten thousand miles.

Like every number, it needs to be qualified. Ten thousand miles (of running, of course) since I started up again in March of 2005. First lap youthful miles excluded, records just aren’t that good from those days, and given the twenty-plus year gap between then and my second running career, they just don’t matter all that much. Ten thousand miles as close as I can count, recognizing that the measurement of every run has its vagaries, though as measurers
go, I’m pretty obsessive about getting it right. If I’m off a little, hey, who’ll care, heck, who’ll even know? I’m satisfied that it’s close enough for my count, and that’s all that really matters. But ten thousand miles, each of which has been logged in the Mother of all Spreadsheets, cross hatched, re-analyzed, tallied in multiple columns and categories, and otherwise overused in a probably unhealthy manner.

Ever the geek and thus knowing this was coming, I planned the day-before run by strategically adding a few blocks so as to end on a nice even number. At day’s end I sat at nine thousand nine hundred ninety six, knowing that the club planned a speed workout the following day and that it’s exactly a mile to the track, at least via the route I knew I’d use. Which I did, and from there, twelve laps of no-stop intervals (and yes, I ran in lane two since it’s a four-hundred meter rather than a quarter-mile track), and there it was. I’d let the club know it was coming and told them that bells would not peal nor would the Earth shake, but of the few club-mates showed for the event, one did bring the ceremonial bell for the finish of lap twelve, and ding-a-ling, it was done. As the bell ringer put it, without scheduled maintenance, no oil changes, no nuthin’.
Ten thousand miles. The odometer rolled over. I hitched a car ride home for the pleasure of ending the day with all those zeros on the dial.

Ironically, the following day brought another rollover: a trip back to the old home town where a subset of my classmates were gathered for our thirtieth high school reunion. After a few of these, the subset has stabilized on the usual suspect attendees, many of which I had little contact with during those school years but still find it fun to see and chat up in rollover year increments. The subset is as a rule looking visibly older, and in many cases, visibly larger, with a few exceptions. There was Eric, hobbling on crutches but obviously fit as it was a mountain-biking wreck that busted his foot. Kim, fit and slim and, what a surprise, running. And Dave, making his living doing what I call real work, building decks (my only-half-joking threat of what I will do when I’m sick of technology), but showing that active work, active life pays off. It’s milestones like this that make reflection on milestones like ten thousand miles even more compelling. We can’t stop getting older, but there’s nothing saying we can’t push off the decline for a few years.

Go roll over a few training meter dials and set a few milestones of your own.

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