Sometimes I keep myself amused on a long a run by counting things along the way. This weekend for my 20 km run I counted sets-of-wheels, dogs, and butterflies.
Leading up to the 20k run I had done a few weekend long runs of 18 km, but this 20 was a mental stretch for me. I was running a familiar route and knew where the bathrooms were, and I had my beeping watch to remind me to drink/walk every 16 minutes, but I needed something in between bathrooms and beeps to keep my mind occupied. If I could distract myself enough, I wouldn’t be looking at my watch every 2 minutes or wondering if I really need that bathroom break.
The set-of wheels category kept me very busy. I had to make decisions about what qualified as a set as I went along. At first I was just going to count bicycles, but then I decided to include roller blades, wheelchairs, and baby strollers. Eventually the criteria evolved into “non-motorized wheels currently bearing the weight of at least one human”. So the guy walking his bike with his friends in the fun walk/run I came across didn’t count, nor did the cyclists resting next to their bikes at a picnic table, nor any empty baby strollers. Any bike trailer or contraption carrying a kid attached to a bike got lumped in with that bike as one unit. The four cyclists still astride their bikes yet stopped for a drink, counted.
If it came close enough for me to notice, I counted it. I counted some things more than once, because I decided not to remember if I’d already met each cyclist or not (we were on a multi-use path in a loop around the reservoir). When my friend with his dog looped back for me 3 times, I counted his dog each time. At one point I saw a lady calling for her dog, but didn’t actually see the dog, so it didn’t count.
The butterfly category included moths. I considered counting dragon flies because I like them too, but maybe next time.
I chanted to keep track of the tallies. “89:8:7, 89 wheels: 8 dogs: 7 butterflies, 90!:8:7, 90:8:7…” Sometimes they sounded like measurements to me, or lock combinations. The verbal memory system worked. I was able to keep running between water breaks and ended up not needing a bathroom at all.
It was the warmest day on which I’ve run this year, and in the last few kilometers I started to feel woozy. I knew I was almost done and that I would still finish if I succumbed to fatigue, quit counting, and walked. Instead, I chanted the numbers louder, like a football quarterback at scrimmage. The intense focus on the numbers helped me cut through the brain fuzz and I finished well.
I tallied 265 sets-of-wheels, 65 dogs and 23 butterflies.