Measuring running, pound for pound
February 26, 2010 4:12 AM   Subscribe

Running two miles in eight minutes is clearly a much better result than running one mile in four minutes. How can I make similar observations with results which are much harder to compare?

When I get back from running, I record the distance and time that I ran in an Excel spreadsheet. I then use this information to work out things like my average speed, average time per mile, etc. The problem is that these results don't give a weighting to the total distance of my run, so that 'average speed' is not a useful indicator of my overall performance.

Ideally, what I'm looking for is some sort of simple formula that I can use in Excel to take the distance of my run into account. I'd like to give each run an overall score. Any advice on how to go about doing this, or about any other approaches that I might take, would be appreciated.

I'm not looking to compare 100m sprints with marathons here. All my runs are in the 2000-8000 metre range.
posted by mattn to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Calories burned?
posted by ph00dz at 4:44 AM on February 26, 2010

My metric would be distance times average speed, or distance squared over time, which has "faster = better" and "longer = better" properties, which is as simple as your input data.

If you're looking to get scientific about it, get a proper running watch, about which I'm sure there have been hundreds of threads here.
posted by themel at 4:54 AM on February 26, 2010

ph00dz, I don't think "calories burned" would work; my understanding is that calories burned is basically a constant multiple of distance, i. e. the number of calories burned per mile is a constant.

themel's idea seems good from a mathematical point of view. But a lot of these simple formulas don't reflect how the body actually works. I suggest trying it on different runs and seeing if it looks like the runs it gives the same score to are actually equally hard.
posted by madcaptenor at 5:21 AM on February 26, 2010

I would take the world record times for middle distance and long distance track events, plot them as time vs distance and then fit some kind of curve through them. You could then score yourself on the basis of how your time compares to the predicted world record time for the distance you ran.
posted by tomcooke at 5:47 AM on February 26, 2010

Assuming that you know your run distance before you start, I would keep different distances in separate columns. Your mind treats "I'm about to run two kilometers" differently from how it treats "I'm about to run eight kilometers," and your body runs it differently. Don't try to force yourself not to do that -- just accept that short-, middle- and long-distance runs are different for a reason.
posted by Etrigan at 6:27 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

My metric would be distance times average speed, or distance squared over time, which has "faster = better" and "longer = better" properties, which is as simple as your input data.

In Excel speak, "distance times average speed" would be =A1*B1, where A1 was the distance and B1 was the average speed.

"Distance squared over time" would be =A1^2/C1, where A1 is distance, ^2 squares A1, and C1 would be time.
posted by dfriedman at 6:37 AM on February 26, 2010

I compare different length runs on the principle that double the distance at 1.1 times the pace is an equivalent effort.

Lately, this seems to favor longer runs so the 1.1 might be a bit high (though it should definitely not be less than one). It would be even better to estimate this factor on your own training data.
posted by thijsk at 7:08 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think you want the McMillan Running Calculator. If you run a 5K in 24 minutes, that's comparable to a 10K in 49:51:20 - which accounts for a slower pace. So if you actually ran a 10K in 54 minutes, you know it was less intense of a run.
posted by yeti at 7:09 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

The McMillan running calculator is good; you might also be interested in the Daniels Running Calculator.

Not completely relevant, but related and really useful: Jack Daniels's book Daniels' Running Formula is a really good resource for people who are interested in the science behind running training, understanding how your physiology affects the effort you can expend for a given time, etc.
posted by kataclysm at 7:37 AM on February 26, 2010

There are formulas which will give you a percentage score according to your gender, age, and the distance and time of your run. So you can compare different lengths of run with each other, or you could compare your time in a race against others of different gender, age etc in a fair way. My club uses this for its annual awards.

Here is a calculator, which offers download in Excel format for your pleasure:
posted by mjg123 at 8:11 AM on February 26, 2010

I would get a Garmin Forerunner, or similar, for this purpose. It can track splits based on a pre-set distance.
posted by xiaolongbao at 10:16 AM on February 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I came at this from a different angle. Unfortunately, when I sat down to figure this out, I came up with something like (VO2 * time) / distance. Finding VO2 Max is easy. Finding VO2 is not, they are not the same thing.

If you really want a score that is practical, it's going to require a heart rate monitor with recording capabilities. An equation like Total Heart Beats / Distance would give a somewhat meaningful score. That would allow you to get a beats per mile that would compare the aerobic difficulty of the run regardless of distance. That would allow you to compare the difficulty of a 2000 meter to a 8000 meter run.
posted by 517 at 9:23 AM on February 27, 2010

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