Maybe I’m sentimental or maybe I just like holding onto old-timey traditions. Or maybe it’s an inherent fear of losing all of my online running data, derived from using one of those Casio palm computers from the ’90s—the kind that only kept people’s phone numbers because you had to know those back then, and featured one game: Snake. The directions always advised you to keep a notebook with all of your numbers (and scores), just in case the mini “computer” crashed into the nether.
In any case, when I trained for my first BQ six years ago—and then got into the Boston Marathon—I started keeping a running journal and have kept one ever since. It began with determinedly marking off my mileage in a Runner’s World training log (subscriber’s freebie). I then moved onto the Runner’s World Training Journal, which gave me more room to chronicle my workouts. With a cover that reads “for every kind of runner,” the Runner’s World Training Journal was a perfect intro to logging my runs in longhand, providing tips throughout my year. Once I filled out my last entry, I was inspired to shop around for other journals with a similar layout.
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Eventually, I came across Lauren Fleshman and Róisín McGettigan-Dumas’s Believe Training Journal; the first edition had a wood cover and pink spiral binding. I fell in love with that journal—its motivational charts, Lo and Ro’s heartfelt letter to runners as the intro. I even fan girl’d Lauren at the 2013 Boston expo, swimming through the hoards high on gummy and Clif Bar samples in the Hynes Convention Center. A then-pregnant Lauren kindly allowed me to follow her back to her booth so she could sign my copy. “You have my journal!” she exclaimed. She was the first pro runner I’d come into contact with. Trying to play it cool, I offered a nonchalant, “Of course I do.”
Since that encounter, I’ve gone back and forth on a couple of running journals, including many iterations of the Believe Training Journal, which also happens to be the one I am currently using—albeit this latest one is a more substantial tome than the one Lauren signed half a decade ago.
I’m too lazy to keep a bullet journal; I have no patience decorating page after page with intricate borders and flowery bullet points. I have Strava, Garmin Connect, and Polar Flow accounts. And yet, I can’t resist flipping through pages, scanning my progress, the smell of the binding. The Believe Training Journal (the newest one comes in teal) keeps tracking easy, with columns for the date, workout, and mileage. There’s elbow room for creative license; you can add the temperature or maybe draw a sun or cloud in the date box to indicate the weather, or keep a food diary in the workout section to rule out what’s causing GI distress on your runs.
The journal sneaks in ways to advise and inspire. There are monthly check-ins, dream charts, pages devoted to fleshing out goals, race reviews; and spurted throughout are essays on mental training, nutrition, and recovery.
I’ll admit I’m not the most dedicated journalist—there are some weeks where only my mileage is listed, and according to this year’s records, November and December were pretty blank (translation: bleak) thanks to a harsh winter. But I have a slightly perverted pleasure when I’m late on writing in my runs from the past week, penning in my time, pace, who I ran with, and what it all adds up to in the total-mileage box.
Some of the writing exercises also give me food for thought. For instance: “Your ideal sleep habits.” Answer: “They’re not ideal.” Or, “Obstacles you might face”—“PAVEMENT.” (Indicative of me taking a nosedive on a run that week.)
The best thing about keeping tangible training journals is that you can go back to them and see how far you’ve come along, or remember that time you took grad-school classes, had an internship, held down a part-time job—and still managed to marathon train. The evidence is all there, personalized and with no threat of over-scrolling or experiencing a bad WiFi connection. It may be antiquated, it may equate to hoarding (I keep the ever-growing pile of journals hidden in my bedroom closet), but it’s another way I encapsulate my love for our sport.
Amanda is a test editor at Runner’s World who has run the Boston Marathon every year since 2013; she's a former professional baker with a master’s in gastronomy and she carb-loads on snickerdoodles.