I just got back from a very long, very cold, very wet run, and it’s gotten me thinking about a line of questioning that returns around this time every year: How does one describe the suffering that a runner chooses to endure, while training or racing? How does one quantify the level of toughness needed for running in less-than-ideal conditions?
I’ve been considering these dynamics for awhile, and I’ve been working with my friends to formulate a new system for talking about just how hard-core, tough, brutal, and “Bad-Asp” these runs really are.
I’d like to introduce a system of “Bad-Asp Points for Running.”
I started with a definition of terms, particularly in describing what an ideal set of running conditions would be. This might vary slightly for every runner, so the points system could be adjusted for others if desired. But here’s what I would consider ideal running conditions:
- 55° Fahrenheit
- Dry and Overcast
- 5 miles
- Generally flat course
But clearly, it’s not reasonable to expect precisely-ideal conditions for every run. So it seems right to put some margins around those ideals, like this:
- 35° – 75° Fahrenheit (20° either direction)
- Light Mist to Partly Cloudy (slightly wider range of climate conditions, regardless of temperature)
- 3 – 7 miles (2 miles either direction)
- Up to 300 feet of elevation gain
In setting up my point system, I decided that no special recognition or “Bad-Asp Points” would be awarded for a run within these margins that one might call “Reasonable Running Conditions.”
For runs outside of those margins, though, there is glory to be gained…
For runs that exceed the base-line parameters enumerated above — for runs that go above and beyond a “reasonable” commitment to the sport —we need a scale to help determine just how epic these activities really are. After much consideration and conversation with friends, I am proposing the following assignment of Bad-Asp Points:
- 1 Bad-Asp Point for every degree Fahrenheit (including wind chill or heat index) outside of “reasonable conditions”
- 3 Bad-Asp Points for every mile beyond the 7-mile threshold
- 1 Bad-Asp Point for every 25 feet of elevation gain beyond the 300 feet threshold
- 1 Bad-Asp Point for every 10 minutes before sunrise or after sunset
- 10 Bad-Asp Points for any steady, unpleasant precipitation (at any temperature)
- 10 Bad-Asp Points for an unusual running surface (trail, snow, ice, etc.)
- 10 Bad-Asp Points for every slip or fall (getting knocked off one’s feet by surface conditions).
- 15 Bad-Asp Points for every blister, blackened toenail, or chafed nipple
- 25 Bad-Asp Points for a bleeding wound
- 25 Bad-Asp Points for extraordinarily “Bad-Asp” optics (ice beard, mud splatter, etc.)
I initially categorized the list of factors from those of smallest consequence to those of greatest consequence, but it might be easier to remember this point system with an acronym:
I’M SO BAD ASP
- Irritation (blisters, blackened toenails, chafing, etc.)
- Surface Conditions (trail, snow, ice, mud, etc.)
- Optics (ice beard, mud splatter, etc.)
- Blood (any bleeding or oozing wound)
- Altitude (a.k.a. elevation)
- Darkness (pre-dawn or post-sunset)
- Atmospheric Conditions (temperature, including wind chill or heat index)
- Slips and Falls
So today, my friends and I went for a 12-mile run in the pouring rain, with temperatures just above freezing. It was pretty miserable, though I’ve never had a way to quantify that misery until now.
- I(rritation) – 15 Points for one chafed nipple (sorry if that feels like “Too Much Information,” but I’m trying to suss out the details here!)
- M(ileage) – 15 Points for going five miles beyond ideal Mileage
- S(urface) – 0 Points for unusual Surface conditions
- O(ptics) – 0 Points for extraordinarily Bad-Asp Optics
- B(lood) – 0 Points for a Bleeding wound
- A(ltitude) – 0 Points for extraordinary Altitude / Elevation
- D(arkness) – 0 Points for running in the Dark
- A(tmospheric Conditions) – 0 Points (I struggled with this one, because 36° Fahrenheit technically falls within “Reasonable Running Conditions” even though it feels way colder with the soaking rain… But I’m going to stick with the system for now).
- S(lips or falls) – 0 Points for Slips or falls
- P(recipitation) – 10 Points for Precipitation in the form of rain (and wind)
- Total = 40 Bad-Asp Points
I can provide some other examples, drawing from the photographs I chose to include in this post. In the top picture, I was training with some friends for a 25K Trail Race. Trail running is pretty Bad-Asp under the best of circumstances. But I’m not sure I’ve ever seen trail conditions as bad as what we experienced on a relatively-warm spring evening on March 12, 2016.
- I(rritation) – 15 Points for one blister
- M(ileage) – 12 Points for mileage
- S(urface) – 10 Points for very muddy, mucky surface conditions
- O(ptics) – 25 Points for extreme mud splatter on every part of my body
- B(lood) – 25 Points for the fact that the aforementioned blister was oozing blood and pus.
- A(ltitude) – 41 Points for 1333 feet of elevation change (1033 beyond the 300′ threshold)
- D(arkness) – 5 Points for running 51 minutes after sunset (this is a significant factor in what made this run so epic in my mind: the terror of running through the woods in the dark, so five points feels small, but I wouldn’t want to overplay that element)
- A(tmospheric Conditions) – 0 Points for temperature
- S(lips and Falls) – 20 Points for two falls (one onto my hands and knees and one flat on my back)
- P(recipitation) – 0 Points for precipitation
- Total = 153 Bad-Asp Points
The two “Ice Beard” pictures on this post were actually taken on two separate occasions, but I think they provide a good visual representation of one particular run with my friend, Jason Slack, from January 30, 2015.
- I(rritation) – 15 Points for wind burn on my face
- M(ileage) – 15 Points for mileage
- S(urface) – 10 Points for very snowy, icy conditions (many of the roads we ran on had not yet been plowed after a night of heavy snowfall)
- O(ptics) – 25 Points for ice beards
- B(lood) – 0 Points
- A(ltitude) – 2 Points for 370 feet of elevation change (70 beyond the 300′ threshold)
- D(arkness) – 0 Points
- A(tmospheric Conditions) – 27 Points for temperature (the temperature was 18° F, but the wind chill was as low as 8° F)
- S(lips and Falls) – 0 Points
- P(recipitation) – 10 Points for driving snowfall
- Total = 104 Bad-Asp Points
What do you think? I’m still working out the kinks in this system, and I may yet provide another update. But as the winter season deepens, it feels good to have this ready for further beta testing.
Let the Bad-Aspery begin!