Loop vs. Out-and-Back: What’s your route type and why?
This morning, I ran a “loop”-style route for the first time in…
…Yikes. I’m not sure how long.
A very long time.
Long enough that I can’t even remember the last time I ran a Loop route that wasn’t on a race course.
And it got me thinking that for a few reasons, I’m an Out-and-Back runner.
No, I’m not exclusively an Out-and-Backer. More often than not, my running routes end up being something of an Out-and-Back “Freestyle” situation, with a couple small loops or other mini-out-and-backs thrown in there.
Under the general phylogeny of route types, though, you’d stick my tendencies firmly in the Out-and-Back category.
Why do I enjoy Out-and-Backs?
- I like noticing new things when I turn back in the other direction.
- I like that it gives me concrete evidence of my negative splits.
- I like that I know what to expect from the second half of the run.
And if you think about it, there are underlying factors aside from those insignificant benefits that dispose me to this affinity for the Out-and-Back method. I suspect these same factors affect the Route Type that other runners are partial to, too.
1. Running for time vs. running for distance.
I’m a “time on feet” runner. I decide beforehand how long, timewise, I’m going to run. Then I estimate my mileage based on my pace through certain stretches for which I know the exact distance. Running for time is a probably the primary reason I tend toward Out-and-Backs instead of Loops, because:
- With a Loop, I might come up short on my pre-planned time-length, and let’s face it, having to tack on more when I’m at my house or endpoint destination is a buzzkill.
- Alternatively, if the Loop turns out to be too long, I’ll run overtime, which is equally infuriating because a morning runner has to shower, eat breakfast, and get to work on time, right?
Do you run for time or distance?
2. Being a planner.
Planners pre-map their routes and stick to them. Planners, I imagine, tend to run for distance rather than time. Since I largely run for time instead of distance, I don’t pre-map. I simply step out the door with an idea of where I’m headed, and then freestyle-it-up when I get to that general location. When I’m curious about exact pace and mileage, I’ll map out my run online afterward. Do you pre-map your routes? If you do know the exact route beforehand, do you usually stick with the plan?
3. Running with a Garmin.
Garmin use blows a big nasty hole in my highly scientific analysis of the types of routes folks choose, because with a Garmin, you could conceivably run for time and mileage simultaneously. Since I don’t run with one, I can’t include this confounding factor in my Out-and-Back vs. Loop musings. Garmin runners, perhaps you can shed light on whether you’re an Out-and-Backer or a Looper. Does using the Garmin impact your tendencies?
I’m truly curious about the habits of other runners. Today on my impromptu Loop run, it struck me that my tendency to run for time rather than distance might be uncommon, particularly in a technological age that allows us to be so attuned to our exact distances and paces. And it’s running for time that facilitates my inclination toward Out-and-Back routes.
What about you? Of loop vs. out-and-back routes, which do you tend toward and why?
(TRUE: this post is convoluted, poorly organized, and involves a lot of weak reasoning. I hope you still understood what I was trying to get at.)