Junk Miles & Peanut Butter Jars

The running community debates the merit of “junk miles” every so often, which I assume is instigated by those who simply don’t want to run as much as they feel is necessary. The argument is that miles run at deliberately slow paces do nothing to advance one towards their specific running goals, whether that is being able to run faster or further, and so it would be equally beneficial (and comforting) to just NOT RUN. Well, wouldn’t that be nice. The converse to this argument, is that if one must run at certain, more difficult paces (or distances) in order to get better and better, then every run must be taxing. We know, however, the body’s ability to recover and regenerate over measured periods of times doesn’t allow for running all out, EVERY DAY.

The decades of running science has proven that we need days of easy running interspersed with our harder days, allowing the body to recover and get stronger, letting us run even harder and further downy the line. The question still remains, however..is it just as beneficial to NOT run instead of going at a slow, recovery pace…you know, “junk miles”?

Running science saves the day again, and it has been measured over and over that there are specific fitness benefits that come from running slowly in between our days of running hard. Those “junk miles” actually have value in training our body to burn fat along with carbohydrates for endurance fueling. They also continue to strengthen specific oxygen delivery systems through low stress runs, while allowing various muscles to adapt to low impact forces. Overall though, they keep the base level of fitness already achieved from backsliding by any degree, simply by adding minimal stresses to all the necessary systems, without dragging them into a state of extended recovery. “Junk miles” are, in no way, junk.

To illustrate this with the most simple of measurements, there is a noticeable advantage for runners who log 50 miles a week by running every day (no matter how periodically slow) compared to runners who might log 30 miles a week by skipping every other day. The accumulated strengthening and development of oxygen delivery adds up. The proof is in the race results.

So, what in the world does this have to do with peanut butter jars?

I’m not the best with finances, not because I don’t know how to manage them, but because I rarely have any to manage. No worries, I get by on creativity and consistent hard work. What I have found, however, is when I have money and put it aside (instead of in my bank account) it tends to accumulate. I don’t mean sticking it in my savings account or anything relatively abstract like that, but taking ACTUAL REAL MONEY and putting it aside. Say..in a peanut butter jar.

When I was a kid (ok, a non-adult kid), I would get an allowance, which I saved for months at a time just to buy the latest Iron Maiden cassette or similar musical offering. I would often stick the dollar a week into a certain hiding place around my room, only to go back to it or discover it weeks later, realizing I had enough to buy the cassette and commence to rocking out. The lesson I learned from those early days of navigating capitalism was an easy one, out of sight out of mind. If I couldn’t see the money, it was basically not there and I couldn’t spend it. That money, however, still accumulated…no matter how little I added to the hiding spot.

As an adult, I don’t necessarily need a hiding spot to stash my money, but I still recognize the value of slow accumulation. What I do now is, first, clean out one of my continuously emptying peanut butter jars, and then put a dollar in it. An ACTUAL dollar, then slowly, when I find myself holding onto a bit of change or another dollar, or five, or whatever…with no necessity to spend it on…it goes into the jar.

It’s like financial junk miles.

I put five actual dollars in the jar, just like I run five slow miles. It seems as if the money is not helping anything, going unused, and of no substantial amount…just like slow miles seem to not be helping anything, going unused, and of no substantial amount. We know, however, that accumulation is what counts, and although 5 simple miles or 5 simple dollars do not amount to much on their own, when taken as accumulative efforts…adding to the jar of miles or the jar of dollars…suddenly, when it counts…on race day…or when it’s time to buy that wood stove/garden starts/pay for college/etc,…there is suddenly tremendous accumulated value. Nothing about those miles or dollars were ever junk.

And that brings me back to the Because We can run fundraiser.

Some of you have the fortune (literally?) of donating to Family Reach with no sacrifice, and I thank everyone who have already donated with all the gratitude I can muster. You are directly and immediately making the lives of cancer patients better. There is no risk of return in your donation. What you put in can be measured in paid bills and emotional sanity.

For those of you (us) who aren’t so fortunate to often have disposable income to dispose of, who cut coupons and weigh the value of organic vs. rent at the grocery store, I ask of you this…buy a jar of peanut butter.

Eat that jar of peanut butter…the sooner the better, for all of us! Then put that jar on your counter, in a cabinet, in your car, or anywhere that allows easy access. Then put a dollar, or five, in there. Then over the coming days and weeks and months, keep adding to it. Put change and dollars and ACTUAL MONEY into that jar, not keeping a tally of how much is in it, but just letting it slowly, incrementally accumulate. Then at some point, whether periodically throughout my fundraiser or all at once towards the end, count it up and donate it to Family Reach. I think you’ll be surprised just how much of an accumulated benefit you can create a little at a time…and to think, you accumulate this with little expense and sacrifice, but the reward to the families managing cancer will be a veritable fortune, both financially and emotionally.

As a runner who loves peanut butter, understands the obstacles of cancer, and makes due financially, I assure you, the small efforts you make are in no way “junk”, but actual treasure that pay off massively when it really counts.



Run :
6 “Junk” miles

Food :
Special Magic Oatmeal
Stir Fry w/ yellow pepper, mushroom, spinach, & tempeh
Homemade oatmeal cookies
Snacks, dinner, etc. still to be eaten

Music :
This Is Hell – Black Mass


One response to “Junk Miles & Peanut Butter Jars

  1. The principle of especificity says that for to run better run is necessary…the more you run, better you will run! I would say that for run better is needed run more!

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