Monday, January 24, 2011

Six Degrees of Separation

Yesterday morning I rolled out of bed and began the slow process of getting ready for my 12-mile run.  As usual, the first thing I did was pick up my phone and look at the current weather conditions. And as expected, it was a chilly 24° outside. I pulled on pants, a long-sleeve base layer and a pullover, and then topped things off with a hat and what are basically ski gloves.

As I started my run I was struck by the cold. It'll take just a mile or so to get warm, I thought. But even though my muscles eventually  got there, the rest of me didn't. My face got numb to the point where I would have had difficulty talking, and my fingers were freezing. I made it through the run in one piece, but came away struck by how cold 24° felt.

This morning my routine began at about the same time, this time with different results. Today the temperature was 30°, or 6° warmer than yesterday. Instead of pants I put on shorts, and instead of a long-sleeve base layer I elected for one with short sleeves. I walked out the front door and was surprised at just how much warmer 6° felt. I took off down the hill and as I rounded my first turn I already felt warm. My pace was quicker and each breath I took in didn't produce that sharp winter reminder in my lungs. How could 6° make such a huge difference?

As I continued my run I began to wonder if the number 6 has some kind of magical meaning. What other things do we measure that are significantly different when separated by a measure of 6? How about 6 pounds? Over the holidays I ate a lot more than usual and one day noticed I didn't feel like my usual self on a run. I hopped on the scale and found I had gained 6 pounds. Ok, maybe it was 5ish, but I know my weight fluctuates 2-3 pounds all the time and don't notice it.

Can you think of any other measurements where a difference of 6 is suddenly noticeable? Pace? Distance? Ounces of wine or beer? Let me know in the comments.


  1. Loved the shoutout on dailymile! This was the perfect way to finish my lunch! As for the number 6...I know that when I ran New York this year, it was at mile 6 that I became nauseous. I never recovered and with 6 miles to go (at mile 20) I went from being nauseous to having painful stomach cramps, but I managed to finish just over 6 minutes slower (a 3:2"6") than my PR, so that wasn't too bad.

  2. Maybe 6 separates bad from good, but we all know that 4 is the root of all creation.

  3. The last 6 miles of a marathon is suddenly noticeable.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys.

    You're absolutely right, John. In my limited experience the first 20 is nothing like the last 6!