An Ultra-Runner Explains the Real Magic of 10,000 Steps


Today’s modern technology makes it possible to measure more metrics about the ways we exercise than ever before. For example, with running we can look at our mileage, pace, and heart rate. The numbers help us establish a baseline so we can track our progress, and can even motivate us to go farther or work harder.

But what if we took a different view when we looked at our data—and saw how amazing our human factors really are. Our numbers can be like pats on the back, so to speak, and remind us of what we’ve accomplished. That can be pretty motivating, too.

While my Fitbit Surge measures distance, pace, and heart rate, it also (like other Fitbit trackers) registers steps. There is a growing interest in measuring foot turnover and cadence as a way of improving running efficiency. But I’m also interested in the total number of steps taken during a given run. I recently returned from a trip to Haiti, where it took 496,220 steps to run the 230 miles across the island nation. There was some zigging and zagging involved, so the actual distance covered was closer to 250 miles. Applying this same type of calculation, when I once ran from Los Angeles to NYC, I would have taken nearly 6.5 million steps linking one coast to the other. If the recommended daily fitness goal is 10,000 steps, I should be good for about the next two years!

You could also see data in a really humanizing way, when looking at your body. When I ran 50 marathons in 50 states in 50 consecutive days, my heart beat 1,314,000 times. And while running the Badwater Ultramarathon, a particularly grueling 135-mile race across Death Valley, I consumed nine gallons of liquid, which is roughly half my bodyweight. I’ve been using my new Fitbit-connected hydration bottle from Thermos and can tell you that in a normal day, I drink about 3% of that volume.

Hopefully this alternative way of looking at data has added a human element to the world of metrics and measurements. We are human, after all. If nothing else, I hope this encourages you to take more steps and drink more fluids, especially if the temperature approaches 130ºF on your next run.

21 Comments   Join the Conversation

21 CommentsLeave a comment

  • Just do your best to move every hour and you will be surprised how quickly steps accumulate. I’m shocked at how many steps I take in the grocery store or at the mall. Just keep moving!

  • I love my Fitbit Blaze. This wonderful gadget was never in my crosshairs. After my sister let me borrow her Charge I was hooked. I have far exceeded 10,000 steps daily and the Fitbit makes it easy and motivating!!!

    • I am 70 years old and recently logged 47,144 steps in a day. That number could have been higher, but I decided to let my body rest from doing 200,000+ steps in 5 days. People who begin doing 10,000 steps when they are young can stay very active when they are older and increase their numbers.

  • Isn’t 34-35 ounces equal to about 3% of nine gallons? The author says he drinks about 3% of nine gal on average day. Seems low. Am I drinking too much H2O if I often drink a gallon a day in Florida? I’m in my 50s, 250 lb, 6’6″, run & lift only about 3 days/week.

    • Steve- I’ve read you should drink about half your weight in ounces every day! I too drink about a gallon a day!

  • I’m totally into fitness, eating healthy and having an active lifestyle. But, it sounds to me that some of this extreme runners “accomplishments” sound dangerous. Why run 3 continuous days without sleep??

    • I totally agree Maddie! Does not sound like a healthy balance and sounds like he does not have a real
      job. I work hard to average about 16,000 steps a day while balancing work, family and volunteer responsibilities. I imagine this guy does nothing else but run.

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