Exploding Subcompacts & Running Goals | 69.39 Miles


When motivation sags and the weather turns against you trail running goals are critical.They can get us off the couch and back on the dirt where we belong. But, surprisingly they can have a negative effect as well. Yep, negative.

I recently fell down an internet worm hole reading the story a 1970’s American-made sub compact – the Ford Pinto. It hit the streets in 1971, seven years before I was born and in the dawn of an oil crisis that would eventually end the reign of the American muscle car. The Pinto was a smoking deal that was designed to compete with recent fuel frugal Japanese imports. It even had a legendary feature that came standard on all models.

It had a habit of bursting into flames when rear-ended.

But they only bust into flames when rear ended at high *cough* speeds. Speeds in excess of 35 mph. Yep. 35 miles per hour. For context, that’s about the speed of a rabbit. The furry kind, not the VW kind. What do exploding Ford Pintos and trail running have in common?

To answer that we have to dive into the story of the Pinto. It started with lofty goals set by Lee Iococa immediately after he took the reins at the Ford Motor Company. The goals where straight forward dictating that  “The Pinto was not to weigh an ounce over 2,000 pounds and not cost a cent over $2,000.”. The result?

Unfortunately to meet these goals corners where knowingly cut in manufacturing to maintain the $2K retail price target. This had a dramatic and negative impact on consumer safety. Low speed rear end collisions with other cars would rupture the gas tank. Every. Single. Time. When combined with a spark from dragging metal or a Camel full flavor…. things obviously got ugly.

More frightening was the fact that rear-end collisions at higher speeds almost always jammed the doors shut on the Pinto trapping occupants inside. It was a nasty combo for cars that often bust into flames.

Even more frightening is that all of the above was  known before the Pinto made it to market. A simple cost analysis determined that the financial toll (lawsuits) from the number of expected deaths due to fire would not threaten the profit margin of the sure to be popular car. So it went to market as designed. 27 consumer deaths where reported.

Seriously…. what does this have to do with trail running?

I believe there are lessons to be learned from the story of the Ford Pinto. Lofty goals can help us achieve incredible feats. But, when we become blind slaves to the goals, and no longer assess the big picture, consequences can be ugly.

This blog started with what feels like a lofty goal, at least for an average runner like myself. The goal is to run 1200 miles of trail by the end of the year and I’m making some headway. I’ve covered 74 miles to date.

But, last week in the New River Gorge of West Virginia the weather turned on us a bit. The trails eventually where covered by 6 or so inches of snow. On top of that I was pulling long hours at work. The result was a week long break from my trail running. It only took about 24 hours before my lack of time on the trail crept into my mind. I need to average about 25 miles a week to reach my mileage goal so every day off the trail felt like a failure.

When the weather finally turned and the snow melted a bit I found myself hesitant to get back out there knowing that my time off would make covering the miles I needed even more difficult.

It was at that moment that I realized my 1200 mile goal had just turned Ford Pinto on me. I’d lost sight of the big picture and forgotten the real goals that govern my running:

  1. Have Fun
  2. Get Centered
  3. Let Go

This doesn’t mean I’m retiring my 1200 mile target, but I can tell you this.  When I finally hit the trails in several inches of wet, slippery as snot snow I ran slow. Very slow miles in the ballpark of 11 to 14 minutes each. It hurt. It was cold.

I had a blast.

When it comes to trail running goals it’s the lofty ones that can propel us to new and amazing personal bests. But, their motivational power can turn against us clouding our judgement and causing us to lose sight of the things that matter. The results can be injury, stress and loss of enjoyment. Set that bar high and push your limits, but don’t lose sight of why you started running to begin with!

What are your lofty running goals? How do you keep them in check?

1,130.61 miles to go.