“The Running Test That Has Tormented Sport’s Biggest Stars Turns 50.” Thus was the title of an email I received from Runner’s World. Puzzled, I read Mark Dent’s article in its entirety, seeking especially the reason why “tormented” was the tantalizing adjective chosen to describe this simple fitness test.
The reader in me learned that this test is a 12-minute run on a standard quarter-mile track, running as fast as you can to see how many laps you are able to complete. The test had been developed by Dr. Kenneth Cooper for the Air Force in the 1960’s (and is often referred to as the Cooper Test) and had since been used by championship World Cup soccer, NFL, and college basketball teams, FIFA referees, police recruits, and high school athletic programs. Studies confirmed a correlation between the number of laps to VO2 Max—an indicator of aerobic, or oxygen-carrying, capacity of individuals which is why it was an effective and objective measure.
The runner in me wanted to know how I fared in this brutal test against time. Unfortunately, the closest high school running track is closed to the public (grrrrrr), so I did the test on the trusty treadmill in my chilly basement while my dog stared at me with his why-aren’t-you-taking-me-running eyes. The article stated that for women in their 20s-30s, four laps is fair, five is good and six is excellent. Yes, I’m officially 40, but I can hold myself to a higher standard because this is my test and my treadmill.
I ran 6.8 laps.
The writer in me had to write down this meager accomplishment before it got lost in my running logs only to be discovered posthumously by my daughters who may or may not give a hoot if their mother could run the Cooper Test at the age of 40. It wasn’t the most fun, but it didn’t kill me. I slowed down my initial pace just slightly after five laps, but then sped up again during the last two minutes. It is an interesting test because, unlike typical races and tempo runs, you are not finishing a certain distance; your finish is dictated by the clock. And, FYI, getting mad at the clock won’t make it go any faster.
A little detail tickled my attention and perhaps made me want to try the test even more: The article stated that author John Grisham approached Dr. Cooper at a fundraiser and told him, “I hate you. We had to take that darn 12-minute test so many times.” But also that he’s “still running.”
Ah, taking the Cooper Test, I’ve now crossed metaphysical paths with John Grisham. Perhaps next time we’ll cross paths will be on the New York Times Bestseller list. Until then, John, I’m “still running” too, and maybe next time I’ll hit lap 7.
(Take that 20 and 30 year olds!)