Saturday, February 14, 2009

And miles to go before I'm elite

Tom arrived home from his biggest mile run; big smile and big tired. Mile running is hard to explain to non-runners - basically you fly to nowhere just to accumulate frequent flyer miles. The trick is to book a cheap ping-pong style route that provides the lowest cent per mile cost possible using arcane mathematical formulas known only to the shadowly underworld of mile runners. The miles can then be redeemed on a more desirable and expensive route, or - often more importantly - put you over the top to qualify for elite status another year.

I went with Tom two years ago on an nine-segment mile run. This year I stayed home since only one of us needs to be Platinum Elite with Continental in order to get a decent chance at upgrades. And that, my friends, is how po' folks get to sit in first class. For those of you who are still confused, offers an outsider's look at mile running.

Here are the stats from Tom's trip:

  • Total time: 60 hours

  • Total segments: 8

  • Total train rides: 4

  • Total airports: 5

  • Total miles: 21,932 (including elite bonus) (25,000 = free domestic trip)

  • Total cost: $109 (after $100 voucher)

  • Cents per mile: .004

  • Upgrades to first class: 3

  • Movies watched: 2

  • Books read: 1

  • Airline meals eaten: 6

When mile running, day becomes night and night becomes day. Sleep comes at your best opportunity either on the flight or the occasional airport that has a comfortable enough spot that you can actually lay flat. Few experience the pleasure of strolling a completely still airport at 3 a.m. and the relief of focusing completely on the journey at hand because there is no destination to worry about.

At 30,000 feet there are no phone calls, e-mails, demands. Deadlines wait until you land. When the captain announces the flight will be 5 hours and 30 minutes, you look out your window and see a plateau of clouds stretching for a seeming eternity tinted with red-orange at sunrise. What is there to do? Nothing! The bliss! Time to think; there is no better place to contemplate life.


  1. Very interesting concept. Except, most people don't have 60 more more hours to spend flying around for extra miles. The cost to you in this case is Time. Is this really worth it? It all depends on your perspective and time/place in life.

    Thanks for the insight though. Never knew about this until I read your post.

  2. Good question.

    In our case, based on what we are paid, it's well worth the time.

    Also, Tom just loves to fly. He actually looks forward to these things.