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The Five Stages of Mileage Running

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Earlier this month, TPG Intern Kevin Song went on a 72-hour mileage run, including four Atlantic crossings, two transcons and a round-trip to Honolulu. Here are his five stages of mileage running.

Mileage running isn’t for everyone. The notion of sitting on a plane for hours on end to go absolutely nowhere is silly at best, and few would be crazy enough to do it.

A long mileage run can be quite fast-paced, with few hours on the ground, and everyone has their own methods of coping with the relentless boarding, lack of humidity and cramped quarters.

On my trip, I experienced an ebb and flow of emotions, and so I present: the five stages of mileage running.

Mileage Run GIF
Stage 1: Excitement

Stage 1: Anticipation

“Oh BOY! I love flying, so this weekend will be a ton of fun! I can’t wait to see how pretty Hawaii is from the air.”

Our journey starts the week leading up to the first flight. Symptoms of stage 1 include telling everyone and their mother about your crazy weekend ahead, excitedly, only to be met with odd stares and more than one, “Wow, you’re crazy!”

But you don’t care — nobody can rain on your parade right now, and you hurriedly tell everyone who doubts you how many miles you’d earn that weekend! They don’t care, but you know the value of the weekend.

At some point, it occurs to you to tell your parents about your crazy weekend, and they look worryingly at each other, thinking to themselves, “What’ve we done to raise a kid who would do something as crazy as this?”

Stage 1 can last all the way up to halfway through your first flight, sometime after your first meal service and when settling into your first movie. Before you know it, stage 2 creeps up on you.


Stage 2: Calm
Stage 2: Calm

Stage 2: Calm

“Alright, let’s see … should I read my magazine first, find a movie or watch some TV?

The world’s your oyster, and sometime after the flight attendants pick up the last service items and give you your bottle of water for the flight, you settle down into your seat. You might hit the bathroom, gaze outside for a few minutes, and settle down with your Bose noise-canceling headphones.

Before you know it, you’re somewhere between dreamland and your favorite movie. It’s a great time to catch up on some shorter TV shows, and you might have a show that you used to love but haven’t caught up with in awhile. Me? I chose to settle down with a few episodes of Masterchef, The O.C. and Friends.

The plane cabin dims and before you know it, you’re on to the next stage…

Stage 3: Sleepiness and Boredom
Stage 3: Sleepiness and Boredom

Stage 3: Sleepiness and Boredom

“Whaa … ? Did you say something?”

At this point, the subtle satisfaction of watching some of your favorite shows fades — you navigate your in-flight entertainment system over to the “Now in Theaters” section and try something new.

For me, I decided to watch Furious 7 — I just had to see what all this Ronda Rousey-as-an-actress hype was about, of course. Now almost five hours into the flight, my eyes started to droop — it was past midnight back home, after all.

Stages 2 and 3 flip-flop back and forth as you board your endless flights. At some point, they start to blend together: “Did I watch Age of Adaline on my Dublin flight? Or my Los Angeles flight? Or my third Dublin flight?” You drift in and out of sleep, walk almost like a zombie to your next gate, and repeat. As much as you try to keep your promise to yourself to get up and walk around every hour, you don’t. By the fourth flight, you’re so stuffed from eating both the main meal and the pre-arrival meal that you begin declining meals — oh, the horror!

Next time, I’ll try out what TPG Editor-in-Chief Zach Honig did on his recent trans-Atlantic United flight, and save the better main meal for pre-arrival when I’m not hungry on departure.

Slowly, the plane life gnaws at you. Every so often, a refreshing shower at the Flagship Lounge might help a little bit, but before long, you’re at it again, on yet another plane.

Stage 4: Dread and Relief
Stage 4: Dread and Relief

Stage 4: Dread and Relief

“Are we there yet????”

Sometime around halfway through, perhaps halfway through the second transcontinental flight, you might think to yourself, as many toddlers have before you, “Are we there yet?” A quick glance at the in-flight entertainment system that you’ve exhausted and set to display the flight path airshow reveals an obvious answer: No. As you stare at the screen, the all-important “Time to Destination” ticks down, slowly. 4:57. 4:56. 4:55.

Sometime later, it hits you. I still have a full three flights left, even after this one. You alternate between dread, anticipating the next flights, and relief every time a major milestone hits. Halfway through the flight. Five flights down, three to go. Halfway through that next flight. Six flights down, two to go.

Back and forth you go, between dread and relief, creating a roller coaster of emotion intertwined with sheer boredom.

Soon, with a huge sigh of relief and a much-needed arrivals shower, you realize that on your fourth time at New York-JFK that weekend alone, you’re finally done with your 72-hours of living on a plane.

It’s with that realization that the wave of relief hits you. Your weekend sounded fun just four days ago, but it’s now another couple of flights under your belt, and you just want to get home. You thank the Flagship Lounge agent, as you’re grateful that she allowed you access on arrival even when she didn’t need to.

Stage 5: Excitement
Stage 5: Excitement

Stage 5: Excitement

Over the next few days, the miles you’ve earned slowly start trickling in to your American AAdvantage account. At first, the earnings seem small: “I did all of that work for a couple of thousand miles??” But then, the remainder of your flights start posting, along with bonuses and other promotions.

Finally, you gaze in wonderment of your AAdvantage account crossing another 100,000 threshold, and realize it was all worth it after all.

Before long, you’re poring over award charts, seeing what you can do with your newly enhanced account balance. First-class flights on Cathay Pacific to Asia? Yes, please! Taking Etihad’s The Apartment? No problem.

You start looking at your work calendar, seeing when you might be able to take vacation. This is the fifth stage: excitement. Incessant planning, even though you don’t really have any concrete plans yet.

I’m currently going through stage 5, and I’ll be sharing my mileage-earning details tomorrow, along with what I plan on doing with my elevated account balance.

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