Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Do the gadgets really make me a better runner?

Until this summer,  I didn't have a GPS watch and quite literally just ran a certain distance and then ran home again when I was training for my first two marathons.  It was all a bit haphazard, and although I did the tiniest bit of fartlek, 'cause I've always quite enjoyed that, the benefits of interval training, tempo runs, and making such my long run was at the right pace were all an absolute mystery to me.

However, this summer, I bought myself a Garmin 405 on the recommendation from a fellow runner from Twitter.  I fell in love.  I'm sure this little gadget improved my running pretty much overnight and in the races that I have done, I think I owe my improved times (in part) to having that constant reminder that I'm not going fast enough.  My problem, you see, is that I'm very lazy, and so easily slow down to a jog without really realising that my pace has evaporated - with my watch on, I keep an eye on my pace, and manage my runs much more effectively.  Added to that of course is the very convenient distance tracker, and being able to study your run when you get home again, but that, for me, is an incidental bonus.

On my first three runs of this year though, I have run without my watch.  I wanted to ease back into my running after I (almost accidentally) took a couple of weeks off over Christmas, and so thought I'd just get out there and run.  No iPod either which I pretty much always take out with me too. Just me...

But now I'm a bit confused.

My Garmin is frustrating as well as amazing.  I have to keep recharging the battery pretty much every evening.  I have to take my gloves off to operate the touch sensitive bezel.  I have to keep looking at my wrist every two minutes when I'm wearing it to check my pace and it keeps me, if not 100%, then 90% focussed on the task in hand.

This morning on my run something happened that I've not experienced before.  I was running up a pretty challenging hill, that usually causes me to take a rest at the top, in a dilapidated bus shelter that's very conveniently placed.  As I got near to the top and could see the shelter, I was thinking, as I usually do:
"....keep going, just a couple of hundred yards, and I'll be done...just a minute more...keep going, it's not that painful, just up to the top...keep going, and then I can stop.  Keep going, and then you can stop....."

And on I ran.  Then I started thinking of something else, and my mind wandered.  I was thinking about work and completely forgot what I was doing -  when I came to again...I was half way down the other side of the hill! I didn't need to stop after all, despite the fact that pretty much every time I run this route, I think I absolutely couldn't put another step further without a rest.

So, without the running aids, and the constant focus on the run itself, I actually became unaware of the pain and the effort - I think I should start running a bit more often without the gadgets.  That must just be what I need to keep going!

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