Twenty years ago I checked the time on the stove clock, and set out for a quick paced 8 mile run. After running around town I raced back to check the time. I was ecstatic; my diet of ice cream and popcorn has paid off: I was blazing fast! I anxiously waited for my parents to return home and begged for them to drive my route so I could find out the exact mileage. This drive quickly resulted in the realization that my judge of distance was just as bad as my diet!
Now, many years later, the frustration of driving a route or only going on trails with marked distances has been replaced with the agonizing 30 second wait for a GPS signal lock. Bulky discmans have been replaced with barely noticeable MP3 players connected via Bluetooth headphones. As humorous as watching runners slap large boards covered in Vaseline and lathering it on along the race route was, they are all but gone and replaced with a much more discrete and comfortable body glide.
Over the years running technology has improved and became mainstream. During my run I can tell my pace, distance and duration of the run. Each mile is signaled with a vibrate. When I am done my phone is loaded with data about my run, my cadence, elevation, heart rate and a bunch of other information. I’m probably a lot like other runners, I need this information and whenever a better watch is released that can give me more information I need that! Of course, I explain in great detail to my wife about how this new technology is necessary for me to become a better runner.
But, to be quite honest: the truth is, I don’t need that information. I do like knowing I have it but I don’t want my running time being spent analyzing every detail of my run. The best way for me to become a better runner is to spend that time more productive, running or stretching. I use my watch more as a double check. Rather then focusing on my watch while trying to maintain a specific number, I focus on an average pace and each mile I use my watch simply as a double check to ensure I am on track. When the data isn’t ideal I try to identify potential causes such as increased wind or even an insane hill!
Technology, racing and fueling have changed a lot since I was a teenager toeing the line of my first race. In many ways it is great! I love being able to go back a year or two and compare runs to see just how much my hard work and dedication has paid off. Consider this: cover up your watch or leave it at home all together for some of your runs. You may find yourself enjoying your run even more by looking at a beautiful trail, forest, river or listening to the sounds of nature more then staring at numbers on a watch face and jamming out to *NSYNC.