The first time I went running, I didn’t wear a watch.
Shocking, I know.
I only ran in school when it was required by my [insert team sport] coach, and running on my own just for fun or fitness wasn’t really my thing. I didn’t start running for exercise until I was about 20 years old. Even then, I never ran for time. I knew exactly how far it was to the corner and back and called it good if I made it without stopping to walk or pass out.
When I started training for my first marathon in 2004, online mapping sites were just starting to be a thing. I remember using a site to route a 20 miler around my house that summer. I had no idea what I was doing but was fascinated by the technology. I was using Training Peaks to keep track of my training schedule (it was a freebie subscription) and for a few years I was pretty diligent about using it to log my workouts. I was mostly concerned about pace (like everyone else) and wasn’t too dependent on the other data.
For the past ten years I’ve mostly used a regular Timex watch with a stopwatch feature to time my runs. I started using a GPS about two years ago and immediately got hooked on the instant gratification of seeing my pace on the display. At first that was enough. And then I started uploading workouts to the web site. And then the miles started adding up. And before I knew it, I was snapping photos of the Garmin watch as proof of my day’s run and obsessively charging the watch every night. Because if I couldn’t have that watch for a run, it felt like it wasn’t real; it didn’t happen. BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE NO DIGITAL PROOF.
When Josh proposed his “Run Data Free” assignment last week, my first thought wasn’t “Sweet! Let’s do this!” It was, “BUT THE DATA.” I started to twitch about the idea of running unplugged before I’d even laced up my shoes.
- Go for a run for 30 minutes.
- No digital tracking devices allowed, including watches.
- Write out three paragraphs (WITH A PEN, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS HOLY). Let someone read it.
But I hate to back down from a challenge, so I decided to do it. And let’s be honest: my pace has really been bumming me out during this pregnancy; I figured it might be a good thing to go out and run without obsessing over numbers.
I had a very limited window of time to get this done; Scott was working all weekend. I turned an errand to the post office into my homework and took off.
There aren’t too many good things to say about this run in terms of pace or how it felt. Truth: it wasn’t one of my better days (physically) and it took me much longer than 30 minutes to get back home. But there were positives:
- If my body started barking at me, I took the time to walk, readjust clothing, etc. If I’d been wearing my Garmin, I would have been thinking, but if I slow down now it’s going to ruin my average pace. Stupid. When the body talks, you need to listen. Especially when you’re six months pregnant.
- I stopped worrying about pace completely and just focused on moving comfortably. Even though I was running a familiar route where I knew where the miles would tick off, it wasn’t at the front of my mind. I just ran.
- When I got back home, I felt like I’d still gotten in a good morning of exercise and wasn’t tripping out about my slower than usual pace. It ended up feeling really good.
Writing about the run on paper was different than blogging about it. I gave myself the limit of one small notebook page. When I got down to the bottom, I was a little sad I didn’t have more room to write, but I got over it. After all, I didn’t cure cancer. I went out for a recreational jog.
Going through this exercise allowed me to think about why I run. That seems like a simple question, but is it?
There are hundreds of reasons why we, as runners, do what we do. And I don’t mean to invalidate any of those reasons, because if they work for you and get you on the road, then I think they’re good reasons.
But when I thought about why I run, other questions arose.
Do I run for social media validation?
Do I run simply so I can post something to my little blog?
If I had to run GPS-less for now on, would I still do it?
Would I enjoy it?
Am I capable of enjoying a run with a “bad” pace as much as a “good” pace?
Do I run to make someone else happy/impressed?
Do I run for me?
The truth is, I’ve answered yes to all these questions at some point, but ultimately, I run because I genuinely enjoy the act of running and most importantly, I DO IT FOR ME. And I think this is the only motivating factor that will keep you running past the training cycle or run streak challenge or C25K program. Eventually, and perhaps even now, no one will care if you got out and ran today. And if that’s the case, will you still go?
My answer is yes. I’ll keep running. And it took this little silly assignment to remind me of that.
I’ve made the decision to run out the rest of my pregnancy data-free and not obsess about losing a handful of miles from my annual total. I can’t say I’ll stop posting to social media, because I believe that in our little running community, when we see other people getting out there and getting it done, it’s motivating (Hi, Jenna!).
And don’t get me wrong – timing devices certainly have their place in our sport, and if you’re training for something specific, they’re great tools. I don’t see giving up my Garmin any time soon or deleting all the data. But leaving the watch at home has helped me enjoy the few minutes I have each opportunity I’m able to put on my shoes and go. It’s making me look at running for the rest of this pregnancy in an entirely new light. I strongly suggest you give it a try.