I’m a running purist.
I don’t run with an iPod (most of the time). I don’t have a Camelback (although if someone gave me one I would probably use it everyday). I don’t use a heart rate monitor, pace keeper, step counter, GPS watch, or any other newfangled gadget that is suppose to make you a better runner.
However, when I lost my watch/timer, I felt like I’d lost part of myself. Am I running fast or not? Am I pushing myself? How can I tell if I don’t know my splits?
After a few runs without my watch, I found I was much more relaxed. I enjoyed just running at “my own pace.” I don’t think I ever knew what my pace was before. I was always following my watch’s pace as she relentlessly shouted at me, “Speed it up poky!”
Feeling the peace of my new found freedom, I decided to take the ultimate step of pace independence. I entered a half-marathon sans stopwatch! No glancing at my watch. No splits. No digital coach sitting on my wrist. No timer condemnation.
For the first few miles, I felt my feet fly over the pavement keeping step with some impressive looking men. You know the type – guys who are secure enough in their abilities and running musculature to actually dawn the short-short running shorts.
“Maybe I should slow down? I can’t possibly keep pace with these guys,” I thought to myself. But why not, if I felt comfortable with this pace, why not keep it! I know my watch would have told me to slowdown. But Ms. Timekeeper wasn’t there so I kept pushing.
After a few more miles, I lost sight of the fleet feet and was now in the company of pavement pounders – the ones you can hear plodding up behind you.
“Have I slowed down or has everyone else sped up?” I asked even though I knew the answer. Where was my focus? I had a feeling it was sitting on my bedside table at home, ticking away the seconds.
Finally, a middle-aged lady in bright red with cellulite and an awkward gait trotted up beside me.
“I’ve gotta ask,” I panted, “what is our time.” I felt instantly betrayed . . . by myself. Purist indeed. I only lasted 7 miles before I had to know how a watch would feel about my performance.
“We’re doing around 8 minute, 10 second miles.” I couldn’t believe it. I was just a hair off my expected pace. All I had to do was stay with the Lady in Red. However, when we reached mile 8, Red consulted her watch, seemed displeased, and picked up her pace.
Had we slowed down? Was she shooting for under 8 minute miles? Why did she leave me in the dust? Didn’t she know I needed her!
“Just keep your pace,” I said to myself. Struggling to keep my form and rhythm, I finished within my expectations with a time of 1:48, about 8 minute 15 second miles.
Could I have finished stronger if I didn’t take off so fast? Had I taken off as fast as I thought or was I consistent? Did I slow down at the finish? Did I really do my best? Only my watch could tell me, and she wasn’t there. And if she had a few friends like a heart rate monitor to tell me if I was really working as hard as I could, and a hydration backpack to avoid those costly water station walks, I bet I could have shaved my time to better than 8 minute miles.
Still, I vow to never take steroids. So I can still call myself a purist, right?
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