(Me, 2 years ago)
I fully intended this to be a post about over-reliance on technology. You see, in one week I am running my fourth half-marathon, and I really, really, really want to set a new personal record (PR). I have trained hard, and obsessed over every run, and my biggest dilemma is whether to use my Garmin Forerunner during the race, or whether it will psych me out too much to have all that data strapped to my wrist. For those who don’t live and breathe running, a Garmin Forerunner is a wristwatch with GPS that tracks your pace, distance, and heart rate. It can often walk the line between incredible tool and information overload. But in reflecting on whether I needed the Garmin, it led me down a different direction, which was to realize that whether or not I PR next week is less important than just running! Even when stripped of races and PRs and new shoes and fancy charts and apps, running is at its heart something I do because I love it…and the remarkable thing is that not long ago I would have laughed in your face if you told me that!
Historically, running and I never really got along well. I vaguely remember the 1-mile test in gym class, and I think I spent it strolling around the track chatting with my friends. So not exactly track team material. When I was in college, I was recruited to play rugby because I was the right height for the position they needed to fill, and so I had to do some running. But during winter practice, when the rest of my team ran a mile around the indoor track, my coach let me stop after 1/2-3/4 of a mile, because I was slow like him. (In hindsight I probably should have been slightly offended that I was being compared to my overweight and not terribly active coach, but I was just thrilled I could stop running.)
Several years later, a different rugby coach told me that to improve as a rugger, I had to be able to run for a half hour. It took a lot of slow time on the treadmill, but eventually I did it. In fact, I ended up running a few 5k races after rugby season ended. Unfortunately, in March 2008 I was at rugby practice and tore my ACL (an important ligament in your knee). Between the injury and subsequent surgery/recovery, I had a useful shield against being active. It didn’t matter that my knee had healed, that my doctor said I could do anything, even play rugby again-I could just hide behind “there’s two screws in my knee” and leave it at that.
Then I reached the point in the photo of me up top. It was taken almost exactly two years ago, and I was at my heaviest. Sarah and I made a pact a few days after that photo was taken to eat better and lose weight. I remembered that during my “I can run for 30 minutes, unless you slam into my leg and tear parts of my knee” phase, I dropped weight without trying from running. So I headed out to run a mile and thought I was going to collapse. It was horrible. I never wanted to leave my couch again.
(This is me now, 40lbs lighter!)
It has been two years since that awful run around my block. Last year I ran a lot more than one mile (around 1,100 more) and as I said, next week I will toe the line at my fourth half marathon. It is hard to separate the technology from the hobby, and I probably will wear my Garmin. But rather than be a slave to the paces, or panic at a number too slow or too fast, I am going to remember one thing: this race is a victory lap. I am lighter, healthier, and happier than I was before I started running. I am going to run 13.1 miles, and ten years ago running 1/2 a mile was exhausting. If that exuberance combines with my training to meet my goals, that’s fantastic, but the fact that I will be out there isn’t thanks to my Garmin, or Runkeeper, or fancy shoes…it’s my own hard work.
Do you ever let technology overrule your gut? How do you pull back from being a slave to the numbers? Let us know in the comments!