It’s 6 p.m. on a Monday night, there’s not a cloud in the Florida sky. The temperature is a blazing 93 degrees and I’m hitting the road for a run. I leave my house with no watch and no course in mind. I know it’s going to be brutal but that’s ok—I had a rough day, I need this. As I turn left out the drive I just relax. The trees are still, I am alone and all that’s left to do now is embrace the sweat as it begins to pour from my temples. This is my run. I have nothing to compare this run to, no watch telling me I’m slower or faster than my last run, no benchmark for being better or worse. It is just my after-work run on a Monday night.
When was the last time you went for a run like this? As a running and triathlon coach, I’m always trying to get the very best out of my athletes. Often that requires gathering and tracking data. But there’s value in ditching your data too.
Most runners are goal oriented, and our weekly runs offer an opportunity to check off little incremental goals. And so we instinctively check our watches, and think, “I did two miles at a 10 minute mile pace, not bad,” or, “uh, oh, my mile split was off, gotta pick it up.” It’s not a bad thing to know the metrics or to have goals. However when I ask: How did you feel during your run? Many of my athletes don’t have a clear answer.
It’s important for runners to pay attention to how they feel—and that’s something you can’t get from your Garmin display. I coach all of my runners to take stock of their form, breathing, stride and posture during every run. Learning to perceive how you are running is what brings balance to training.
Additionally, on our bad days the clock can be downright discouraging. And on the best days, we may see that quick mile split and worry that we’re running at an unsustainable pace. Instead of continuing to push you may be tempted to back off.
Furthermore, the person who has the most data doesn’t always win; remember Rocky? When Rocky fought the Russian in “Rocky III” we saw how, on paper, the Russian was the superior athlete. Drago had more power, more strength, and every gadget measured him to be the best. Rocky meanwhile trained without technology. He trained not by computer but by pure drive and effort. Ultimately, Rocky just knew he had it in him!
So next time you lace up, take off your tracking device. Go ahead, I dare you. Try a new route and just run to run. Fast or slow, long or short, the details don’t always matter. Running to free your mind, better your health and experience joy: That’s why I run.