This post isn’t about communications or branding or marketing or advertising. It’s about running. If you’re not interested in running or are not a runner, you can probably stop reading now. Or, keep reading. Whatever you like. But you’ve been warned.
About a month ago, Runner’s World magazine posted an article on their Facebook page about why more people should try running without the help of technology. Why we don’t need our GPS watches or our apps to tell us how far we’ve run or how fast we ran that last mile. This article came at a critical time in my marathon training schedule – about a week before my last long training run before my upcoming race.
Until that last long run (35k), I relied on my watch to tell me how far I had run, what my pace was, how much time had passed. I also use the Nike+ app on my phone for music, but there is also a setting where a friendly gentleman comes on every mile to tell you how many miles you’ve run and how fast you’ve run them. Both technologies were used on my long runs; only the Nike+ app was used on all runs. I was training for my third marathon. I knew that knowing how slow I was running and how long my long runs were taking stressed me out. I knew I would get frustrated looking at my times and thinking “why can’t I run faster?” or “OMG I’ve only run 3 miles?? I have 18 to go! This is taking for ever!” I knew how the technology made me feel, and yet, I thought I needed it. I relied on it.
So, I read the article on Facebook and decided to do my last long run before the race with minimal technological help. I put tape on my watch so only the total distance was visible (elapsed time and pace was hidden). I turned off the friendly gentlemen on the app so it just played music for the duration of the run. I drank my water when I felt I needed it. I ate my gels when I felt I needed them. I slowed down when I needed to. I pretty much just ran.
And you know what? It was my best training run ever. When I was cooling down I took the tape off of my watch and was surprised to see that my average pace was bang on what I wanted it to be on race day. I felt like I could run a few more kilometers, even though I didn’t have to. I felt good after pounding out 35 kms. I was confident, and I think I even had some fun. And it was decided…on marathon day, I would go tech-free, with the exception of music.
October 12, 2014 was the GoodLife Fitness Victoria Marathon, in beautiful Victoria, BC, Canada. I hadn’t packed my GPS watch. I had my phone, and the app was running, but only music was playing. There were no clocks along the route, but each kilometer was marked. In the darkness of the 6:30 a.m. start for the “slow” runners, I felt good. I was going to let my body and my mind decide how this race was going to go. Not my technology. The gun went off, and I started to run.
Feeling good, I went out pretty quick. How quick? According to the updates sent to my Facebook page (which I didn’t see until after the race), I was running about 7:45/km for the first 10k. I felt good. I felt good through the halfway point. I felt good until about 32k. And I walked. But so what? I looked at my phone at one point and saw that 4 hours and 4 minutes had passed. I was impressed that I was as far as I was in that amount of time. I listened to my body and I walked when I needed to. I drank when I needed it. I ate my gels when I needed them. I enjoyed the race and the view and the atmosphere. I had fun.
As I rounded the curve approaching the 40 kilometer mark, I looked at my phone. Starting in the early start meant you couldn’t cross the finish line before 5 hours and 30 minutes (noon). My phone’s battery was very low so nothing was displaying on the screen. So I asked a spectator what time it was. “About 11:51 a.m. You’re doing great!” In my long run brain-dead daze, I couldn’t do the math in my head, but knew I would be fine with crossing the finish line soon. So I kept running. 1 kilometer to go. 800 meters. 500 meters. 300 meters…longest 300 meters ever!.. The finish line!!!! And because I was an early starter, the clock at the finish line was only showing the “regular time:” 3 hours and 30 minutes. I knew I had PR’d, I just didn’t know by how much until I met up with my parents and sister.
I shaved 28 minutes off of my last marathon time. I ran in 5 hours and 40 minutes. I was targeting to finish in 5:50. My response? “Holy fuck!” (Big grin on my face.)
Sure, it’s just one race. But it’s not. It’s one race, and a long run and my taper runs before the race. All run with just music. I didn’t know my pace or time or distance. I just new what was playing in my ears and how my body felt.
Mindful running. It works. And I have been converted.