Running in its purest sense is a repetitive action that propels you forwards. The constant tapping of your feet on the ground creates a rhythm, a beat if you like and the tap, tap tap of your trainers can become hypnotic, however, in a curious way, even though you are moving, everything around you is largely standing still.
As a runner how do we know what speed we are travelling at ? We check our garmin or other such time pieces. How often do we need to check our garmin ? Will it have changed significantly a hundred meters further along our route, probably not. What if we didn’t look at our watches but went on feel occasionally to measure our efforts ?
As I ran down Old Winchester hill last weekend I paused my watch, took in the views, snapped the photo above and set off again. Some time later I realised I hadn’t started my watch, initially I was a bit peeved, there may have even been a swear word but it dawned on me that I’d hardly looked at it from the start of my run anyway so why was it such a big deal.
Pace is very subjective, your pace and someone else’s pace are only comparable when you are both running the same terrain. All sorts of factors come into play, the wind, your route, how you slept etc and none of these are reflected on your garmin. A good example of this is your personal best, the clue is in the question, it’s “your” best so don’t compare it to other peoples.
Now, are you ready for this, for the remainder of my exercise I switched off my watch. Switched off his watch !! I can hear the gasps, the cries of dismay, the “did he really say that” comments. Just take a minute to digest this and I will explain.
Firstly it felt liberating, like I’d taken off my shirt when arriving at the beach, secondly I felt empowered, I could do exactly what I wanted and it wouldn’t reflect on a Strava post. It was almost like having the TV remote control in my hand, I could pause, fast forward or even rewind if I wanted to. How would I cope ??
The South Downs are a very special place and I’ve really missed running here, without any time expectations I pondered what actually dictates the pace you run at, other than your watch. I discovered that looking at the bigger picture can be quite enlightening.
Hills, they certainly slow you down but at the same time they are building up your strength, willpower and resilience. Generally speaking whatever you run up you will run back down so that’s a real benefit, coupled with that glow of satisfaction once you’ve scaled your chosen hill.
The wind is another resistance factor that you have to endure but it makes your cheeks tingle and reaffirms that you are outdoors, you are alive and you won’t give in. Naturally you’d hope that on your return leg the wind will be behind you but curiously this rarely seems to be the case, ha ha !!
The temperature can be a blessing or a burden but ultimately with the correct kit and hydration it ought to be manageable. Your watch won’t tell you that you haven’t been drinking enough until it’s too late.
The terrain, are you running on soft mud or baked Summer soil that’s had ruts moulded into it. Have you run this way before ? Do you know what’s around the next corner ? Is there livestock that you need to look out for or maybe a family walking there inquisitive dog ?
What dictates our pace and how we measure it can only recorded with elapsed time on your watch so take a break. Maybe just press start and finish without considering the seconds, minutes and hours in-between.
Try it as an experiment and consider which factors are shaping your run, this way you will absorb why, where and how your run went therefore allowing you to consider which elements you can work on instead of purely “clocking” it.
There’s no such thing as a bad run and because no two runs are the same you can take something positive from every outing. Just because you aren’t running at your desired pace this doesn’t mean you aren’t having a good run.
Running doesn’t need to be mechanical (for most of us) it’s emotional, ever changing and you are always learning so it’s worth fully experiencing every step. Your timings are a good indicator but from now on I’m going to embrace my whole run and how it unfolded rather than just what the Strava upload tells me. Naturally these are just my observations but I’m glad I forgot to start my watch because it’s given me a new perspective.
In summary, don’t be a slave to your watch, take as much out of your running experience as possible by noting what effects you. Be the boss, set your own rhythm according to your surroundings, try listening to your running drum beat.
Thanks for reading