Week of October 2, 2011:
Timeless running. Doesn’t that sound elegant, like you are running alongside some of the world’s greatest runners from past and present? Perhaps Steve Prefontaine or Kathrine Switzer? Or maybe you are running with people from your own past, like your cross-country team or a favorite coach, someone who inspired you to become a better runner than you thought possible.
I have so many great memories from my running days that the idea of timeless running makes me smile, remembering people and running routes and races that made me glad to be alive and able to run. It’s a blessing, this running thing that we do.
But timeless running also means, quite literally, running without time. My watch died last weekend, and I haven’t fixed it or replaced it yet. (Any thoughts on whether I should try to replace the battery or just buy a new watch? I’m leaning toward replacing the battery because I like my watch and it seems more environmentally responsible to buy a new part than replace the whole thing.) My last two runs have been timeless—I’m running without my dead watch. I pick a route (my favorite loop, in fact!) and I just run it, with no attention paid to how long it takes. I know from previous runs that this loop takes about 25-30 minutes to complete. These days it may be closer to 30 minutes because I’m not in the best running shape right now, so I’m a bit slower than I have been in the past.
It’s liberating to be watchless for a little while. I admit that I love running with a watch; it definitely helps me to run longer and run faster because the watch is an objective gauge of how much effort I should put into my runs. For example, once the 10-minute running warm-up is over, I know I need to start running a bit faster in order to challenge myself during long runs. You can’t get faster if you don’t practice running faster, so I rely on the watch to tell me when it’s time to run faster. But I have a bad habit of compulsively checking my watch, which makes runs seem longer and more tiresome than they really are. Without the watch, I’m freed from my own bad habit, and I feel more connected with my legs and the beautiful evening during which I am lucky enough to run.
What about you? Do you ever leave the watch or the Garmin at home to run by feel and for the fun of it? Are you obsessed with your own running data, or is it sometimes enough to say, “I went for a run. It was nice.”?