Over the past year, my running watch and I have developed a very close relationship. We’re a bit too close, actually. To be honest, it’s getting obsessive. My watch has taken complete control over my running. Many of my running friends have noticed this.
Tara (an elite runner and marathoner from my running group) commented on this while we ran together on Saturday. I was talking to her about my pacing.
“Tara, (looking at my watch) I try to stay at an 8 minute pace for all my long races. (looking at watch) Sometimes, though, I notice my watch says 7:45, so I start to slow down. (looking at watch) Then a few minutes later, I notice it says 8:15, so I start to speed up again. (looking at watch) What should I do during the marathon when my pace is slower or faster than the pace I want to run? “ (looking at watch)
Tara gave me a funny look. She explained that my races, and even my regular runs, shouldn’t revolve around my watch. Any number of things can happen to me on marathon day that can influence my time. These include the weather, how tired I am, if I have a cold, my nerves, if I’m stressed about something else going on, and more. There is no way to predict any of these factors ahead of time.
According to an article I read on a running website: “Do not be a slave to a set pace. Pace is determined by the average time it takes to cover a distance over several miles. To keep your body in a relaxed state, you sometimes must allow the conditions to influence just how fast you are running.
“If you have a specific time goal, then it is good to know what your splits should be. However, it’s best to give yourself a window of time. I see some people who are slaves to their watches. If their pace is eight minutes per mile they will do everything in their power to hit exactly eight minutes. For them, it doesn’t matter if there are severe uphills or if it is a crowded section of the race. This can have the effect of expending more energy than necessary. Conversely, I see people running slower than they should on some downhills because they want to hit that time pace.”
Although I plan to follow a pacing group (a group with a leader that runs at a pre-determined pace throughout the entire race) on marathon day, I must pay attention to how I’m feeling on that day rather than blindly following the group. Each of the people in my group may run the same pace as me, and may even have the same marathon goal time as I do, but might feel better or worse than me at any given point in the race.
While I don’t think I’ll be breaking up with my running watch completely, I realize the two of us need some space from each other. Perhaps on some of my runs, I’ll leave it at home. When I do wear it, I’ll make more of an effort not to look at it so often. While I can’t speak for my watch, I know I’ll greatly benefit from this separation.