I had just purchased my first pair of running shoes and had laced up for my very first run…ever. The course was pretty basic (same loop I run today). A residential road branches off the county highway. It comes to an intersection leading to three cul-de-sacs. There are no outlets (except for the highway which has no shoulders for pedestrians). If I run in my neighborhood, I run to the highway (hitting all of the cul-de-sacs) before returning home. Walking out my door, I knew that it was the only running option I had. I had no idea how long this loop was…or if I could travel the whole distance.
At the last minute, I put on a digital watch. I knew I had one with a stopwatch, but the battery had died. This one was as primitive as they got…hours and minute…that’s it.
I wrote down the start time when I left home. I wrote down the finish time when I got home. I then got in the car and drove around the neighborhood with my trip odometer set to zero. When I got home, it read 2.9 miles. I calculated my minutes/mile…and had no idea what it meant. Was I fast, or slow, or average? I had no idea.
A new love, a new obsession was born.
Shortly thereafter, the existence of GPS watches became known to me…something call a “Garmin”. It was my next purchase.
Between that moment and the end of 2014, the fixation was on speed and distance. How far and how fast became the driving concerns. It was all about the numbers..the experience was secondary. Anyone who followed this blog during my 2014 will nod in agreement if they remember my weekly workout summaries…how many minutes spent swimming, how many miles on the bike, the % increase in running distance from the previous week, and the % increase in overall workout time from the prior week. It was a whole damn spreadsheet of data that I would mine for insight and revelation. I still have it all (hell, I published it all as an appendix to a shutterfly photo book with all of my Ironman race photos). I still flip through those pages to remember the journey. In looking back, I recall just how insane it all was…
After that season, the big dream was gone. I don’t know if that was the reason, but I started getting slower…a lot slower. I maintained some decent mileage (nothing like 2014) but that was slowly dwindling as well.
My number crunching became more and more depressing…and my hobby became less and less enjoyable. I wonder if that is because my hobby was the numbers, not the running experience.
Running became a chore without a payoff and my training for Fargo was a joke. I planned to step away from racing after that event and to reconnect with running.
This weekend was the first step in that journey. Over the three day weekend, I went for three runs…the first time I have strung together that many consecutive runs since last October. I also did something unheard of…I left the Garmin behind. I would be running “naked”…free of the pace, heart rate, and split times. I ran two laps each time…likely a little over an hour and likely a little under six miles. I’ll never know for sure. I also left the iPod behind. We had lovely weather all three days. For once, my focus was the experience…and nothing else. Yes, my knees and ankles were sore, and this was hard work, but I was trying to set up good habits…once that can become a routine with long term health benefits and something I can sustain and enjoy.
I am also, I realize, connecting with the activity of running, and not the statistics of the sport. It was a different experience.
These were also three of the most enjoyable runs I have had in a long time…