There is a concept called ‘running naked’. Running free of watches, gadgets, monitors, phones and music; running free of all distractions. I stopped running with music not long after I completed the Podrunner music cued version of Couch to 5K, but I usually run with a watch. I usually run to feel, and have a single data field – distance – showing.
Most of the time I already know the distance markers so it’s like it’s not showing anything at all. My brain has already registered “1km from home is that tree, two kilometres is that roundabout”, or “the turnaround point is 2.1km into parkrun therefore the last 800m is this stretch which makes that bridge around 400m from the finish line”, which makes the distance indicator superfluous. Generally if I’m running to feel I just ignore my time so that’s superfluous too, as is heart rate and pace.
If it’s something like a Masters Athletics run and I’m not familiar with the course then seeing the distance is helpful – one very entertaining day I turned up to a handicapped Masters event and the handicap spreadsheet had clearly been miscalculated, because instead of the 11 minute handicap I was expecting I had a 1 minute handicap, and ended up winning the race (it’s OK – the results were wiped from the records once they realised everyone’s handicap was off). Being able to work out where the 5km turnaround point was likely to be helped a lot because I was missing the usual assistance of being able to judge where it would be from the position of other runners!
In the past I’ve participated at parkrun in the International Day of Running Naked where you predict your time and try and get it without the assistance of pace on your watch and the rhythm of music that you would normally listen to, and it was fun but it made me realise that I always want some record of my run, and because I’m terrible at keeping a training diary, it’s easier if that record is Garmin and/or Smashrun.
You see, I buy a day to a page diary, and fill it out, and forget for a few weeks and start again and stop and then it’s a new year and I need a new diary again. It didn’t have much detail written in it – I’d write down my distance, how it felt, and how I pulled up. Occasionally I’d plug in a few races that were coming up, and when I was training for my first half I’d carefully copied the training schedule into it so that I could plan ahead better.
My problem was I hated carting this book around in my handbag; the only time I seemed to write in it was on the train going to work, probably because otherwise that was dead time that I’d use to read instead. I think Michael Ho’s idea of using a blog is genius but I like to use my blog for writing, not quick notes. Maybe I’ll just start up a second blog, because then I could just tap my entries in via my phone on the way into work.
I ran darkrun tonight and as I was running in the last two kilometres I was thinking about my training diary and all the blank pages while I was injured. I should be using it as a recovery and rehabilitation diary – today I ran, yesterday I did pilates (bench bridges with a 4kg weight on my pelvis!), Sunday night I ran with Jeremy, Saturday morning was a gentle parkrun at Pioneer. It would also be a good reminder for me to be more aware of my body and its aches and pains and how I’ve managed them; when I’ve used the foam roller for a particularly long time on a troublesome body part, or when I needed to massage my calves to loosen them up and what I’d been doing previously that had caused them to seize.
When I look back through old diaries I still remember those runs, when Jeremy paced me and I cracked under 27 minutes for a 5km, when I ran a terrible 14km training run for my first half and decided that my nutrition strategy was going to need some serious work unless I was prepared to walk for the final quarter of the race. You leaf through and can see the progress, recognise how far you’ve come.
After darkrun Danielle and I were talking about how buoyant you feel after an unexpected PB, a “where the hell did that come from?” moment. And I thought: you need that training diary, Kelly. Unless you get a coach who can sit back and look at the bigger picture, you need to be able to leaf through something and recognise when you’ve been putting in effort and where it’s paid off.