I am a data nerd. Because of that, I love my GPS and all the wonderful information it provides me. On every single run, I can know my distance, pace, elevation, mile splits, fastest pace, slowest pace, and more. It is a wealth of information and I love having that readily available for me to dissect and devour. But a few weeks ago, disaster struck. I lost my charging cord for my GPS, and so had to go several days without it.
The first day, I was so anxious that I almost didn’t even run. After all, if I don’t post my run on Strava, did it really happen? I thought about just bringing my old-school Timex Ironman watch, but the battery on that was dead too. What was I to do? I sucked it up, put on my big boy shorts, and ran a loop that I know is 6.3 miles long. And you know what? It was one of the most enjoyable runs I’ve had in a very long time!
It made me realize that having a GPS, or even a regular watch, is inviting yourself to be distracted almost constantly. For me, I have a tendency to check my GPS every few minutes to verify I’m not running too slow or too fast, or see how far I’ve gone, or just for the heck of it. This interrupts my train of thought and makes me enslaved to this device.
As a runner, I like the runs where I just zone out and let my mind wander. Running is very therapeutic for me because it lets me take some time to think about whatever is on my mind. It’s my “me” time where I can just be alone with my thoughts. Having my GPS alert me every mile takes me out of my revelry and disrupts my train of thought, making the runs seem longer and less enjoyable. Running without a watch removes the temptation to see how far I’ve gone, and so the run goes by quicker.
Running without a watch or GPS also allows me to run entirely on feel, and not care about the pace. As a runner and a coach, I really don’t care how fast or how slow an easy run is. In fact, I believe it is nearly impossible to run too slow on an easy day. Yes, if you typically run 8:00 pace on your easy runs, and go 12:00 pace one day, that is too slow, but for me, I’d rather see someone run a bit slower and recover better than go too quick and not be as recovered. Leaving your GPS at home allows you to not even worry about your pace, and just go at whatever speed feels good that day. Maybe you’re feeling good and doing 7:30 pace, or perhaps you are fatigued and can only do 9:00 miles that day. Who cares? What’s important is that you run whatever pace feels comfortable and listen to your body.
Now, this only applies to easy runs. I still live and die by my GPS for long runs, tempo runs, marathon pace runs, and any run where I don’t have a predetermined loop in mind. After all, I can’t just go out and run for time! That would be insanity! GPS watches are invaluable training tools that let you monitor your pace in real time, which is crucial for doing workouts off the track. But for your day to day easy runs, where pace doesn’t matter and the times are made up, try leaving the watch at home and see how it goes. You just may find out that it makes your running more enjoyable!