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No Watch. No iPod. No Problem.

Posted by Ty Velde  April 11, 2009 09:27 AM

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Ask anyone whoís training for a marathon what pieces of equipment are necessary for a successful run, and outside of good shoes, they that will likely say: 1) a Watch and 2) an iPod. Now some may also say a Fuel Belt, but in speaking with many marathon runners, this tends to be a distant third. However, more often than not, the Watch and the iPod are viewed as two essential pieces of marathon gadgetry that we rely on to gauge/monitor performance and motivate us as we run.

The subject of iPodís and their importance has come under recent scrutiny due to some marathons placing bans on them claiming that they pose a safety risk, and in some cases an unfair competitive advantage. (Read this article for more info on this topic.) While this has not stopped people from running with them on Race Day, itís led to some runners feeling like ďoutlawsĒ as they are technically breaking rules that have been put in place by the associated sanctioning body of the race. While my understanding is that this ďbanĒ has been relaxed recently and just applied to runners competing in elite categories, the outcry it raised certainly highlights the important role that iPods and other gadgetry play in running a marathon.

So, why is this? Granted, Iím a focus group of one, but Iím going to put a stake in the ground and say that it has to do with the way we train and the psychology associated with it. When you spend months preparing for a particular activity, you become accustomed to doing things in a certain manner, and no one wants things changed up on them at the last moment. Therefore, when it comes to Race Day, we want to be able to take these items with us, as they have played a very important role in getting us to this particular point. However, one question to ask yourself is, are these items really necessary? I mean, have you or would you consider running without them?

I guess Iím a bit of an anomaly, because since Iíve started running marathons, Iíve never run (a race or trained) with a Watch or an iPod. Granted when I first started running, I did use a Walkman, but when I moved to a more urban environment I put it aside, as I had one too many close calls with errant drivers. Iíve also considered getting a Watch, but still have yet to do so. Therefore, when I tell people this it often leads to some blank stares and a lot of questions.

When answering questions I get on this subject, I most often say that I donít want anything to impact the experience of the ďrunĒ itself. What I mean here is that running to me is a very peaceful experience where I often do some of my very best thinking and problem solving. Therefore, if I were to listen to an iPod would this element be impacted? As for wearing a Watch, while my time on Race Day has always been important, itís never been something Iíve measured as I train. As a result, while training is extremely challenging, I view and measure it based on my stated objective (how far I will run) versus the time associated with it. While this does mean that some of my runs are likely slower than others, it ensures that while I am training Iím really just focused on the run itself, more than my time or splits. For me, the ability to just let my mind wander and not worry about splits or times, makes for a much more relaxing experience as I train.

As a result of the way I have trained, it makes me actually approach Race Day in a completely different manner. Itís the point where I switch my focus from the ďrunĒ, to the ďtimeĒ. While you will not find me wearing a Watch, Iím calculating and estimating splits at each mile marker in my head. As for music and motivation, it comes from the sounds of my fellow runners and the folks lining the course. While Race Day is certainly a unique experience for all of us, for me itís where I shift from being a runner to being a competitorÖgranted the person I am competing against is myself.

While at its core, running a marathon is a physical activity, what Iím getting at here is that psychology plays a big role as well. For me, training and then running on Race Day in absence of a Watch and iPod, has been a key component to keeping and maintaining that psychological edge which accompanies the physical challenges of running a marathon. Itís also whatís enabled me to approach training as something to be enjoyed and as a means to, dare I say, relax. At the same time, itís also ensured that on Race Day, while physically Iím ready to run... psychologically, Iím ready to compete.

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2 comments so far...
  1. Runners shouldn't use iPods - it changes your stride from what it should be (for your body) into something unnatural. Besides, running about enjoying the moment and taking everything in, clearing your head. And if you're running in Boston, you want to be able to hear the car that's about to hit you.

    Posted by Ben April 12, 09 08:15 AM
  1. Running is many things to many people, and to some, it is rhythm. I can assure you that runners used to using iPods have quite a natural stride. During a long run variation in strides and adjustment may even make for less wear and tear. For me an iPod is a motivator, rhythm keeper, and just a way to relax and let the time pass with less effort. The cars have never been an issue with closed streets.

    Posted by Holdeman April 17, 09 03:09 PM
 
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