Note to Reader: I'm starting a short series of articles that seeks to challenge certain assumptions in ultrarunning. In some cases, we may find that certain assumptions are correct; while in others we may find a new and better viewpoint. This is the first article in the series. Enjoy!
Running has gotten too damned complicated.
Nine years ago I ran in cotton--from head to toe--and in shoes I bought from Famous Footwear.
Today, I have all the latest stuff. In the morning, after I put on my compression shorts, tights, socks, base layer, mid layer, vest, mittens and skull cap (my winter apparel, all of which is super-expensive), I attach my blinking red light and head lamp (so I can see and be seen in the pre-dawn hours), iPhone and iPod. Oh, and then I strap on my RoadID and Garmin GPS watch, along with my Timex Ironman so I know what time it is. Damn, I haven't put on my shoes yet. What should I wear today...this pair of Hokas, that pair of Hokas, or maybe my Kayanos or DS Trainers? Hmmmm. And where are my orthotics? While we're at it, my calves are a little sore today--maybe I should also wear my calf sleeves.
In the time I spend screwing around with my gadgets, I could have run an extra mile that might just pay off at the Leadville 100 in August. If that's a mile a day I'm missing because I'm screwing around with my gadgets, we're talking about 7 additional miles a week. Some weeks that could be the difference between 90 and 100 miles.
Yeah, running has gotten way too damned complicated (and expensive). I've gone soft and gotten too reliant on crap that has nothing to do with why I run: the pure love of it.
Memo to self: I don't need all this crap. Yeah, I need to stay warm, and I do like my GPS, but is all this other extra stuff really necessary? No. It's a distraction.
I think I enjoyed running the most back in the day when I didn't wear a GPS or iPod, and a cell phone was so small I barely knew it was there.
Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us play right into the hands of advertisers and marketers. We get a RoadID because we're scared of getting hit by a car and being found by someone who doesn't know who we are. This is fear-based marketing at its best (or worst?). Then you have the iPod. We're told iPods help pass the time and get us focused. But have you ever listened to nature in all her beauty (her beauty sometimes being silence)? Isn't that the best music of all? Don't get me wrong; I LOVE my iPod. But do I need Eminem on every single run?
Now let's get dawn to the GPS watch, shall we? I know I'm on hallowed ground here. Many of us like to know how far we went, what our pace was, how much vertical we did, etc. But is that info really important? Granted, knowing how long you ran is pretty important, but why do we need to know exact pace, mileage and climb? We're not professionals, and so we shouldn't get caught in the trap of taking what we love to do in our free time so seriously when there's not a paycheck involved.
Last time I checked, I judge a great run not necessarily by the numbers on my watch, but by how I felt. There's such a thing as an awesome 6:00 mile and a crappy 6:00 mile, a strong 1,500-foot climb and a feel-like-death 1,500-foot climb. A GPS watch can't distinguish between the two, though maybe a heart rate monitor can. While we're on the subject of heart rate monitors, that's one gadget I've never gotten into. I don't see the point. I guess my heart's not in it.
Geez, how did the greats back in the day ever do it? All they had were a pair of shoes and cotton clothing and a stop watch! I'm surprised they could even walk, let alone set records. Imagine what Billy Mills or Roger Bannister could have done if they only had a Garmin on their wrists! Calf sleeves might have made them faster, too.
One of the most popular, followed ultrarunners in the world today is a guy who frequently runs shirtless, without socks and in super minimal shoes--and who sometimes lives for days in his truck up in the mountains living on little more than Nutella, gels and creek water. People follow what he's doing like he's some kind of a prophet. And yet, while we admire how he lives and runs (I admit I greatly admire him), we're strapping on gear out the wazoo that costs us money (that we could be saving or even donating to a worthy cause, such as the local track or cross country team) and has nothing to do with our passion for running. Maybe I'm missing something, but there seems to be a disconnect.
I don't want to keep ranting . What I do want to do is lay down the gauntlet. Next week I'm going to leave my iPhone at home. My iPod also will stay home. I'll keep wearing my RoadID and lights for my own safety since I do have a family to think about when I'm out there in the dark. I think I might also refrain from wearing my GPS on a few runs and instead just wear my good old fashioned Timex Ironman and estimate my mileage like I used to do back in the day.
While we're at it, do I really need to enter all my damned runs into a freaking website when my paper-based logs (which I've been keeping for several years) will suffice just fine?
Maybe simplifying will help me get in some extra mileage and time on my feet and remove some distractions that only take me away from the spiritual, meditative aspects of running--aspects that make me a better endurance athlete and person.
Are you willing to give anything up, even temporarily? If so, what?