After I mentally surrendered midway through my 2nd BQ attempt at the Phoenix Marathon after being 30 seconds behind pace at the half marathon marker (sad but true), I did some self reflection and realized that I rely way too much on what my Garmin is telling me and not enough on anything else. Had I had not let the paces on my watch guide me, I might have pushed through, gotten a second wind and achieved that BQ. I will really never know. Although I do think I wasn’t quite ready for the marathon of my life that day, I certainly had a lot more under the hood than my finish time tells.
A lot of the feedback I got on that race recap involved recommendations for letting go of the Garmin for a while. My Garmin is my most prized running possession (so says my Oiselle runner profile) and it’s not easy for me to give my my data! But after a lot of thought, I decided that the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Half Marathon would be the perfect chance for me to run a race without knowing my exact pace at every moment.
I so often let myself be guided by what the watch says. A mile split beeping off a 7:20 average might scare me into slowing down and a 8:10 mile, no matter if there was a steep hill on that mile or not, might illicit negative thoughts. In the end, my average could be right on pace but glancing down and seeing something outside of my 20 second goal pace range plays tricks on my mind that I don’t like. I need to be less focused on what my watch says and more focused on what my body says.
I found a really great article that encourages runners to try data-free racing. It was published on Runnersworld.com and is called “Run Your Fastest Race with the Timeless Challenge.”
“You see, a funny thing happens to most of us when we run by numbers (pace, speed, time). For most (not all), the number becomes your focus and in the process becomes a stressor that can trigger a variety of emotions, including fear, anger, happiness, sadness, worthlessness, confidence, and more.”
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
The post author, Running coach Jenny Hadfield, challenges runners to run by feel instead of data. Here’s the challenge (I added the miles she specifies for a half marathon in italics):
- Commit to racing either without a watch, or wearing a watch but not referring to it during the race (results are better without a watch).
- On race day, break the distance into three parts and run by color—thinking yellow, orange, and red.
- Yellow is conversational, easy effort. You should be able to talk in sentences. Miles 1-7
- Orange is moderate, where you can hear your breath but you’re not breathing real hard. You can talk in words. Miles 8-12
- And Red, that’s what you’ve paid for, my friends. That’s a hard effort where you can’t talk and your breathing is more rapid. Final 1.1 miles
I’m taking the Timeless Challenge and will not be racing with GPS data this Sunday!
Because I’m a tiny bit paranoid about my chip time randomly not working and it’s a nightmare to me imagine never knowing my final time, I am going to wear a watch with JUST the total race time on it. Nothing else. No mile splits, no pace, no heart rate. Just time. I won’t do math in my head (I’m terrible at doing it while running anyway) – and even if I do, I won’t be able to believe it anyway. I’m going to avoid looking at the watch and come to think of it – I’m going to wear it upside down to avoid any temptation!
Although I do have a goal time that I’d like to achieve in this race, my main goal has nothing to do with time. My goal is to have a great race. I want to race my heart out and literally leave nothing out there on the course. I want to race by feel, not by what the data tells me. If I achieve a PR or break 1:40, then that would be amazing. If it’s hot, windy and I get stuck in a massive crowd, get a cramp or have to stop to use the bathroom and come in without a PR, that is fine too as long as I gave it my all.
This race is about seeing what I have in me under any and all circumstances. It’s going to be about holding back for the first 7 miles and then digging deep and seeing how tough I can be through the pain for the rest of the way. It’s going to be about enjoying the moment and my love of running.
I can’t wait!
Do you ever run races without GPS? Do you have any interest in the “Timeless Challenge?”