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?”
Running the half this weekend and I’m so grateful you posted the discount code! We definitely took advantage. Thanks! I’ve got a BIG feeling this will be your best race yet!
Abby @ Change of Pace
I’m so happy to hear this! I think you’ll do awesome this race, and without wearing your garmin you’ll run it by feel and not get scared off by faster splits or some a bit slower (hills, people, anything).
I almost always race in a garmin, but don’t really pay attention to it. I just love looking at my info afterwards!
Another tip- ignore the pacers! There’s been a few races where I’ve been worried about my time because a slower pacer is nearby. They can’t always be trusted, and they most likely just run races differently!
Good luck this weekend! I’ll be cheering for you!
So awesome that I just read this!! My coach scheduled me for a “feel” the pace for this week. My next few training sessions will be at the track, noticing my lap times, & feeling comfortable w/an easy pace. My coach was kinda concerned that I didn’t have a heart monitor or GPS. Then, he was like, we can work w/this. So Far So Good…. Sending You Positive Vibes In SD…. Go Padres!!!
Leslie @ Triathlete Treats
I think it is a great idea!! I bet you have an amazing race too!! Good luck and leave it all out there!!!
I always wear a watch but I don’t pay much attention to it! I just like to see the data afterwards. I think doing a timeless challenge is a good idea. I need to think of a race I can use it on!! 🙂
That advice from Jenny looks great and makes a ton of sense. I like the use of colors. I am sure you’ll do great either way! Good luck!
I can’t wait to read about your race! I’ve run San Diego RNR Half once before — thought it was so fun (my husband is from there)! I’ve raced a couple times without my Garmin and its so freeing!
Coming from a data obsessed Garmin Stalker who has now run 3 marathons without my Garmin, I really, really think this is a great idea! I think you will enjoy the race so much more and hopefully it gives you amazing results too! You have worked SO hard and had an awesome training cycle and I truly hope that you have the race that you have earned. SO much good luck to you!! I can’t wait to hear (read) all about it!!
Thank you!!! The marathon distance garmin free does scare me a bit but you never know- i might become a believer!
1) My last half, I showed up at the start line with a dead battery on my garmin. I wanted to freak out but I had no choice to run without it. Ran my best race/pr ever after 10 years! I totally would do it again (I think)! I dropped from a 1:52 to a 1:48. I had no idea on pace. They only had a clock at the 10k and 10 mile mark. By 10 miles, I just ran on and wondered where I would end up.
2) I then tried it for my marathon two weeks later. Not such a good idea. How can one do this during a marathon? I went out for what I thought was a comfortable pace. It was comfortable until I saw my time and the half and thought, Oh Boy. I shouldn’t have done that! Nothing left in the tank after 16! Too late to try to recover those fast early miles.
This has to only work for a half or lower!
Yeah I’m not sure i could do a full marathon without a watch – or would want to rather. This race is really to show myself that I can’t rely so much on it!
Such a great idea and I love how you are giving this a try! I am definitely ‘lost’ without my garmin, but have often wondered if I rely on it way too much. I think as triathletes and runners we are SO focused on numbers that we forget to enjoy the run or the race! It’s so important to listen to your body and I think the garmin can distract me from that… I think you will be amazed at how well you do without your garmin! I hope you rock it out there, good luck!!
EEEEEKKKK!!!! I can’t wait to hear how it goes for you! I have a feeling that it will be awesome!
So I started doing this this year (and now I see you ran a killer PR so clearly it works and I can’t wait to see your recap!!!!) and I LOVE it. I rely too much on my Garmin, and totally lose it mentally if it says something bad. I have run 2 halfs (one a PR), a 5 mile PR, a 5k close to PR the week after my half PR all without a watch. It makes SUCH A HUGE DIFFERENCE for me. The 5 miler I def raced way too hard-it was before I read the article, and I know my first mi was too fast and it was a ‘hold on’ instead of having another gear. I’m so on board with racing watch free. Maybe not for my fall full … but definitely shorter races. The feedback on the watch messes with me too much. I like controlling my race based on my body. I still have a lot of work to do mentally, but I feel sooo much happier during races. That’s been the most important part. I feel happier, and I haven’t been beating myself up over the outcome because I am running the race with whatever I have on any given day. It’s so freeing to be able to accept that you ran a race without being controlled by splits, and just by your own body’s feeling. It makes it so much easier for me to finish and say “this is what I had to give today” and not fret over “but why couldn’t I get that mile under 7:xx pace and OMG I suck, my goals are gone, I am terrible”. K, done rambling. So happy you started this too, cause doesn’t it feel AWESOME!
Yes it feels amazing! That was the best part of racing without constant feedback – I was so happy!