I ditched my running watch for races and actually got faster – here's why

I began working across the introduction of wearable tech. I had the primary Nike pod sensor that slotted into your sneakers and people hulking nice early working watches. 

It’s been my day job for a decade to check the know-how that claims it might probably enable you to run higher, sooner, or have extra enjoyable. And I am nonetheless very repeatedly discovered working with three watches, two chest straps, a blood glucose monitor, and a few footpods. I am nonetheless a completely paid-up member of the working information fan membership, too.

I’m as tech as runners get.

However a couple of months in the past I occurred upon some information that confirmed how we could possibly be being slowed down by the obsession to run to particular targets and use running watches to hit them. I spoke to specialists and outlined this situation in the first part of this feature.

So for the previous two months, I made a decision to conduct an experiment, revisiting and recalibrating my relationship with my working watch. And the outcomes genuinely shocked me.

Operating on really feel

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I made a decision to run blind – and ditch my working look ahead to some large races on my calendar.

I ran the New Forest Marathon, the Royal Parks Half Marathon, the Abingdon Marathon, and the Runthrough Battersea Half Marathon. 

Now, I wasn’t capable of not monitor the races totally. So, I wore my trusty Garmin Enduro 2 lined with a Buff neck tube to obscure the display – and managed my effort totally on really feel. The outcomes have been an enormous shock.

On the New Forest Marathon, I ran a 15-minute course PB. I’ve run this race 5 instances earlier than, aiming for shut to three hours, all the time blowing up and coming in at 3:20 or a lot worse. It’s a difficult road-trail course with hills, and this was the primary time I might run it feeling in management from begin to end.

I adopted that with one other large course PB, working 1:27 on the Royal Parks Half. My third-fastest half marathon ever.

Just a few weeks later, I took a minute off that, working a 1:26 on the Battersea Half.

At Abingdon, I ran a 3:01 – one other large course PB and my third-fastest marathon time ever, and my first-ever detrimental break up marathon. All with out a clock, watch or tempo readout as soon as. 

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What amazed me most about these experiments wasn’t simply the sooner instances, however how I felt throughout the races. The proportion of time I spent using the battle bus was vastly decreased.

I all the time felt in management – even within the closing miles the place it’s regular to be hanging on. 

Having run 50 marathons and blown up lots, I can safely say working on really feel has been a way more nice expertise. 

Within the closing miles of every race, I had the optimistic momentum of overtaking individuals. I ended the races having given my all, understanding I bought the end time my health and bodily situation deserved on the day.

My post-race pacing and coronary heart charge stats additionally present a few of the best-controlled races I’ve ever run. All by listening to my physique, relatively than fixating on a quantity on a watch. It was really liberating. 

Based mostly on this expertise, would I be courageous sufficient to race a marathon the place I’d invested months of coaching, with out utilizing a watch to information me?

I’m undecided. Nevertheless, the place I as soon as would let the watch be the grasp of my tempo and energy, I’ll now use really feel initially with my watch as a backup.

It’s all about stability. Operating watches have an essential function to play, however, in case you can hearken to your physique and get in tune with how you’re feeling within the second, it’s a much more highly effective information than a tempo readout in your wrist. 

When to run with out your watch

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Eager to attempt working ‘bare’ however undecided the place to start out? I spoke to Nice Britain elite runner and coach, Phily Bowden, who gave me some helpful recommendation about when to observe your GPS working watch and when to interrupt free:

“I observe a easy set of pointers that assist me resolve whether or not I put on the watch or whether or not I depart it at dwelling that day,” says Bowden.

“For effort-based runs, ditch the watch. For runs primarily based on coronary heart charge, tempo and splits, maintain it on.

“By ‘effort’, I am speaking straightforward runs – a two to a few out of 10 effort – or onerous reps up a hill at seven to eight out of 10. Something that is primarily based on how you’re feeling and the depth the place you’re not tied to a metric that requires a watch.

“For instance, a cross-country Fartlek ought to simply really feel onerous, and most straightforward runs ought to simply really feel straightforward. For those who do not want the tempo or the metrics, you are able to do it with out the watch.

“Then, for periods and runs that rely in your tempo, the place you actually wish to just be sure you’re working straightforward sufficient or quick sufficient, specializing in tempo dash splits, or something that wants the info, clearly put on the watch.”

Even if you end up relying in your watch, Bowden recommends treating your tracker with some warning. 

“I might additionally say it’s essential to know that this information does not outline you,” she says.

“You may want your look ahead to a tempo run, however, in case you’re working a bit slower than ordinary for that day, try to separate the watch from what success is.

“You are still getting on the market and doing it – and never every single day goes to be a day the place you set the world on fireplace.”


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