My Dad ran the Great Baddow 10 mile race a few weeks ago. As usual, it was a great race – well organised, a really nice course and hot! For some reason, every memory I have of that race involves stifling heat. Which you could understand for a July race….okay, I’m getting off task.
Anyway, as my Dad crossed the finish line, he checked his watch and the digits let him know that he’d gone a lot slower than expected, recording one of his worst ever times for a 10 miler. Dad’s assessment of the race? It was rubbish. A huge disappointment.
The thing is, once we actually got talking about the whole experience of running that morning, he’d actually had a really nice time. His son-in-law had run the race with him, and his daughter and grandson had taken part in the fun run. The course went through some lovely countryside, his club (the Billericay Striders) performed well, and he didn’t go off too fast – one of his usual downfalls.
And then we discussed the fact that Dad is still running in local races as he approaches his mid-60s. How awesome is that?
So, originally, Dad had based his assessment of whether or not the race was good entirely on his watch readout. After some deeper analysis, we realised that actually, the race had gone well in many ways. Which got me thinking…
Perhaps, if you’re judging the success or enjoyment of a race by the digits on your watch at the end, you’re doing it wrong.
So why would I say that? Well, imagine you’re doing the Chelmsford Marathon later this year. You’re running around your home city (something pretty amazing, really) in a fantastic event. The roads are closed, the crowds are out to support you, and you’re getting a unique perspective on our beautiful city.
You finish the race and your time is 4:27, but you were aiming for under 4:15. Is the whole experience ruined just because you were slower? Would it have been different had you not worn the watch at all and just ran for pure enjoyment?
And what did you miss because you were so focused on the time? Did you feel good? Did you make it up a hill without stopping that you thought you’d struggle on? Did you overtake someone? Did you notice the sunshine? The cheers from the crowd? How awesome the Shire Hall looks now? The beautiful countryside villages around the city?
It’s different for athletes
Of course, there’s always two sides to a story. An athlete, especially one training for a fast 10K or marathon time, will live and die by the watch. Every session is at a specific pace, to a specific time, and at a specific intensity. The watch matters when results are on the line. But for your average local club runner, or unaffiliated amateur runner, the joy of running is just too wonderful to let some numbers judge your success.
You probably know that I don’t run a lot these days. I’ve gone from being your classic 5K-to-Marathon club runner (at a decent clip, I might add) to dramatically reassessing the health benefits of long distance, steady state cardio, and taking my running down to occasional high-intensity sprints and a whole lot of walking.
But I do miss it sometimes.
The long Sunday runs, when the hard training of the week was finished, and it was all about getting miles in your legs while meandering through country lanes. The peace and tranquility of an early morning run before the city wakes. The way my mind would wander when there was nothing to think about except the road ahead. The different sights and sounds of the same run as the seasons change.
Perhaps those runs were enjoyable because of the timed intensity of other sessions during the week. Or maybe I simply appreciated them more. Either way, pretty much all of my best running memories don’t involve a time on a watch.
Try it and see
Running to get a specific time is a worthy goal. My 5K and 10K PBs are still sources of great pride for me. But if I were to run a 5K now, I would be nowhere near my PB time. Does that mean I shouldn’t bother? Or that the race will be a huge disappointment? Not a chance, because I won’t wear a watch, and I’ll appreciate the race in a hundred other ways.
Too often in life we’re striving so hard to get to the finish line that we look straight past the journey itself, without recognising the beauty, struggle, and achievement. Take off your watch, and appreciate the ride.
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