My Parkrun pal, Donna and I are berated by marshals for chatting when we run. She’s a lovely, cheery lady and on Saturday mornings we frequently trot along having a good old chinwag. Recently, our conversation turned to our favourite books and whilst mine is the gloomy, dystopian 1984 by George Orwell, Donna’ s, predictably was a novel with a lighter, brighter outlook on life. Ignorant of Saint-Auxupery’s The Little Prince and intrigued by Donna’s love for it, I ordered myself a copy.
I’ll admit it took me a couple of reads to grasp it, it’s a surreal little book, quirky and philosophical with a definite message of becoming yourself. The ruminations about society’s obsession with numbers, (extract above,) were pivotal to our mid-run chat. (I’m sure all the other nattering, plodders are discussing French classic literature too, so back off marshals!)
Donna can run faster than me but I’ve also realised that she runs happier than me. She skips past me with a spring in her step and a smile on her face. She has always told me it’s because she’s not chasing a number; she’s enjoying the journey. I’ve only just started believing her.
Now, if there’s one thing that’ll sort the number crunchers from the rest it’s buying a Garmin. I acquired one a few months ago as a treat to myself and it proved to be the final straw. I have tracked my running for a decade using various apps and cheaper watches but never before have I had so much data…and guilt about my activities.
My Garmin Vivoactive overloads me with information. It doesn’t just log my running mileage it records every step I take and it buzzes at me if I sit for longer than it takes to down a brew. It tells me my cadence, my pace, my swimming swolf, (I had to Google that one!) it produces graphs and pie charts and compares my activity levels to other Garmin users.
It is not that I am not competitive. I am. I believe in setting myself a challenge and working my socks off to achieve it. I’m not the fastest, but I don’t turn up at races just to complete or scrape the cut-offs. Yet, I’ve come think that all this data is unnecessary.
“Running has become a hunter/gatherer activity,” I was told recently. I agree. Why gather data? How does knowing that I ran home from work 2 seconds quicker than my average or that I ran up that hill slower than that fella who is streaks ahead of me in every race help?
Training for a big event can be an all-consuming, obsessive thing. This year I am returning to Isoman; knowing what’s required and, having a whopping spreadsheet of my splits over 14 hours from last year, has had me breaking down my race strategy to finite detail. Add all my current data from the Garmin into the mix and all of a sudden that’s a lot of self-imposed pressure.
So, inspired by Donna and The Little Prince, I’ve made a decision to come off grid. I will not let statistics and data strip the elemental joy out of what I essentially do for fun. I do not care how many steps per minute I took as I shuffled home in the rain. I do not care if I beat Jonny Wotnot from down the road. (Its always the same bloody fella and I was beginning to hate him.) I refuse to be competitive every time I put on my shoes. On New Years Eve I won’t be tallying up my total miles.
Update. I’ve been a lot more zen anyway with my training this time around. 3 years of doing the long stuff has given me the confidence to trust that I know what I’m doing and the desire to step away from a restrictive plan.
I may be a bit of an ostrich, burying my head in the sand, but by not logging all my data, I’ve not obsessed about my training as much. (I don’t sob in my sleep anymore.) I wear my Garmin to measure distance on long runs/rides and open water swims to keep track of where I’m up to, (the council are still refusing to erect mile markers on all my favourite routes despite my letters!) I’ve gone cold turkey and stopped pressing save at the end.
I compete on race day. I don’t compete with myself every time I leave the house. I can look at the bigger picture. And I like that.
*Donna still runs faster than me, springier in her step and beaming from ear to ear.