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Don't Hate the Garmin or the TechyAnd a Little on Running Shoes Too!

Posted Mar 17 2010 8:30pm
Wow! Thanks everyone for all the interesting and insightful comments. From the high school/college track stars who've been running for 10+ years to the elder statesmen and stateswomen who's training for his/her first marathon, all of you collectively showed me why running and the running life is meaningful and purposeful no matter the goal, no matter the pace, or even when or where we train. Believe it when I say I truly salute each of you for being truly awesome and inspirational athletes. You all ROCKED MY WORD this week with your encouragement and support. Thank you.

After reading through all your thoughts and observations, I agree with the general contention that I need to deemphasize running as a daily training requirement and rediscover running for it's own sake. The hard part though is figuring out how this task can be best accomplished in a manner that makes the most sense to me. Yes I can, as many have suggested, just leave the Garmin at home and run for a specified time or to a specified place without caring, worrying or even acknowledging such essentials as speed, pace, elevation, heart rate, etc. "Heck, why don't you just throw the damn thing away," as one of my friend advised me the other day, "You know you're at the cusp of slowing down anyway, why make this painfully obvious to yourself!" I chuckle at the irony of these propositions, not because I disagree with the general premise of these suggestions - namely that I'd probably enjoy running more if I weren't so enamored with the numbers and data, but because I actually do remember the times before the age of Garmin, when the only electronic gear I wore while running was a digital wristwatch and pace calculations were mostly based on my perceived effort. Speedwork was loosely translated to running in the Central Park really fast and an interval workout was constructed around how many reservoir loops I can manage without bumping into unsuspecting tourists walking obliviously in the other direction. I can point to the exact date on my running log when my Garmin Forerunner 305 arrived at my apartment doorstep because ever since that date, my running has never been the same. No longer was I confined to just running in Central Park, no longer was it okay to know I ran "around a 7:30 pace" for "approximately 6 miles". My running log transformed from three simple columns in a composition notebook to a excel file with three separate spreadsheets. Almost instantaneously I began training better and over the course of a few short months, made greater strides in my running than I ever have before. Now, four short years later, I have learned almost everything there is to know about my Garmin and I owe much of my growth and success as a runner to my constant companion. So now do you all see why I can't help but laugh and snicker when others blame my attachment to Garmin as the ultimate source of my distress? Yes, you're allowed to say that over the course of my running career, I might have become a bit too dependent on technology, almost to a fault, but seriously is that really technology's fault? There must be a better way to handle overtraining and competitive stress than by getting rid of technology altogether, no? The whole notion of reverting to a simpler running life seems awkward to me.

On a side but similar note, can anyone else appreciate how this anti-technology sentiment is suddenly becoming the latest popular trend of the running community? (Um, barefoot running anyone?*) Why must we hate something that has for years been helping us to improve the way we live? Maybe the problem isn't with technology itself but with the way we use it? Maybe we're just not applying the technology in the best way possible to satisfy our own individual needs? Lots of blood, sweat, money, and manpower have been put over the years to developing products and services that are meant to help mankind. Maybe we ought to give these people the benefit of the doubt before we poo-poo their innovations and trash their inventions. For all the conveniences and luxuries we use yet take for granted in our daily lives, we owe them at least that much, don't we?

Just my two cents. Yes, you're welcome to disagree with me or share you're own. I'll try not to hold it against you. Have a great rest of the week and weekend.

[*I promised myself I won't get into this debate. Luckily for me, these guys basically share the same viewpoints as I and are much more eloquent in their discussions and objective in their arguments than I can ever be so go read their Q&A if you haven't figured out where I stand on this controversy. The only other point I'd like to make, which no one seemed to as yet, is that maybe it's not the shoes themselves that are the problem, but that we as runners are never fitted with the shoes that are right for our feet. In the same way that there is an optometrist who fits the right prescription lenses to the right person with near/far-sightedness, maybe it's time that there is a person whose job it is to figure out the right running shoes for the right type of feet. With the hundreds upon hundreds of different types and styles of shoes out there, I think it is foolish to suggest that anyone on their own can ever figure out the right pair of shoes to fit their needs. Not only so, but since the foot is a dynamic physiologic structure that changes in response to age, training, weather, and weight, the right shoes are going to change from year to year. So what's right this year will not be so next year. How's a recreational athlete ever suppose to figure all that out by him/herself? That, my friends, is the single biggest factor why the number of runner's injuries have supposedly increased so drastically in the last 20 to 30 years. There are simply way too many shoes and not enough knowledgeable people to help us runners decide what to wear from year to year, because if there were such people around, I can guarantee that the whole shoe vs no-shoe debate would grind to a complete and sudden halt.]
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