Your Most Important Relationship as a Runner

As a high school athlete, I didn’t worry about pace during training runs. Typically, we were told to run for a certain amount of time. Which on occasion meant running off campus to Ralph’s Ices for delicious cream ices (ice cream backwards), walking back a bit, and then running the rest of the way so we arrived sweaty and tired. When doing repeats or sprints, our coach would yell out our splits, so we’d get a sense of how’d we do in the 4×800. It’s kind of strange to think about it – it’s when I ran most competitively, yet during training, I didn’t fuss over it all that much. Sure, I’d wear a watch sometimes to know how long I was out, but I certainly wasn’t tracking my distance.

Eight years after graduating is when I got my first Garmin watch, a gift from my dad.

[Note: Some not familiar with Garmin watches, and other GPS watches, think they operate like the GPS on your phone. You can see a map and if you get lost, you can easily find your way out. That’s not the case. Rather, they track your mileage and how long you’re running in order to calculate your pace. They may also track your heart rate, elevation, etc. After the run, you connect your watch to your phone or computer and it loads a map of the route you ran along with other data.]

I was training for my first marathon and excited to have received my Garmin in time for my first 20-miler. That experience, which I discussed here, was my entry into the love/hate relationship with my watch. I was going through a stressful, emotional time and the added anxiety of seeing my pace fluctuate on my watch was not helping. As a GPS watch novice, I also didn’t realize how often you need to charge your watch (similar to your cell phone), and so while I was upset it died around mile 11, I was also grateful it wasn’t staring me in the face anymore.

Much like any human relationship, over the years, I’ve had to work on mine with my Garmin. We’ve had our good days and our bad. Too often, she would take a very long time to connect to the satellites (which you need to do in order to enact the GPS capability). And honestly, there were more days than I can easily count (especially in the winter) where I stepped outside, tried to get a signal, and after five minutes, gave up. I pulled my keys out of their spot in the side of my sports bra, unlocked my door, entered my building, and that was it. Because the run doesn’t count if it isn’t tracked, right? There were also my really, really slow days. Days where I was coming back from injury and struggling to run faster than 10 minute miles. A few times I stopped at less than a mile and walked home feeling defeated.

Every relationship faces its challenges, and so you need to know how to communicate. For those days Garmy wanted to take a while to connect to any satellites, I learned a great trick – just place her in front of a window! Then you can wait from the comforts of your own home while you put on your socks and lace up your sneakers, and by the time you’re ready, so is she! But also, as we all know, sometimes when you’re fighting with your partner, what you really need is space. And so on those days I wasn’t feeling my best and didn’t want the anxiety of knowing my pace, I learned to just keep my watch at home. Because actually, if a run isn’t tracked, that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.

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Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, you and your partner cannot come to an agreement. This is most relevant during a race – while your official time may be 7:42 pace, your watch is telling you 7:38. It makes you wonder how accurate your GPS is and also, what is the best way to run a race?– do you hug the curves, stay in the middle, stick to the right? [Does anyone know the answer?]

And the saddest reality of all, sometimes your relationship must come to an end. About one year ago, I decided to let my Garmin go. The charge wasn’t lasting long anymore, which was made more challenging because the charger was physically broken and required rubberbands to stay connected to the watch.

I began online dating to find my new watch. I considered my dealbreakers – it couldn’t be too costly, it needed to have good reviews. Ultimately, I chose a TomTom, which under $200 with GPS capabilities for swim/bike/run and a built-in heart rate monitor, made it stand out above its competitors. I had never heard of the brand prior to my friend telling me about it, but thought it was worth a try.
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It’s been a year of ups and downs with Tom. I think I made the wrong choice ending things with Garmy, but I have to take responsibility for my actions. Tom’s great in that he tracks my GPS, my heart rate, and I can wear him in the water. But the pause function, makes it way too easy to end the run altogether – which I recently did 13.46mi into my 14mi run. It also doesn’t allow me to put in distances smaller than tenths of a miles when doing interval work (what if I want to do ¼ mile repeats?) or easily track my splits when doing speedwork. And the swim feature is completely off with tracking distances. Seven months into our relationship, Tom broke – the wristband snapped – and was quickly replaced for free. We’re going to keep going because I made a commitment to Tom, but I do look forward to the day he gives up on me, opening the door for me to reunite with my first love, Garmin.

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