Putting the fun back into running, or ‘forgetting the gizmos’

My heart rate monitor broke recently.  For those who know me, I’ve been running for about 3 years now, and I’ve been very fortunate that I’ve had no serious injuries. I put that in part down to the use of a Heart Rate Monitor.  Scott Jurek, in his book, reiterates what most coaches say “most people run too quickly when they train.  So, my HRM has been invaluable at slowing me down, both in runs and in mountain ultra-races.  It has been glued to my arm in all races and training.  In fact, I have recently upgraded my Garmin 220 Forerunner to a Suunto Ambit Peak (at the cost of over £250) just so the battery would last longer.  So you can imagine my dismay when my HRM broke – how would I train? What about my next race, would it be repaired by then? In fact – what is the point in it all if I don’t have my electronic toys!?

I’ve just finished reading Born to Run, by Chris McDougall, and it has had quite a profound effect on me, and my approach to life and running.  Fortunately, my reading of this book coincided when my HRM broke.  The book explains we are all born to run, in fact not running is weird – not as our society has portrays it, as long distance running is bad for you.  We culturally have it the wrong way round.  Not only are we innate runners, but it should be part of our culture, and be a collective thing (tens of thousands doing the London Marathon is testament to this).

So I thought I’d use the opportunity of not having an HRM to see if I could really get to enjoy running.  Getting out of bed in the dark, when it's raining is hard (for me!).  So out I went, without a plan on how far I would run, how I would run, and just try and enjoy it.  If I stopped for ten minutes to just appreciate the countryside – so what.  If I fancied sprinting up the hill – then go for it.
Why am I looking at my HRM when there is this to see!

I must admit – the first few times I felt like I was wandering out naked. It felt weird.  But after a few days I must admit, I really started to enjoy my running in a way I haven’t done for months.  I have quite a stressful job, and my running was now becoming the perfect antidote.  An hour in the woods and hills and letting all that stress just evaporate.

Now I’m not stupid enough to just forget all the good rules about running, but I am now running for pleasure – and focussing on that is hard.  We have a culture of ‘minutes per mile’ – set distances 5K, 10K half marathon.  The first thing I hear on Olympic runners is how they run over hundred miles a week – maybe we should ask – what is their favourite route.  So, now I have my HRM back, I try to not look at it, but focus on the shear enjoyment of being able to soak up our beautiful country.

As for the social – that is the next step.  Joined MWD Runners and am starting a 1st Saturday Navigating practise run (usually in the Brecon Beacons).  The idea is to share experience, and learn from each other in a friendly social way – now being an introvert this will be tough.  If you fancy joining us to practice your nav, just check out the MWD Runners Facebook page.  If I meet you, I shall ask what is your favourite run – not how far or fast you can run!

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