Off the clock

[Originally posted on Bristol Running Resource, 27/10/11]

Are you a runner who is a slave to the stopwatch? Tyrannised by the timer? I have to admit that I am. I don’t keep a proper training log to track my efforts, but I always run with a stopwatch. I’ve got a good enough memory to be able to place a run roughly in the league table of times for a particular route. And as the years pass there are rather more entries appearing in the lower reaches of the table than in the ‘getting towards a PB’ section. Be that as it may, timing’s been a key part of my whole running career.

So I was a bit put out when I went away this weekend and left my running watch on the shelf at home. I was faced with heading out for a 10k and having absolutely no idea how long I was gone for.

As it turned out it was a liberating experience. The run was shaped more by how everything was feeling than by the times at which I reached various conventional timing points. Did it feel like time to push it a bit? Or did it feel more like time to take things steady? (Mostly ‘take things steady’, since you ask.)

Without the running watch there was no judgement to be made as to whether it was a good or a bad run, timewise. It’s not being entered in the mental league table. The only question was whether it was enjoyable. And it was, even though the chronic problem with my lower left leg started playing up a bit once we’d turned for home.

I suppose I could claim this is a move to embrace fartlek – ‘speed play’ – training, but that is perhaps making it sound a bit more planned, and a more grand, than what actually happened. But in essence that’s where we end up.

I can’t imagine retiring the stopwatch completely. After all, it’s a motivator more often than it’s a menace. But every now and again going for spin without the watch feels like something that will give a refreshingly relaxed flavour to a run.

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