Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My Thoughts on Running with Shoes & Gadgets

Today, Linzi was asking opinions on running "naked" (i.e. without gadgets and shoes) as is the philosphy of author and runner Chris McDougall.   I started writing a huge comment to her blog post when I realized I've wanted to blog about this one myself. 

We have a family friend who set records in high school as a cross country runner--he graduated in 1989.  He had the nation's top high school time in the 3200m at 8:50 and the 1600m at 4:04 in 1989. He's running Boston next week for the first time. He runs without any gadgets and can't fathom why they'd be needed. I understand this as he started running without any of that.  I think it's great that he continues with only the basics: clothes and shoes and maybe a regular watch. (He also doesn't go barefoot.)  In fact, on his last long training run he ran for "right around two hours and he figured about 20 miles".  Seriously, I'm impressed that he doesn't need to know the stats exactly. 

My experience with running started with gadgets and I love them! I've come to rely on them and I don't think this is a bad thing at all. I let my Garmin (used to be Nike+) tell me when I'm done running unless I feel great and have more time.  I'll keep going if I do. And no matter what, watching the miles add up gives me such a rush! Seeing my pace decrease, also fabulous!  As for my ipod, music is definitely my running partner.  Music helps me escape while running, while doing housework, while driving.  A good run always includes good music for keeping my mind occupied.  A great beat keeps my legs moving faster, too. 

Either way, gadgets or no gadgets, I think you can create good or bad running habits. If seeing your pace drives you faster, awesome! If seeing your pace makes you frustrated, feel bad and depressed, not awesome.  If your iPod assists you and helps keep you pounding out those miles, great!  If you cannot possibly run without an iPod, maybe not so great since batteries do fail sometimes.  I don't see these things as distractions but as helpful aids in keeping me on track and motivated to run more, faster, longer, farther.

I will also never be a barefoot runner. I know some argue the point that our feet were designed to run barefoot, our feet were not designed to run with shoes. True dat. However, I don't think our feet were designed to run on concrete or asphalt. Broken glass? Not that either. If we went around barefoot all the time, building up the strength in our feet and toughing up the skin, then it would make perfect sense that you'd also run barefoot.  But I cannot imagine why you would take off your shoes at the time you're putting your feet through the most trauma.  We've evolved into wearing shoes and our feet have adapted accordingly.  I'm sorry, but I will keep my shoes, thank you. 
There will always be someone with the newest and greatest idea for running or whatever else.  Everyone is free to do what works for them, but my running life involves gadgets and shoes and for that I make no apologies.  We live in an age of awesome technology, why not take advantage?  If people always used the argument, "We weren't made to do this or that", we wouldn't have things like lights and electricity, let alone GPS watches and MP3 players.  The world is constantly changing and advances in technology will keep coming.  I plan to embrace those advances and use them to my advantage whenever I can.
And besides, it's a great way to add more purple to my life!


  1. I love me some gadgets too, but I remember enjoying running more when I didn't have them. Although, during my half marathon on Sunday, I totally forgot to turn my Garmin off at the end. So, I guess I didn't rely on it too much for that race. :-)

  2. I love your thoughts on this! :) I got my garmin early on into running and it has helped me a lot, especially in the distance category. I use mine more for letting me know that I have reached a certain distance goal as opposed to stressing over the pace. But it's just interesting to think that I seem to run faster when I'm not focused on the garmin. Either way, I think they are all tools and as you said to each their own. And crazy about that guy running 20 miles for a 2 hour run. I wish my brain and body could do that! Seriously!! :)

  3. We were out of town over the weekend, and I didn't have my ipod when I ran Sunday morning. WOW...it was so much harder for me. I definitely need the music :)

  4. I thought I HAD to run with my iPod but my boyfriend asked me to please not use it when we ran together. I am actually doing better! I have no idea of how much time passes and we talk as we go. I don't know if I could run solo without it, though. EEK!

  5. I definitely enjoy having my ipod and garmin. Agree that they shouldn't be the "be all end all", but they sure are motivating and fun! :)

  6. I have a very hard time running without my iPod. It keeps me focused - otherwise, I'm thinking too much about the run stats ... how much time has passed, how fast am I going, etc. Of course, most of my experience is treadmill running - when I get out on the lakeshore paths in a few weeks, I'd like to try "running silent" and just appreciating what's around me.

  7. I was nearly laughing at myself this weekend on my long run.

    I always have a cell phone with me (after wiping out 2 miles from home without one, I've learned my lesson)...I also had my iPod to listen to an audio book during those 11 miles....and I have my Garmin on.....and my hydration belt (with pocket for the phone and iPod).

    I kept thinking "man, I look like a true running nerd. Minimalists will laugh when they see me!!!"

  8. That's what I love about running. The equipment list is as minimal as you want it to be! Personally, I love running in shoes with my iPod.

    And a headband. I gotta have a headband. Sweat drives me nuts without one.