How Technology Helped Me Enjoy Running

posted on 11/29/12 at 06:25:30 pm by Joel Ross

When I was in high school, I used to run quite a bit. Not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I played soccer, and I knew that come the middle of August, I'd be be doing 120s, and our coach assumed we'd be in shape. For those unfamiliar with 120s:

Sprint the full length of a typical 120-yard soccer field. Begin the drill on one end line with a coach or teammate timing you. On command, sprint the full length of the field, looking for a time of 18 seconds. Jog back to the start in 25 [we did 30] seconds and rest for 30 more seconds. Complete six repetitions and build up to 10 repetitions.

If you've ever tried doing that in August heat without being in shape, I can tell you that it's not pretty - so ugly that it's motivation enough to run through the spring and summer to ensure that you're in shape when the time comes.

But once high school ended, so did my motivation. I hated running during high school, but I had a reason to do it. Once out of high school, I would have been happy to never run a mile again.

Or so I thought. This spring, The Wife challenged me to get to the gym a couple times a week and be a little more active. Apparently the few trips I made upstairs from The Dungeon to refresh my water wasn't enough!

I started running for the first time in more than 15 years back in February. I started out very slow, but I kept at it. I was running indoors, but started using RunKeeper to track how far I was running and roughly how long it took. I started getting to the point where I could run a couple of miles without stopping. Being able to track my progress helped motivate me, but I still wasn't quite ready to say that I liked running.

Eventually, it got warm enough to comfortably run outside, and that's when things changed for me. I went from merely tolerating running to actually enjoying it and looking forward to my lunch hour, which was when I would slip out to go for my run. Being able to visualize my run gave me a better feel for it, and RunKeeper gave me the information I wanted, including a nice graph of my route:


I can safely say that technology was the main factor in my new-found fondness for running. Being able to track my path, time, and speed at every moment was very enlightening, and allowed me to strive to improve in ways that aren't (easily) possible without technology. When I was in high school, I'd lay out a 2 or 3 mile route, and I'd know how I was doing only by seeing how long it took me to complete the whole run. Now, I can see exactly how fast I was running at any point during my route and understand exactly where I have problems. For example, I learned that I hit a wall that I had to will myself through at about a 1/2 mile and it lasted for almost a mile. Once I got past that, I could finish up my 3.14 mile route (because you know, I'm a geek) faster than I started. The more I ran, the further that wall got - right now, it's closer to 1 1/2 miles - and the duration got smaller - down to about a 1/2 mile now.

The other aspect of technology that makes running enjoyable is music. I run with my phone and I have a Pandora channel I listen to, as well as a set of Bluetooth headphones so I don't have wires tangling me up. Listening to music drowns out my body telling me to stop, and it can really help to set the pace. Without it, I'm not sure I'd be able to push through the hard parts where I really want to stop and walk for a bit.

For most of the summer, I alternated between running and cycling. I found a 12 mile route around Spring Lake (the actual lake, not the village) that I could complete during my lunch as well. On a good week, I'd run 3 days and ride 2 days, although that was rare. More common was running 2 days and riding 1 or 2 days.

MyCurrentPaceHow have I done? Well, when I first started running, I was averaging around 12 minute miles. My first outdoor run (after running for a month indoors) was just above a 9:00 / mile pace. It took me most of the summer before I could average less than 8 minutes per mile, but getting over that hurdle was a breakthrough for me, and since then I've been able to push myself to achieve the numbers in the image to the right - a 7:27 / mile pace. Riding was both a lot easier and a lot harder at the same time. I can do the 12 mile route at just over a 4 minute per mile pace (the easy part), but no matter how hard I seemed to try, I just couldn't improve on it (the hard part).

I know the above numbers aren't really that impressive. I remember being able to do 6 to 6 1/2 minute miles in high school, and I doubt I'll be able to get close to 6 minutes in the foreseeable future. On the other hand, I also remember not being able to mentally push myself back then. When I got tired, I just stopped running. I couldn't push myself through the hard parts, so I guess it's a good thing I had the physical ability to do it.

Ah, to have the body I had then with the mental fortitude I have now.

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Categories: Personal