My thoughts on social media, technology and running

Running has changed a lot over the years.

Obviously I wasn’t there in the “glory” days of the past when running gained momentum and popularity among the masses (long before London Marathon became the entry nightmare it is today) but you hear a lot about how it used to be. Someone at parkrun told me how when they were training for the Southampton Marathon back in the 1980’s they were unable to find running shoes – if shops even sold them! He had to wear flat plimsolls. I mean, seriously. And forget gels, electrolytes, isotonic drinks and super duper compression gear. It wasn’t around back then. Some may argue is it even needed really?

Today it does seem a bit like we’ve over-complicated running (and cycling I suppose) with technology, gear and nutrition. No longer do you just throw on a t-shirt, shorts and trainers and get out the door. Put on those carefully chosen trainers (do you pronate too much? Not enough? Flat feet? High arches? Narrow? Wide?), have you had your pre-run snack (not too high in protein, careful of that fibre, is it the right carbohydrate?), find those satelites, (DON’T YOU DARE START RUNNING UNTIL YOU HAVE THEM) and run along your pre-planned route of the set number of miles according to your well-researched training plan (which you’ve got the book for, obvs). Gotta hit that mileage for the week!

Post run routine… have you foam rolled? Had a hot bath with your epsom salts? Don’t leave your post run snack too long – you’ll lose those gains and you’ll fall over with faintness! Put on your compression socks, you don’t want those muscles to get tight. But MOST importantly, have you updated Twitter? Facebook? Instagram? STRAVA. Omg, don’t you forget about Strava. If it’s not on Strava it didn’t happen! Think about the forgotten kudos, likes, favourites and comments.OK I’m being silly. And I’ll be honest with you, the thought of running without my Garmin and not tracking takes a little away from my enjoyment of running. Don’t get me wrong, if Garmins suddenly died everywhere or Strava disappeared, I would still run. Running is a significant part of who I am and how I live my life. It gives me great happiness – and health, of course.

But I love the post-race analysis of a run. My splits, cadence, elevation… I find it interesting. It adds to my enjoyment of the run. Strava segments are fun to get involved with and beating a run you did a year ago is always a nice boost. It gets me motivated and I love having a log of what I’ve done.

My legend of a granddad who’s in his 80’s uses Strava. He regularly goes for walks, hikes and bike rides and logs it all. He’s a cool guy. I remember having a conversation with him a while ago where he said he wished he could have written a blog or had Strava back in the days when he was in the thick of his mountain climbing. Claiming segments, summits and routes left, right and centre. You could easily prove who got somewhere first. It wasn’t just relying on someone’s word. He’s a highly competitive person so I imagine this would have really boosted him to see his achievements in this way. So though back in the day it might have been a simpler world, there are definite advantages of how it is today.

And social media? Oh yes I’m certainly guilty of excessive over-sharing. Pre-run photos, intra-run photos, post-run photos… I’ve done them all. Look at my new shoes! Look at how I did in this race! Or just simply boring guff about how I went for a run one lunchtime and didn’t get rained on. I’m not breaking any records or doing anything really that worthwhile to shout about.But still, I like to share. I like to throw my little run into the soup of social media and interact with other runners who have done just the same. I prefer to follow people who are similar to me. Elites are interesting don’t get me wrong, but I love the posts where someone has just gone for a 4 miles run at 9.30min/miles on a normal Wednesday morning. I like to connect with runners all over the UK and the world – people doing exactly what I’m doing. No disrespect to anyone, but most of us aren’t that fast…but we all love running and the community of that is fun to be involved in. It’s interesting to see what others are wearing, what runs they’re doing, where they’re going and what they want to achieve.Yes some posts I roll my eyes at. Some posts can annoy me. Or make me jealous. When you’re injured, social media is certainly a dark place to be. But equally, it’s an uplifting place. It’s full of good natured people with good intentions who like to support others. I will never meet 80% of the people who I follow and follow me on social media, but that doesn’t mean I don’t take an interest in what they do. I want them to do well, give advice when I can, receive advice when I need it… For me social media, when used wisely, is a good thing.

That said, I do know I need to work on how much I use it. Especially when Real Life is happening. Learning to put my phone away and not telling Twitter every tiny boring detail of my life. Learning that the people actually next to me in the flesh are more important than hundreds of, essentially, strangers.

What I do know for certain is that I enjoy the way I run – Garmins, selfies, over-sharing and all – and I’m glad to be involved in different communities, but I don’t need that stuff to make me happy and fulfilled. As long as I have the important people with me and I’m not injured, I’m happy.

What are your thoughts?

Do you use social media?

Do you track your running?