It’s all about that pace

Another post title that almost made the cut: “your pace or mine?” Annnnyway… Generally speaking there seems to be two groups of runners in terms of pacing. Those who watch their Garmins like a hawk and those who don’t.

IMG_4235 Ahh my old Garmin. I’m now using the Garmin 220 (love it)

I’m part of the former group. I love wearing my Garmin, tracking my pace when I run, keeping to a certain target pace and then having those stats to upload for later nerding. If I don’t log it on my watch, the run didn’t happen.


The first speed work I’ve done in a while! 40mins steady running

OK I’m joking, I’m not that extreme. I’m not adverse to going for a run without my watch, but it’s definitely not my preference.

Perhaps this is due to not trusting myself (will I run too fast? Will I run too slow?). Or perhaps it’s due to feeling like I’m not in control. If I don’t know what pace I’m running at then how do I know if I’m going too fast or not working hard enough? On my first mile I might be absolutely blasting it feeling great…because it’s my first mile. I might still have 9 to go and the wheels will undoubtedly fly off later.

Some people are so much more in tune with their pace that they can run without keeping check on their watch and they run perfectly well. Perhaps I’m one of those people, but I’ll never let myself know. When I first started running I just had an app on my phone to track my pace so I couldn’t look at it all the time. It would tell me every mile my pace (in an annoying woman’s voice) but that was it. Just once a mile. Not like now where I can look down at my watch every second and see my current pace, my average pace, the miles I’ve run and the time I’m doing it in. And I love it!

SimageStats from the Berlin marathon 

For the Berlin marathon I would literally check my watch every minute. I had a strict pace schedule I was trying to stick to. My intention was that the first 10 miles should feel relatively easy, so the temptation to run that little bit faster without realising was a risk. I needed that feedback from my watch to keep me in line. I really didn’t have the training behind me to risk anything. And I managed to do a nice negative split and felt comfortable all for but the last mile. I’m pretty sure I’ll do the same for my next marathon or any race in fact. I just like being in control.

IMG_3920 For my first half marathon I wrote my splits on my hand to make sure I kept to them

There also tends to be a bit of (and I use this word very loosely) snobbery. The idea of being a “slave to your watch” or not listening to your body. I can understand that but I don’t necessarily agree with it. Of course you can train on feel. Run a tempo run at a speed where you can’t really say more than a few words. You don’t need your watch to tell you that. Or run flat out 100% for 400m – you won’t have time to look at your watch. But even if you’re not looking at your watch at the time, how can you mark progress without this data saved from those sessions at a later date?

I’m absolutely not saying one way is better than the other – or that they’re mutually exclusive. I admire people who just go out and run without a watch and have no idea about their pace or just run on feel. But for every run? I definitely couldn’t do it. Personally for me my Garmin is there to keep me honest, track my progress (or mistakes) and it makes me happy. Perhaps it’s also my tendency to favour long distance where your pace, I strongly believe, is so important to keep under control because you’ve got a long way ahead of you. Whereas for a 5k perhaps it’s just a case of blast it like hell and hold on for as long as you can.

Sure maybe one day I’ll go out without the watch to just “run free”, but then I’ll probably just cover up my watch so I can still have a sneaky look at the stats later 😉

What do you prefer: running with a watch or without?

Do you like ‘geeking’ out with your running stats? There’s nothing better for me than looking at my splits after a race, I’m that sad.

If you’re not a runner, do you use other trackers for your exercise (e.g. HR monitors, gym machine stats, etc.)?

19 Replies to “It’s all about that pace”

  1. I’m usually in the watch camp… But occasionally do enjoy running on feel. I did a bit of both at the GSR – had no pace or time aims so just enjoyed it, but did check my wrist a few times to see how I was doing. Sometimes it actually puts me off – like I can be feeling comfortable, then look at my watch and panic that I’m going too fast and doubt myself.. If that makes sense?!
    Karen recently posted…20 weeks on… 5ks, 5 miles, 10 milesMy Profile

    1. They’re the best kind of races, when you look down at your watch and go “is this right??”. Glad it went well on Sunday – and fingers crossed it’s just as brilliant if not better for this Sunday at Lordshill 🙂 #hedgietastic

  2. I don’t just look at my pace, I look at my pacing chart…I want to see how consistent it was. Did I just around a lot or stay very steady? If it jumped around was there good reason for it? I am trying not to look at it while I run just afterward so I can go by feel but at the paces I need to be at.
    Staci @ Hoosier Running Mom recently posted…My journey thus farMy Profile

  3. I absolutely hate that song. The only reason it should exist is so you can make a witty post title out of it! The lyrics particularly irritate me, but the tune and the video are so terrible as well that I’ve never managed to listen to it all the way through. Between that and that awful Anaconda song, I’m glad I never bother with any popular music 😛

    I am absolutely obsessed with Garmin stats, but I never look at my Garmin until I’ve finished the run. I do not want to be in the position whereby I rely on it to know my pace, because in a race situation the last thing I should be doing is gluing my eyes to a Garmin…I’m so accident-prone I need my wits about me to avoid tripping, running into a lamp post (or tree, depending on whether it’s a road or trail race), getting lost, or all of the above as it were!

    Jess recently posted…Plusnet Yorkshire Marathon 2014 ~ 3:35:53My Profile

    1. It is a highly catchy song and after hearing it 90 million times I’m done with it! I haven’t actually heard the Anaconda song thankfully. I find Nikki Minaj (not sure of spelling and frankly can’t be bothered to find it out) quite an irritating and aggressive person so I tend to steer clear of her.
      Ahhh yes, good point about the accident-prone thing. I am quite clumsy so this is a problem for me. For cycling especially I’ve found I have to put my Garmin on the handlebars if I want to use it to when cycling as I’ve almost crashed trying to roll my sleeve up to see my speed. Nightmare!!

  4. I love having my Garmin, but I don’t tend to look at it a lot when I run- I tend to glance at it when it beeps (each mile) to see how I am doing. During parkruns I started getting a bit panicky at the end if I thought I was going fast, so I ended up flipping the watch around so I could not see the screen. I like to see on the computer how I did, and I also love tracking the cumulative amount of miles- Nike+ used to do that, and now once I have uploaded my Garmin I log it on Daily mile as they track your miles each week/ month/ year too- that is satisfying.
    I have one friend who runs and she does not care how fast or slow she goes, so would have no interest in these things at all. I go through phases- I do want to speed up, but also I enjoy running and find it stress relieving, so I don’t want my hobby to become stressful- hitting certain paces etc.
    I do find it beneficial in races because I can get sucked along with the faster crowd and then struggle later, so I write down my splits on paper and try to stick to them- running on feel is good but sometimes if you are aiming for something specific then you do need a little help.
    Someone at Sweatshop has a “your pace or mine?” running top!
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Poppy Run 2014My Profile

    1. I tend to panic at parkrun if at the BEGINNING I’m going too fast! At the end I hope I can go as fast as possible (never do, I always positive split).
      I agree that looking at all the stats and figures is very satisfying, but yes checking for certain paces while you’re running can suck the fun out of it. But for me it is part of my enjoyment. If I start getting stressed by it then I’ll probably stop, or do a “free” run. It would usually mean I’m putting too many miles in and getting a bit tired of running.

  5. I never run with my garmin other than during races, when I first got it I used it on every run but it just sucked out all the fun for me, I didn’t want to be constantly looking down at the figures all the time. Now I record on strava for data, sometimes I have the mile announcements on, but mostly not and I just check my stats later on. I guess I just prefer running on feel and checking the data later!
    Lauren (@poweredbypb) recently posted…Rail to Trail EssexMy Profile

    1. I find that s interesting that you normally don’t check your paces. I think I’m a bit neurotic! That’s one of the reasons why I love the running community – one size never fits all!

  6. I’m absolutely in the Garmin camp…although I tend not to look at it very much whilst I’m actually running. Unlike you, I NEVER have to worry about running too fast!

    For me, it’s all about the stats later on. I like to see improvements on routes I run regularly – although that can work in reverse if I have a bad run! And I really do feel like a run doesn’t count if it’s not recorded.

    As I’ve been working on my running post baby, I’ve found the stats great for comparing how I felt with how I actually performed. It’s also proof that, ONCE, I ran three consecutive sub 8 minute miles! I just wish I could do that more and for longer…
    Liz recently posted…Great South Run 2014 Part one. The RaceMy Profile

    1. Yes I love looking at my runs on the same routes – always very interesting. But yeah they’ll always be good runs and bad runs and I try to leave little notes on each run to make sure I know I’m not just getting rubbish but I had a bad day or something. I’m a bit anal like that!

  7. I also watch my Garmin like a hawk, although I rely on it much less than I used to. Sometimes it lies to me and tries to make me believe I’m running much faster/slower than I actually am!
    I generally use it to view my stats afterwards though (unless racing) and keep track of the miles I’ve run. It’s absolutely pointless looking at it during trail runs as the running pace is so inconsistent.
    I want to start training by heartrate again though. One of my targets this Autumn is to get my HRM out again and concentrate on the effort I’m putting in to my runs.
    Mary recently posted…A Halloween run and a birthdayMy Profile

    1. I remember during the Paris marathon there were sections where my Garmin played up and I knew I hadn’t changed my pace but suddenly my Garmin was telling me I was running a minute slower. It did panic me but then I just thought “trust yourself” because I knew how I was running. Though I do rely on my Garmin a lot, I trust myself as well.
      I completely agree about trail runs. The ones I’ve done I didn’t bother looking at my watch. Even for just the miles it was pointless as the mile markers are always out from what the Garmin said. They’re quite nice runs because really it isn’t about the times.

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