The Planet Wave: Run Free (Toss Your GPS, iPod and HRM)

June 26, 2013 Posted By: Bob "Wish" Wischnia

One of the aspects of running that I like the most is its simplicity. All I need are shorts and shoes and I’m good to go. Nothing else is needed.

That’s why I rebel at all the extraneous gadgets that now litter our sport. I don’t have anything against running with a (choose one) GPS, iPod, heart rate monitor or any other doodad, but they just aren’t for me. Nor is utilizing MapMyRun a necessity to see how far I went and I don’t feel the need to go to my computer to log my run.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an anti-technology, Luddite who hates everything with an on/off switch. I have all the usual electronic conveniences—iPhone, computers, iPod—but I’m the type of guy who wants to get away from them when I run.

I love music, just not when I run. One of my daughters is just the opposite. She can’t run a single step without her music and can’t fathom how I possibly can. Instead, the sights and sounds on my morning runs—subtle as they may be— are my music and I don’t want any outside interference.

My runs are primal and I’m constantly tuned into my breathing, the rustling of the wind and my effort on any given day. I don’t need a heart rate monitor to tell me I’m going too fast or slow and it doesn’t matter one iota if I total exactly 7 miles, rather than 6 ½. My body doesn’t care. Why should my head?

We probably all have GPS-dependent friends who finish a long run with a couple of superfluous laps around the parking lot. I certainly do. The other day we finished up a group long run which was supposed to be 15 miles. But evidently it was a little short and several of the runners tethered to their GPS devices continued around the parking lot just so they could faithfully record 15 miles on the button.

I have one running buddy friend who carries all the usual accoutrements—GPS, iPod, HRM—on every run, regardless of length. When we go long, he adds a water bottle for each hand and fills his pockets with energy bars, gels and jelly beans. He’s weighted down with enough stuff to rival an Everest expedition.

Whenever we do a long run together, I feel like the Tom Hanks character in Saving Private Ryan who, before leaving for the front line, tosses away the wimpy translator’s typewriter and notebooks into a bunker and says something to the effect, “You won’t need this where we’re going.”

Neither will my friend. He’ll run just as well—maybe even better—if he jettisoned some of his toys. Running is sweat equity and there are no conveniences that truly matter.

Still, I don’t begrudge runners who use all the latest running gadgets. It’s simply not me.

Of course, it could be I’m a little paranoid to find out my favorite 20-miler is actually closer to 18. Or that my long-run pace is really a minute per mile slower than it feels like. Even worse, I don’t want to discover that 5-K course I PR’ed on last year is really 2.98 miles.

Maybe ignorance is bliss.

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