(This piece is for my book-in-progress titled See How We Run: Best Writings from 25 Years of Running Commentary. I am posting an excerpt here each week, this one from May 1998.)
As walk breaks slipped more often into my runs, I had a timing problem. I’d spend as much time looking at the watch, checking on the next stopping point, as studying the passing scene and sifting my rambling thoughts. So often did I twist my wrist and neck for watch reading that they were at greater risk of overuse injuries than the feet and legs.
Paul Reese suggested one solution. “I don’t like glancing at my watch all the time,” he said. “So I take my planned breaks at mile points.”
Paul took these breaks all while crossing the U.S. in 1990, while running as much as a marathon a day. He fell into a pattern of three-mile pitstops on his cross-state runs. At home he stopped as often as every half-mile.
That works if miles (and fractions) are marked. But I never measure my daily runs – and never even know at the start where I’ll go that day. I go by time, planning stops at 10-minute intervals.
This resulted in excessive clock-watching… until I found IT. The initials represent Ironman Triathlon, not the endurathon itself but a watch made by Timex.
At the Around the Bay 30K this spring I lined up beside Cathy Troisi at the start. She’s one of my longtime friends I see too seldom because we live at opposite ends of the country.
As she set her watch, I asked about her Timex IT. “I’ve tried them all,” she said, “and this is the best I’ve found. I can program it to beep at any interval.”
Cathy is a committed walk-breaker and had set the watch to sound twice per run/walk cycle after four minutes of running, then at the end of her one-minute walk. The watch automatically and continuously repeated.
“I never have to worry about the time,” she said. “The watch does the thinking for me.”
Cathy convinced me. The next week I went shopping for a beeping watch of my own.
I bought a lower-end IT model than hers, which appeared to do everything but make morning coffee. Mine doesn’t record and recall up to 100 splits, but only stores a half-dozen.
It’s still the highest-tech running product I use, doing what no previous watch of mine has done. The IT has changed – no, revolutionized – my timing.
Most days now, I skip over the stopwatch feature. Split-storage is irrelevant with distances unknown.
Instead I put the watch in “timer” mode. This provides repeating countdowns from pre-set starting points.
Mine are nine and one minutes. At the end of each, the watch beeps discreetly for a few seconds to signal the start of break time, while the watch has already started ticking off the next cycle. (This count can hide behind either the time-of-day or stopwatch readings, and go unseen while still sounding off at intervals.)
The Timex now watches the time for me. It frees me to look and think beyond numbers.
UPDATE FROM 2014
This column was the first to appear on my web page. Warren Finke created it in 1998 and still serves as its webmaster.
I now wear the Gymboss timer, which Jeff Galloway recommends for his run-walk-run program. This device that Jeff calls the “little green coach” is easier to program and to hear (or feel, since it can be set to vibrate) than the Timex.
The walk breaks come up more often now than they did in 1998. I take them sight unseen.
[Hundreds of previous articles, dating back to 1998, can be found at joehenderson.com/archive/. Many books of mine, old and recent, are now available in as many as three different formats: (1) in print from Amazon.com; (2) as e-books from Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com; (3) as PDFs for e-reader devices and apps, from Lulu.com. Latest released was Going Far. Other titles: Home Runs, Joe’s Journal, Joe’s Team, Learning to Walk, Long Run Solution, Long Slow Distance, Marathon Training, Run Right Now, Run Right Now Training Log, and Starting Lines, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe.]