This Runner's Trials

The break-up I didn’t see coming

Thank you so much for all of your coping suggestions. My hubby and I are taking a vacation in a few weeks (wohoo!) and I'll definitely look into support groups and possibly counseling. I am feeling much better today because a light bulb went off in my head…

On February 1, 2010, I set out to run for 45 minutes. At this time in my life, I'd been distance running for almost 7 years. But this run was different. This run changed me. This run was my first run using my handy new tool:

Prior to my Garmin, I never cared about my pace or my distance. I ran for time, and assumed I always ran somewhere between a 9:00- 10:00 min/ mile pace. Sure, this strategy seems crazy now, but it got me through a marathon, 6 half marathons, and many other shorter races.

Even though I was a runner who sometimes raced, achieving PRs was not my motivation for running.

I started running because it was a great workout, but that's not why I stuck with it. Running was my therapy. I haven't gone into much detail on the blog (yet), but I've had my fair share of anxiety issues. I've seen therapists and spent years on anti-anxiety meds. Sometimes the medication really helped, but nothing ever worked like a good run did.

And a "good" run certainly wasn't about hitting negative splits. It was about letting go, getting lost in my thoughts, and enjoying the outdoors. I never used to run on the treadmill; that would ruin the point of running for me. I determined the days I ran based on the weather, and how far I ran based on how I felt. There weren't any training plans or Garmins beeping at me showing my pace. It was just me and my mind. Running was not about the end result, it was about the experience that got me there. I used to be sad when my runs ended, now sometimes I can't wait for them to be over.

Let's not pretend for a minute that I didn't enjoy my last year with my Garmin. My Garmin and new approach to running helped me PR in every distance by a lot. And running fast and hitting paces I'd only dreamed about really did help me cope last year.

But that's not what I need now. I need running to be my therapy again. I'm done using my Garmin. 

I figured getting my running high back would be tricky to achieve at first. But it was kind of like riding a bike. Mentally letting go this morning yielded a great run this afternoon. At first I felt naked without my Garmin, but then I got in the best groove. I ran for a little over an hour and felt amazing. Now I feel more relaxed and optimistic than I have all week :)

Ok, maybe the fact that it was sunny and in the mid 50's helped my mood too.

Why do you run? Has that reason changed over time? Do you ever run without your Garmin? Is there anyone who doesn't have a Garmin? I know you're out there! I still don't have Facebook, so I know there are some Garmin-less runners ;)

Comments (27) Trackbacks (1)
  1. I don’t have a Garmin…

    I haven’t worn any kind of watch since I was about 8 (now that is a looooooooong time ago…)

    I usually also forget to look at the time before and/or after I finish so I normally have no idea how long I’ve been out.

    I am considering getting some sort of timing thingy though, but I am really not sure if I could bear to wear it, watches are just so uncomfortable, and I generally don’t like things that beeps at me. ;-)

  2. You are returning to your running roots. It’s awesome! I hope the feeling of moving your body, sweating it out, and enjoying your surroundings keeps you strong and relaxed.

    I wear my Garmin mostly so I know how far I’ve gone when training, but I don’t always love it. The numbers can get in my head and I don’t always appreciate how my body feels because I get caught up in my electronics. I almost always enjoy a Garmin-free run more than one with my watch. I am super excited to spend my summer running in the morning with no watch or time concerns.

  3. Good for you! :) I do have a Garmin but only use it for distance- when I run I set it to show only the distance on the screen, so I know when to turn around!! And I have had it for about three years-lol. Eventually I want to learn how to use the other features but am happy just running at this point. I hope you have a great time running Garmin free!

  4. I got a garmin for Christmas and While I love it, I do fine I keep too much of an eye on it. I actually made a decision this morning on my run to take one run per week without it. I need to enjoy running more without the pressure.
    Good luck!

  5. Um, I love this post.

    I’ve been running competitively since kindergarten, so it’s really deeply ingrained in me. I got through all that running, was all-state in cross country and the 3200m in track in high school, and a year of D1 college cross country and track, all without a Garmin. I used a $12 watch from Target, and still do.

    I got a Garmin for Christmas, and I do love it. I mostly love it for long runs, though- knowing the distance makes it easier than estimating.

    But I still love running with my old $12 watch. I’ve had my own bouts with dealing with anxiety, and running really is “therapy.” It’s been a struggle at times to keep running in that balanced place and not be obsessed about pace.


  6. That’s awesome that your run felt so good. I wear my Nike watch just for timing about half of my runs either bc my garmin isn’t charged or i don’t want to deal with waiting for the thing to sync to satellites. It’s so true though that it’s freeing to run without all the stats.

  7. I’ve had my Garmin for about a year and in that year I have shaved about 1:15 off my average pace. I LOVE my Garmin. But sometimes I just want to run for “fun” and not care what pace I’m going, so I ditch the Garmin and the music and just enjoy the fact that I’m running. Definitely have to unplug one in awhile.

  8. I’m a newbie runner, but for me it’s a goal that I thought that I never could obtain. I was overweight, and being a runner was only a pipedream for me. I was never an athlete growing up, and never cared to be. Within the last 5 years, I started having an interest in it, and within the last 3 months, I’ve increased my running to 2 miles! It’s a big achievement for me, and I decided to run in a 5K the end of March.

  9. No Garmin for this runner. I run w/ a running club on Tues/Thurs/Sat so I just find out when we hit miles as I hear the beeps of their watches. Would I like a Garmin? YES! (I just ran my first 1/2 – 1:39 – and I would love to actually ‘train’ moving forward). However, I do run just to run. I have struggled w/ exercise and eating for numerous years and I think that having a Garmin might make me more #s crazed and I do not need that.

  10. Great post! I do about 20% of my runs without my garmin. It’s so nice to not even think about pace, and running garmin-less makes recovery runs even more effective b/c I totally run based on feel.

  11. I don’t have a Garmin and I am a runner going for my Olympic Trials qualifying time in the marathon. On my easy runs and recovery runs, I don’t even wear a watch. I do either borrow my boyfriends Garmin or my suunto or map out the distance first when I am doing speed work, track work or long runs. I really like balancing tracking my pace and not. When I am running an easy or non-specific workout, I really don’t care what my time is. I definitely think it is liberating to run without a garmin. As an ultrarunner and trail runner, which I also am, I have found that I rarely wear a watch out on the trails.

  12. On my blog my running page has a short poem dedicated to why I run. It’s definitely more therapeutic for me than anything and nothing has been more fun than trail runs where I just can explore and let go. I have a garmin now but still only choose to wear it part of the time. :)

  13. I’m un-creeping to tell you: SAME. I’ve been dealing with constant anxiety and depression for almost 10 years now. I’ve been to therapy, been on antidepressants, but nothing has worked like running (and now yoga, too). I’m never going back on the drugs again, but I do keep a back-up stash of xanax for panic attacks! :) I don’t have a Garmin, and although I wanted that fun gadget for a while, I know I’ll never get one. I just use my boyfriend’s over-sized cheapo watch to make sure my runs are at least 20 minutes when I’m out for a quick one, but I often don’t wear it. I just like to get out, move, and get my natural antidepressants going. It’s crazy how much my nerves will tell me that I need a run! LOVE this post Jen, it was so great to read, and I’m glad that light bulb went off and that you’re feeling better :)

  14. Good for you! I never run without my Garmin and I’m beginning to think of it as a crutch. Maybe I’ll try and leave it home for my easy runs?!?! Gotta start somewhere…

  15. So glad you will be taking a vacation! That seems like exactly what you need. Also an awesome idea to get back to why you started running in the first place – just for the sake of bringing you peace and sanity, not for hitting a certain pace or a certain number of miles. I believe it’s a positive thing to always be re-evaluating where I’m at and what I need at a certain point in my life, rather than to keep things at a constant just out of routine. I think it is so wonderful that you’re able to identify what you need from running right now, and adjust accordingly. After running for years (and qualifying for Boston) without a Garmin, I got one for Christmas, and I love it – it’s totally changing my training and helping me, but at the same time sometimes I don’t take it with me for the very reasons you said. Running brings me joy and is my therapy, and I don’t want to lose that connection.

  16. Running and I have had a similar relationship. When I first began, it was simply fun to run for pleasure. I honestly had more fun with running before I learned so much about what I should be doing or how I should be training. Then, once I completed my first (and only) marathon with success it was kind of like, what’s next?

    I was actually afraid when I first got my Garmin because I didn’t want to know how slow I was going. I thought it would be discouraging. And a lot of the times it is. If I’m not having a good run, I look at my Garmin and often think I should just cut the run short because it’s not going well. That is not supposed to be what running is about!

    Anyway, I applaud you for disconnecting from your Garmin and going au natural with your runs again!

  17. “And a “good” run certainly wasn’t about hitting negative splits. It was about letting go, getting lost in my thoughts, and enjoying the outdoors.” – exactly this! I started running as a way to workout when I didnt have a gym close. At some point I discovered something about myself I never knew exisited. I push when I want to push and go easy when I need to. Running is therapy. I do have a garmin and have PR-ed 2 races but do not use it for all my runs. I TRY not to let my watch run me but get lost in my run.

  18. I don’t have a Garmin watch but I want one! Actually, I’d like your advice…I use my cheap-o watch and it works great, but I would love a Garmin to track my distance on each run instead of plotting it out before hand or checking after a run and being disappointed when I estimated wrong. I use and between that resource and the stopwatch on my watch, I’m pretty content, and kind of worried that if I get a Garmin I’ll focus on just running faster on every run. What’s your advice? Sounds like you’re glad you have one…

    Unplugging is awesome. :D I actually don’t normally run with music but lately I’ve been downloading different podcasts and listening to them on long runs and loving it – kind of the reverse. But isn’t it the best when you run and you feel just in that zone? Hope you continue to have those good runs, especially with what you’re going through right now – running IS good therapy, you’re right. :D Take care and run happy!

  19. I have to tell you that you scared me with the title of this post! I thought you were breaking up with running for good. Glad to see that’s not the case. ;)

    Anyway, I ran for a really long time without my Garmin and my favorite type of run to do was what you just described — just go out and run for an hour, not caring about pace or how far I’ve gone. I’ve only had my Garmin for a year and I think it can be both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, I love that it allows me to go out and just run wherever I want to…and yet still know the distance at the end. It also can be incredibly motivating to see the numbers and push myself to run faster. At the same time, however, it’s really easy to get sucked into those numbers. As a competitive person, I sometimes find myself competing with my own pace/time on a certain route and have a hard time backing off when I know that I should. So I try to make an effort to run without the Garmin on most of my recovery days. It’s a nice break.

    I hope you enjoy your Garmin-less runs! There’s something about running unplugged that makes you really appreciate running just for the sheer joy of it. :)

  20. This is a great post – I often forget about the joys of just running, especially in winter when I am chained to the treadmill and then numbers are right in front of me the entire time. I set myself a PR goal this year and so I find myself a bit consumed with numbers. this post made me to start to see that I am becoming a bit consumed with it. I hope when the ice melts I can just go out for a fun for me!

  21. Oh my goodness I can relate to this post SO MUCH!(Well, maybe not so much about going fast/setting PRs… but about using running for therapy). Running has always been an “escape” for me… and I too tend to feel better about life, school, work, ANYTHING that’s on my mind after a good run. Seriously, I could have written this post myself. I totally hear ya!

    Oh, and I just got a Garmin about a month and a half ago. I still don’t care about time/splits/pace (i don’t even really look at it)… but it’s kind of neat to know how i did when it loads onto the computer at the end of a run

  22. I run garmin-less sometimes and it is always so nice to not be worried about times/distances/paces. Such a good post that so relatable. I started running to lose weight, then to get speedy and now it is the way I relieve stress. Hope you enjoy your garmin-less runs and beautiful weather.

  23. I want to run for the same reasons you mention – that personal accomplishment, getting out there and into my head, relieving stress, having fun in new challenging ways. I don’t have a Garmin and debate getting one. I think it could be a useful tool but I don’t want to get obsessive over pace or anything either. I think its so cool to learn you trained for all those races before without one and just going with the flow. I think tracking my distances and learning how to pace myself is the biggest motivation I have for getting one if I did.

  24. I have no Garmin. I kind of want one, but it’s going to be at least March before I can convince myself that I’ll be able to run outside enough to justify it. Until then, I have my Nike+ which I mostly just use to estimate distance since apparently I can’t keep a steady pace even while running at a set speed on a treadmill.

  25. I don’t have a garmin, I live in South America and they’re hard to find and expensive, so I’ve been debating with myself the pros and cons of getting one… still undecided. Every time friends travel abroad I’m on the verge of giving them the money and getting one but I don’t wanna be that kind of girl (you know, they have to find a shop that sells it, figure out which one, etc, don’t wanna be an annoyance)
    but I also think, do I really want to know everything about my runs? wouldn’t that trigger my anxiety?

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