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January 31, 2018

You can have my GPS watch when you pry it from my cold, dead hands

Yesterday, we published a wonderful piece by Jacqueline Alnes on what she learned from not running with a watch. DumbFlo decided to pen their own reflection about running with a GPS watch all the time. 

When I was 8 years old, my dad gave me my first GPS watch. A lot of people will say that’s too young. They’ll say that kids don’t need  GPS watches and that they should just enjoy running for the sake of running. But where I grew up, people thought a little bit differently than those people. You see, where I came from getting your first GPS watch was a rite of passage.

My first GPS watch wasn’t anything special. A small black watch from Timex, it didn’t do much. It kept track of distance, pace, time, but it didn’t upload anywhere. I didn’t care though. Like most kids in my neighborhood, I used to stay out late in my backyard, running around and seeing how low I could get the pace before my parents yelled at me to come back inside. The neighbors would scold my parents, saying that I would hurt myself trying to do something stupid with the watch, but my father would look them in the eyes and remind them that I was his kid, not theirs.

His GPS watch was much better than mine. A large Garmin that extended almost the full length of his forearm. It isn’t much of a GPS watch now, but looking back, I used to idolize it. He’d keep it safely away in his dresser, taking it out for his morning runs, safely placing it back out of sight.

When I got older and finally moved out on my own, one of the first things I bought was a GPS watch. I went down to the local Best Buy, found an employee, and he unlocked the case for me, grabbing a brand-new Garmin Forerunner. With its sleek design and solid construction, I could feel the weight of it in my hands. It felt good. It felt right.

Eventually I grew out of that watch and got one that allows me to get heart rate monitor attachments, a cadence sensor for when I’m on my bike, a nicer charging stand, and a lot more capabilities.

Why do I need a watch that can do so much? Why should I have all of these capabilities? Because my GPS keeps me safe. It lets me know if I’m running too fast, not running fast enough, and helps me know that I am in control of the situation.

Now, some of the Stopwatch Justice Warriors out there will claim that I don’t need all this data. They’ll say that beyond it not being actionable, that I don’t even run races so I’m not training for much of anything. All I hear when I get told that nonsense is the sound of boots skipping across my freedoms as a red-blooded runner.

Why can’t I have access to this data? Why can’t I take my location and upload it to the internet giving strangers the ability to track my position for at least 10 hours a week? Isn’t that my right? Can’t I decide whether or not I can let everyone know what I’m doing and how I do it? Or is this no longer America?

Besides, I don’t let the data get to my head. I don’t obsess over it, post it to Strava and get into needless competitions with other people. I’m a responsible GPS watch owner. I keep my data private and use it only to keep my running in line, not to try and compete with someone else.

Yes, sure, occasionally people with overuse injuries will be able to walk into a Walmart and walk-out with a GPS watch and a fuel belt. Obviously, there is an issue and that issue is with lower limb health. We can’t blame an entire industry of GPS watch makers for the mistakes of people who don’t properly take care of their bodies by visiting running shops for gait analysis and fittings on a regular basis from trained professionals. Maybe the solution to this is more time spent in the mom and pop shops that made running in this country what it is today and less time online looking at Amazon for the next great bargain while stepping on the throat of the American working man.

Maybe in the People’s Republic of Eugene, Oregon or the United Soviet Seattle Republics it’s hip to run without a GPS watch and “just be free” as you listen to your vinyl records and sip your fair trade cold brew in between sucking down frozen rose drinks at brunches, but in real America, we don’t have your Equinox gyms, your personal trainers, your foam rollers, your high tech “cryo-therapy.” We have our own two hands and a heart. We run in the dead of winter and we enjoy it because that’s the way we were raised. We don’t need fancy pseudoscience for us to enjoy a run, we just need our GPS watch and a pair of trainers.

Maybe that’s the issue with America? We keep giving out these participation trophies. We say “whatever pace you run is okay” and that it doesn’t matter what you do. You can run however far you want and it doesn’t matter. Is that the future we want for our children? 5ks where we don’t know we ran? We just call it when we feel like it? Just a sport based off feelings? Yuck. The only feeling that I’m looking for the is the feeling of a soft urethane band on my wrist.

Now I’m sure this article is going to upset the “Pace Police” who say that I’m just being archaic or “out of touch”. Maybe the academics in their ivory towers will try to tell me about my life and my experience. To that, I say hogwash. I’ve owned a GPS watch since I was a small boy and I will be buried with a GPS watch. If the Stopwatch Gestapo wants to come to my house, I’ll look them straight in their beady, lifeless eyes and say “Buddy, you can have my GPS watch when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.”

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