One of the things I (used to) look forward to before any race, be it a local 5K or a Big Event I’d been training for in solitude for several months, is the opportunity to commune with my fellow running humans before and during the race. Well, it pains me to report that it’s really hard to find any kind of camaraderie in the start chute or on the course anymore, when fully 75% of all runners seem to have audio equipment stuffed into their ears, fully engulfed in music.
Also, I could not help but notice people whining on the ol’ face books about their GPS malfunctioning during parts of last weekend’s race in Trenton. Oh, boo-fucking-hoo!!! Seriously? Will someone please explain to me how this enhances your experience in any way? If you refuse to run, or somehow find your running experience diminished, without a satellite telling you where you are, you should seek professional help immediately. I know where I am. I’m right here. Thank you very much.
In a nutshell: I run to escape technology, not to become further enslaved by it. Staring at a screen all day, I fucking live for the 4-10 hours a week where I can completely unplug, and work on my hobby with nothing more complicated than a watch on my arm. I pity those who cannot or will not do the same.
I should not have to get this out of the way, but I will: I love music. Love, love, LOVE it. And I am aware of the literature linking motivational music to enhanced performance, not to mention its anesthetic properties regarding the task at hand. Still, I don’t need it pounding in my ears for one to four hours while I’m out running. Having spent nearly half my life as an extremely amateur drummer (with occasional flashes of actual proficiency), my mental jukebox can dial up any of literally thousands of songs, from AC/DC to Zeppelin. And I use this skill with alarming frequency. Sometimes I forget all the lyrics or skip a verse, but it gets the job done.
My sister has told me on more than one occasion “I have no idea how you can be alone with your thoughts for that long.” Granted, my thoughts are generally vile, disgusting, and self-deprecating, but overall, running actually empties my head, which I find to actually improve my performance in other aspects of life.
I know you’re by now dying for a few more reasons why else would I never think of taking my so-called smartphone along with me on my runs, so read on, kids!
Fancy traveling man that I am, I often find myself running in sketchy neighborhoods in the predawn darkness. With nothing but a hotel room key stuffed down my compression shirt, this has rarely concerned me. That said, doing the same thing with several hundred dollars’ worth of electronics strapped to my arm – a glowing beacon that might as well scream “Rob Me!” – seems like a very unintelligent thing to do.
Taking the whole personal safety thing one step further, I am at a loss to explain why any person with an IQ north of room temperature would go out for a run – especially on roads – equipped with anything less than 100% awareness of his or her surroundings. In my experience, my ears have often been more important than my eyes in keeping me out of trouble out there.
Then, there are the races. One of my favorite things about race day is that lift you get from the crowd, the random people cheering you on; by name even, if the bibs are equipped so as to identify you personally. Why would you want to miss out on that by having Slayer, or Foster the People, or Barry Manilow drilling into your cerebral cortex?
Lastly, it’s pretty much a given that technology will, at least occasionally, let you down. As in physically fail you, and at the worst possible moment. I think some guy named Murphy had something to say about that. So what do you do when you’ve been using a training aid (crutch?) for months, and it craps out on you in the last third of your Big Event? Where are you now? This past Saturday, I was stupefied at how many people would stop running in the middle of a half-marathon, in order to dick around with their electronic devices. It simply blew my mind. I can guarantee you that any of a host of issues will bog me down in Philadelphia on Sunday, but they will all be purely biological. Why leave yet another thing to chance?
Where this tirade has inevitably taken me is to the point where I explain how I always get a chuckle when I read a race FAQ that says something like “the use of headphones on the race course is strictly prohibited.” (at a minimum, race organizers at least officially frown on this practice). Heh. Heh. Of course headphones are prohibited. Of course everyone will obey this more-or-less unenforceable mandate, and of course I will not nearly be knocked over four or five times by people who decide at the last minute to cut clear across the road to the water table, absolutely oblivious to everyone around them. Feh.
By the very nature of this activity, we are a self-absorbed lot, and we are not going to do (or not do) something simply because a race organizer says so. It’s all about “me,” people.
It saddens (and occasionally infuriates) me that we seem completely unable to just go out and do anything anymore – even the purest, most natural fitness activity known to humankind – without being tethered to technology. I weep for the future.