I love my Garmin watch. Just today, it recorded my fastest 10k yet. The main reason that I ran well today, though, was that I was not thinking about running well. Instead, I was considering the many things that my watch can’t track. Often, these are the very things that make running worthwhile—far beyond any numbers. Here are a few of my favorites (in no particular order):
- Engagement with Nature – I will always sacrifice a personal best if it means getting to watch a bald eagle in flight or a deer grazing. Just yesterday, I made intense eye contact with a hawk—it was incredible! I will also go out of my way to step on a crunchy leaf or examine a beautiful plant. Feel free to pause your watch all you want if it means stopping to smell the roses!
- Other Runners – No matter your pace, it’s encouraging to feel that you are a part of a community of runners. I always love seeing regulars out on the trail, smiling and waving as we endure our daily workout.
- Resilience – While watches can measure mileage, they can’t measure how many times you thought about quitting and didn’t, or how many stitches you endured and cramps you had to stretch out. The runs I am most proud of might not be my fastest or farthest but are simply the ones that took the most determination.
- Prayers – I often use solitary, silent runs for prayer and reflection. My watch tracks my location, not contemplation. Sometimes I regulate my breathing using the words of the Kyrie. My watch shows my breaths per minute but not the number of times I inhaled, “Lord, have mercy” and exhaled, “Christ, have mercy.”
- Mental Health – Watches can measure calories burned but definitely can’t track anxieties left behind on trail or depression alleviated by exercise. Managing emotional weight is important too and, often, physical fitness will follow mental stability (and visa versa).
- Relationships – My best friends in college were my running partners. My husband and I fell in love through long runs together. Slowing down a run for good conversation is always worth it. Enduring a painful run in good company is a great way to bond.
- Vitamin D – My watch can’t tell me how nourished my skin is or how much being outdoors improved my mood. A session on the treadmill might boost my endorphins, but there is no substitute for fresh air and sunshine.
If you are new to running (or looking to start) and are intimidated by pace, miles, calories, etc. — don’t be. There are so many better things about running that can’t be measured by a watch. Focus on these first and, eventually, the rest will follow.