One of the unexpected things that running taught me is that I cannot rely on tech too much. Many friends live with the notion that if it was not posted, it never happened. If you never posted on your instagram story that you had a coffee at some hipsters place, then you never were there. Similarly, if you never posted the screenshot of your running app once you finished the run - you never actually ran.
I always cringed from this kind of dependence on documenting your every action for the public. I am the person that do not post something unless I do this action on a daily basis and it is part of character. I never posted my running progress for first two-three months. I made sure that running is not just one of those things that I start, got excited about it, post about for couple of days and then forgot. I waited to see that I am consistent with my running and it is part of my daily routine. Once I started posting it, I got many supporting words from my friends and followers. This definitely helped to solidify my identity as a runner in my own eyes.
What I would post were screenshots from from my running tracking app. By the end of a daily run, I liked to look at my running route and analyze my speed, cadence and parts of the route where I ran fast and parts where I ran slow. This gave me a good feedback whether I am progressing or not. Over time, I noticed that I think more about the final result of my run in the running app rather than the process of running. During the run, I would think, okay, if I double speed up at this part of the route, my average running speed will be skewed upward, which will mean that by the end of the run my average tempo for the whole route will be higher than usual. Or, I would skip necessary slow start at the beginning that helps your body and mind to adjust to running, because I knew this will improve my result. Or, when I got tired and slow down, I would imagine how my this part of the routes gets colored red in the app and it would make never to run harder even if my body tells me otherwise. I liked when the app shows all of your route in green color - it means you ran at consistent and good tempo.
In other words, I adjusted my ran to get better results in the app. Now, every runner who takes the running serious will say to you that this a bad habit. You have to adjust your run based on how you feel, how your legs feel, how your mind, breathing, posture and movement is doing and not based on what it would like in the app. App does not capture the whole experience of the running, the challenges and nuances, people you have to overrun, bike riders who threaten to threw you out of the road and everything else - the app captures just the data.
This was fine until the winter came and the cold air would freeze my old iPhone. Sometimes, it would not turn off even if I have 100% battery. Sometimes, the running app would not turn on because and the process of launching it will get my battery from 100 to zero. In such situations, I could not start my run without my app. It would feel that if I do not track my run, it means that it never happened. It means that I could not send my running screenshot to our family group in WhatsApp and show that now I am running 5KM instead of 3KM. I would literally got very frustrated in moments like this. And even if I start running without tracking it, it would feel wrong and I would be in a bad mood and would not enjoy the process.
As my phone did not get better over time, and I got more and more frustrated, I understood that this is a toxic dependence. I decided not to stress anymore about if my phone not working at the start of the run. If it does not work, its fine - I still run as if nothing changed. I did not want the app - that probably is selling my running data to shoe companies and athlete agencies to analyze terabytes of running patterns of people worldwide - to define my running. I wanted to run and be present and listen to my mind and body during the run and care about how I feel and how I am doing rather than how the final data will look like. Over time, I realized that I felt pressure running with the tracking app. I wanted my performance to improve over time and I wanted to show better results with each run. Once I started to run without the app, I felt easy and calm. And paradoxically, less stress about performance during the run made me a better runner.
For the same reason, I also stopped listening to music during my run. I want to be present for myself and pay attention to my thinking, legs and lungs. For the first few runs without music, it was challenging. When you run with music, you are a main actor in a dramatic sports movie. As songs change, your attitude and mood change accordingly. With Eminem’s "Lose Yourself", I would push through even if my legs would hurt badly. With Galcher Lustwerk’s "Parlay" I would switch to calm and stable tempo. This is really bad for your running because you are adjusting your run based on false indicators like the mood or tempo of songs.
This experience with running and technology reliance got me thinking about technology in my life in general. Who we are really without our phones constantly having 4G? We feel lost and insecure, disconnected. Turn off the internet in our apartments and we start itching like hell. And it is not because we actually use the internet 24/7. Just feels good to know that its there for you available at any time.
I do not deny good sides of tech. My running app was my coach first four months of my running. It helped me to make running my habit, rather than occasional adventure. It helped me to develop commitment as seeing your results improve over time is the best reward a runner can have. It boosts your confidence, and gives you more motivation to keep pushing forward.
There is no clear conclusion to my story. We as a society as well as individuals are still figuring out our relationship with tech. It changed us, sometimes for better and sometimes for worse. Keeping balance I guess is the best thing. How to find this balance is another question. And I do not have an answer to it yet.