Some say I’m strong-willed. Others call me a freak.
When I tell people I love running marathons, the reaction is always mixed, to say the least.
When I started training for my first 26-mile slog, I didn’t know what to expect.
I knew I’d hit ‘the wall’ and I hoped I’d make it to the other side. I’d been told the crowds and atmosphere help but I prayed I could find the right mix of adrenaline and energy gels to pull me across the finish line.
I made it. And while I don’t think I’ve turned into a marathon bore (others may disagree), I can’t deny I’m hooked. I’d go as far as to say, running is one of my favourite things to do alongside watching football and eating food. Shit, and spending time with my wife.
I reckon running is in my DNA, but in lots of ways, I still don’t know what to expect when I start training for a race. To help with that, I always like to know if there’s a bit of science or tech that can help me go the extra mile (or 25.5).
For me, it started with a good pair of trainers. My current pair are from Asics, but I’ve been through a few. Find the right pair and you’ve already put yourself at an advantage.
Next came the research. I hate to think how many hours I’ve spent Googling carb-loading, sports massage, running posture, motivational playlists, interval training, and all things marathon – whatever I can find that might make my training more effective.
Then there’s the tech. To be honest, I’m blown away by the amount of choice out there. At the risk of sounding a bit ‘all the gear, no idea’, here are some of the gadgets that have caught my eye over the years.
Let’s start with a running watch. Designed specifically for runners, they can help you stay bang on the right pace. If you have a race plan, a running watch can help you stick to it. I’ve got one, and I love it.
A cheaper option is a fitness armband that holds your smartphone. Combined with a running app, your phone has everything you need to track your runs. It also means you have your running playlist within easy reach.
Talking of music... hours of silent training might not appeal to everyone. A few bangers will take your mind off the pain and help you get into the zone. When choosing your wireless headphones, go for comfort and a good fit.
If you’re really serious about your training, a smart heart rate sensor might be the way forward. These sensors use heartbeats per minute rather than pace to measure the intensity of your run and transfer wirelessly to your device. I haven’t got one, but I’m tempted. Very tempted…
Next up, and the last one on the list: wearables. Connected running shoes are starting to break into the market. With sensors to measure distance, pace, stride, and steps, they even tell you when it’s time to buy a new pair.
Saying that I should probably add the small print. Running tech is a great way to get started and it distracts you from the fact you’re running for hour upon hour. But you also need willpower, and that can be trickier to come by.
Running is hard, the training can be brutal and it can make you feel really angry. But tech can help. Although, nothing can beat the taste of that celebratory pint once you’ve crossed the finishing line.