I know this may be a shock to many of you, but in certain circles I am known as a “techno-geek.” I have a simple love of the latest and greatest in electronics. While I think we all have issues with limited “Open-To-Buy,” the size of my wallet has never prevented me from having an ample supply of “Open-To-Look.” My approach usually starts with noticing a particular product being used by another individual, followed by a series of intense “just the facts” questions. Such was the case when I noticed many of my fellow running group members wearing a version of the Garmin Forerunner GPS watch.
At the time I was considering the purchase of a GPS watch, Garmin offered several models. The one I finally selected was the Garmin 405 with a heart rate monitor. This is truly an amazing device that can assist in the training of both novice as well as more experienced runners. If you have not experienced running with a GPS, I recommend you try one on at your nearest running/sporting goods store — you will soon be wondering, “how could I have run so long without one?”
One of the Garmin 405’s options is its ability to provide an average pace for whatever parameters the wearer may desire — by time, distance, etc. As an example, one of my display views programmed into my Garmin allows me to see my latest pace, heart rate and total time. One of my favorite Garmin options is its ability to beep and display my last mile’s average pace. With this information, I can better gauge how my run is progressing and it is this option that I utilize for virtually every run and marathon. From the first beep (watch/race start) to the beeps along the way (all 26 beeps, designating the miles underfoot) to the final beep at race end, my Garmin 405 accurately details every aspect of my run in 28 precisely reported and recorded beeps. It is in this spirit that I offer my own 28 beeps … that is 28 must dos for every runner.
Beep No. 1, Race Start: Always — Safety First.
Remember, this is Texas. Drivers view stop signs and red traffic lights as mere suggestions. Even if you, the runner, make eye contact, always assume the driver does not see you. Oh, and you drivers, when turning right, look both to your left and right just to make certain no runners are planning to dash in front of your car.
Beep No. 2, Mile 1: No iPods.
Beep No. 3, Mile 2: No Cotton Shirts.
Cotton absorbs and holds moisture (i.e., sweat). As you proceed in your race, the more moisture your cotton shirt holds, the more uncomfortable you become. Invest in a quality runner’s shirt with wicking properties. You will be glad you did.
Beep No. 4, Mile 3: Make Friends.
Running is sometimes described as a solitary sport, just you against the course. How sad! Take the time to talk to your fellow runners, ask them why they are running that particular event, listen to their answers, make new friends, and watch as the miles go magically by!
Beep No. 5, Mile 4: Register Early.
Generally speaking, the earlier you register, the lower the cost of your race entry. My opinion is that as soon as I pay my money, I feel that I am now committed and obligated to run and participate in that event. I believe that registering early gives my training enforced meaning, as I am now working toward a specific racing goal.
Beep No. 6, Mile 5: Good Shoes and Socks.
If you are serious about running, you need be serious about your shoes. Never buy the $29.99 department store specials. Go to you local running store for an individual fit where their experts will ask you a series of questions all designed to find the best shoes for you. For more advanced runners, alternate your shoes by buying two pairs. Regarding socks, it is important to note that good runner’s sock do not come in a large bag of six pairs. I recommend brands that are designed to displace moisture.
Beep No. 7, Mile 6: Nothing New On Marathon Day.
Marathon Day is never the day to try something new — that is what your training runs are for. This includes pre-race foods and in-race supplements. Learn what works and, more importantly, what does not work for you before your race.
Beep No. 8, Mile 7: Eat Properly.
Just as a car cannot run without fuel, you cannot run unless you have fuel in your tank. I am constantly surprised by how many people I talk to failed to eat anything before a long race. As for me, about 90 minutes before a major run, I will eat peanut butter on a toasted bagel, all washed down with a bottle of Propel Fitness Water. Ask your running coach or friends for other suggestions.
Beep No. 9, Mile 8: Use Body Glide.
Be certain to use Body Glide in "those" areas to prevent chafing. You will thank me.
Beep No. 10, Mile 9: Use Band-Aids.
Men, you only need two. Use your imagination where they are to be applied. Words of advice: It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Beep No. 11, Mile 10: Drink During the Race.
No matter the temperature, be certain to drink during your race. The water stops are there for a reason, so take full advantage.
Beep No. 12, Mile 11: Do You GU?
You need proper nutrition not only before the race but during the race as well. There are several products available from GU to Cliff Shot Blocks to Jelly Belly Runner Beans. Whichever you choose, or can stomach, will be keeping your energy up while on the course. Once again, do not try a new energy product on race day — that’s what your training runs are for! This is doubly true for those things you place in your stomach.
Beep No. 13, Mile 12: Use a Runner’s Pouch.
In order to properly carry my "in the race" power foods, cell phone, car keys, or just about anything else, I use a runner’s pouch. These pouches are very comfortable and provide easy "on the run" access to your contents. My brand of choice is Amphipod, but I would take the time to try on several.
Beep No. 14, Mile 13: Be Prepared!
A good rule of thumb is the night before your event, lay out what you plan to and bring to the race. Chances are, if you plan to rely on your memory, your memory will fail you. The night before offers a low-stress way to prepare for your race without the worry of your looming race start.
Beep No. 15, Mile 14: Arrive in Plenty of Time.
Do not make the trip to your road race a race in itself. Rest assured that race organizers do not care if you are running late, as the chances are very good the race will start at the published time with or without you. Save the stress for the course! Run only one race on race day, and give yourself plenty of time.
Beep No. 16, Mile 15: Smile!
Remember you paid for this fun! When you see photographers along the course, be sure to smile! (A good “Thumbs-Up!” photograph may just make it to the event’s website.)
Beep No. 17, Mile 16: Proper Training.
Nothing beats proper preparation for a race, including weeks of required pre-race training. Unless you are Superman, you just cannot wake up one morning and decide to go run a marathon. I suggest you join a running group. From personal experience you will learn so much more about our sport than running alone. If you must train alone, find a training program (many are online) that fits your goals and follow it. Training is a must!
Beep No. 18, Mile 17: Join a Group.
Just wanted to re-emphasize that you will get so much more from running with a group than you will by yourself. Check with your local running stores as they can point you in the right direction.
Beep No. 19, Mile 18: Wear the Right Clothes for the Weather.
The biggest mistake many runners make is overdressing for the weather. Remember it may be cool or even cold at race start, but two to three miles down the road, you will be feeling much different. (Advice: Take the current temperature, or estimated temperature at race finish, and add 20 degrees. That’s the temperature you will need to dress for.)
Beep No. 20, Mile 19: Listen to Your Body.
If you have a specific pain or you just don’t feel right, have it checked out. The phrase "no pain, no gain" should be stricken from a runner’s vocabulary. Do not ignore your issues, as many small ailments can quickly become larger issues that may require a longer recuperating period. In case you are wondering, whatever time you spend recuperating will not be time you spend running.
Beep No. 21, Mile 20: Utilize Bag Check.
Do not run with scissors or your car keys! Even though you may have a runner’s pouch, if the event offers a bag check, utilize it. Run with just the essentials for the race and unless you are planning to drive to the finish line, bag check all other not-needed-on-the-course items.
Beep No. 22, Mile 21: Thank a Volunteer.
From the person that hands you your race number, to the water station crews along the course, to the person that removes your chip, offer each of them a hearty word of “thanks!” My experience has shown that a large smile usually follows.
Beep No. 23, Mile 22: Thank a Police Officer.
These are the special volunteers stopping intersection traffic so you can run efficiently and without hesitation. A “thanks, officer” is most often met with a “you’re welcome!” Try it and see for yourself.
Beep No. 24, Mile 23: Look Up at the Finish.
You are getting close to the finish line, so the time is now to start thinking about how you are going to look when you cross it. Remember to look up with a smile and perhaps your arms outstretched in victory in order to capture your moment of glory. Avoid looking down at your watch, as you attempt to find the stop button. Wait until you are well past the finish line to stop your watch. You will be glad you did.
Beep No. 25, Mile 24: Always Run the Tangent.
Remember the axiom that the shortest distance between two points is straight line. Use that scientific fact to your benefit as you come to the end of your race. As the course curves, run the tangent, i.e., the straight line from where the curve starts and ends. You will get to the where you want to go while running less total distance.
Beep No. 26, Mile 25: Know Your Limitations.
Push yourself, but only you can know just how far that can be. I never thought I would ever run a marathon, but I just finished my fifteenth. Be proud of your accomplishments!
Beep No. 27, Mile 26: Encourage Others to Join in Our Sport!
Remember, this is fun, and fun like this needs to be shared. My suggestion: With your new running friends, plan an out-of-town marathon road trip. It is amazing the experiences you will share with each other on the trip home.
Beep No. 28, Mile 26.2: Enjoy the Finish!
You have just completed something that 99.9 percent of the rest of the world has never even attempted! You finished a marathon. Enjoy the feeling and the medal — you earned both.
Isn't technology great?
(Ken Lettre can be reached at: TXMidPack@gmail.com.)