I can’t remember the last time I went for a low-tech run. You know… no running app, no fitness monitor, no headphones— do people even still do that anymore?! All jokes aside, with all of the tech available at our fingertips mid-run, today’s generation of runners has more resources than ever to track our runs. Everything from pace, distance, time, elevation, intervals, routes, pictures, playlists, and so much more can be easily tracked with the touch of a button nowadays. Such instant access to such awesome features is a pretty amazing thing… but I’ve got one qualm with all of this running-related technology. Yup, I’m looking at you, pause button!
Pause: use and abuse
Unfortunately, many runners use the pause button a little too liberally. This might not seem like a huge deal in the grand scheme of things, but, in the end, it can really screw with the results you get from tracking your runs. I see it all the time. Shoe’s untied. Press the pause button! Stopping at the water fountain. Time to pause! Slowing down to slurp a gel. Must pause! Hate this playlist, gotta switch it. Oh, come on, that’s totally pause-worthy. Out of breath, need to stop. Yup, I’ll just pause it. I mean…. that’s what the pause button is there for, right? Some reasons are more innocuous; but that last one— that last one just boils down to cheating. Plain and simple.
Pausing because you’re out of breath, need a break, or struggling is absolutely not a valid reason to pause. Chances are, if you’ve done it, you know this already. You probably felt at least a little bit skeezy doing it— like lying, only worse because you’re really just lying to yourself and some inanimate piece of tech. But an overwhelming amount of people get into the habit of doing this regularly. One runner attempted to justify it to me once by saying “but this is as fast as I could go if I didn’t have to stop!” Mindfuck, much? There’s no pause button in real life, and it doesn’t do you any good to pretend there is. Just because your running app says it took you 7:30 to run that mile doesn’t change the fact that it really took you 12:45 to run that mile.
A smarter, better approach
My rule of thumb? If it’s something that I might potentially encounter during a race, then it’s not truly “pause-worthy” to me. Trying a shoe (come on, get some toggles or go old-school with double knots!), getting a drink, grabbing a nutrition boost? These are all things you might encounter during a race; thus, they’re not truly pause-worthy in my opinion. If you’re a long distance runner, then they’re things that you need to adapt to while running. It’s just reality. So pausing isn’t really giving you the fullest picture, is it? I find a better tactic to deal with these things is to make a simple note of it— no pausing.
Take a couple seconds post-run to record it in your running app and/or your training log: i.e. “stopped to get rock out of shoe during mile 4.” Doing this gives you a) the most accurate record of your run, b) the opportunity to track what held you up, and c) a way to analyze how to prevent these hold-ups. A huge part of run training is run tracking, and piecing together these little nuggets of information can be especially helpful. It allows you to glean insights like “okay, I’m stopping every run with knee pain while going down that huge ass hill” or “alright, I’m always needing a nutrition boost on long runs around mile 14.” These insights can help you piece together tactics that might help you out (no pun intended) in the long run— like focusing on running form and slower speed going downhill to help avoid that knee pain. Or preemptively planning a nutrition boost for when you know you’ll need it most.
Get a reality check!
Even though it’s oh-so-tempting to press that pause button over anything and everything that holds you up, sometime you have to give yourself a cold, hard reality check— and the reality is that sometimes things hold you up. It can happen during a training run, and it can happen during a race too. Your run tracking should reflect reality, so consider being a little less liberal with the pause, and don’t pause for things that boil down to the incidentals of running: hydration, nutrition, adjustments. Just keep your paws off the pause button!