Running Slow (on purpose)

imageToday I went running slowly on purpose. By slowly I don’t mean at a pace that many of us might call “easy”. This was on the borderline between “jogging” and “walking”. I was inspired by an article in this month’s Runner’s World, which can also be found at, about training in different heart rate zones and had been planning to give this a try for the past week.

Part One

This took place on Saturday morning when I planned to measure my resting heart rate by firing up the Garmin as soon as I woke up. I’d toyed with putting my heart rate monitor on before going to bed, but decided that despite 16 years of marriage, wearing an elastic strap around my chest under the duvet would take just a little too much explaining.

I think the lowest I managed to get my heart rate down to was about 39bpm but that took some doing after the excitement of the alarm clock going off mixed with the anxiety caused by the prospect of the morning’s Parkrun. I hadn’t worn the HRM for some time and doing it up and adjusting it suddenly put me in mind of Pat Wright and Dave Arrowsmith:

Once I’d finished amusing myself by talking in a poor Middlesborough accent about my “bra”, the next stage was to find out my maximum heart rate. With my 5K complete, as I clung on to a tree trunk until I was able to stand without support (that’s how we all recover from Parkruns right? Right?), I discovered that today’s effort had led to a maximum heart rate of 189bpm. Later on I programmed the Garmin with my personal heart rate zones in anticipation of the fun-packed geeky running activities that lay ahead.

Part Two

Various domestic and work related stresses got in the way of trying my Slow Run until six days later, when working from home gave me the opportunity to do a cheeky lunchtime run in the style of Leonard from Butterflies. Despite the fact it was nearly dark at 2pm and pouring with November rain, I made it out of the door and set out to do about 4 miles in “Zone 2”, which in my case was 110-130 BPM. The point of running at this speed is that apparently you will be fuelling your muscles with fat and oxygen. Therefore you’re tuning up your aerobic system, it improves endurance and uses very little glycogen. Whatever that means.

The kind of speed I think I go when recovering from fast intervals turned out to be too fast. The Garmin kept shrieking at me: “Heart Rate Too High”, making the blood pump around my veins even faster with irritation. I started to run almost as if in slow motion. After about a mile I finally got into the Zone 2 Groove, possibly because I was now more relaxed and breathing more efficiently in classic, slow running style.

However this was soon undermined by a very gentle hill which got the heart rate up and my Garmin wailing again. Crossing the road, being close to lots of traffic, the sight of other human beings, wiping the rain drops off the end of my nose all seemed to increase the BPMs. Runners of various speeds overtook me, probably wondering why someone going so slowly could be so interested in his Garmin. Every time this happened I unconsciously sped up to try and catch them, only to be chastised by the “Heart Rate Too High” alarm.

I felt like I could have kept going all day but it all felt a bit pointless and the scenery wasn’t changing fast enough. I’d run at my slowest speed ever and it hadn’t been slow enough. My average BPM was 10 beats above target. What a failure!

After 3.5 miles I’d had enough. I pressed “Stop” and ran the mile or so back home at a “normal” speed, oblivious to what my heart was up to. A “junk mile” that felt so much better.


Hello, I’m Steve and I have a Garmin problem

imageI can still remember my first run with a Garmin Forerunner. It was the first opportunity I’d had to get my running shoes on after Christmas. The effects of the festive excesses meant I could immediately log a way-above-average weight onto my User Profile. This would then lead to some highly satisfying downward trends on the “athlete” weight charts I’d generate time after time over the next few months . I fooled myself that the various numbers scrolling through the screen were giving me something extra, powering me forward and past the few others who were out that morning, working off their turkey legacy.

My Garmin is not a thing of beauty – it’s big and clunky and looks like the vision of what a 21st Century watch might have looked like in a 1970s sci-fi film. It’s also a dull claret colour – I think I would have preferred the blue one but I love it all the same.

Actually, I think I might have Garmin issues. Here are some tell tale signs:

1. You seriously wonder whether you’d ever make it out of the door if your Garmin stopped working. At the very least you’d have to time your run and the make a note of it somewhere. I’d probably get a piece of cotton out and measure the distance on a map. How sad is that?

2. You notice the development of a love-hate relationship with the little stick man you “race against” when using the Virtual Partner functions. You constantly check how he’s doing when out on a run and sneer smugly to yourself when you’ve “beaten” him.image

3. You sleep wearing your Garmin, alluringly accessorised with a heart rate monitor. Your first waking thought is to turn it on, without expending any energy, to find out your resting heartbeat.

4. You admit to having a Personal Best time for your bike commute to work. You get excited when you discover the function which stops the timer if you’re motionless for more than a couple of seconds. “Brilliant!” you think. “That will adjust for stopping at traffic lights”.

5. You take your running shoes on holiday. You tell yourself how inspiring it will be to run in a beautiful new location. Really it’s because you want a new red dot on the map your Garmin data generates on your SportTracks software.image

6. The “Locating Satellites” screen is one of biggest challenges you have to overcome when going running and think there is an international conspiracy, deliberately concealing satellites to stop you locking on quickly.

7. You pretend you bought a replica shirt to commemorate Bradley Wiggins bursting into the upper rankings in the 2009 Tour de France but really you were showing love for your favourite brand.


Image from

8. Those finishing line photos which capture that final moment when all those months of hard work come to fruition don’t capture your moment of joy, arms aloft. No, they all show you fumbling with the stop button of your wrist-bound gadget because you can forget chip-timing, Garmin is the all-seeing supremo of time and space.