OK here is an idea for a new game. You may be familiar with the TV show "Room 101" (based on Orwells room 101) where you get to consign the things you don't like to history. It's a chance to have a rant about things you hate. I hope other bloggers do the same and post them.
This is been on my list for a while. Not specifically Garmins but all forms of voluntary running surveillance. I think Garmins introduce a new character onto the running scene, the soulless data collector. These people don’t actually like running, they just like collecting stats about it and then posting them on facebook. Some even post pictures of a watch. Seriously pictures of a watch? Does the world really need to know how far you ran to 3 decimal places?
I believe reliance on this technology has been responsible not only for a decline in standard of runner but also for the decline in overall enjoyment. I don’t know what the facebook equivalent was 20 years ago but I doubt runners used it to say "today I ran 9.34 miles at 8.22 minute mile pace whereas last week I ran 10.12 miles at 8.16 minute mile pace, I think I might kill myself".
Garmins have done to running what Simon Cowell has done to music, taken a fuckload of money out of it and made it shitter.
People bought these things to have more control over their running yet, as Sméagol found the thing ends up controlling you. People buy it thinking ooooh I can record all my splits and then break it all down and decide where I am going wrong and improve. After a few goes they do none of that but the device takes a hold of them, Sméagol’s invisibility trick was a novelty at first but now it is useless, but can’t be lived without. At your next race take a look at a runner who has forgot to charge their Garmin, look at how unhealthy and green they look. Their eyes bulbous and skin taut and coughing a hideous sound. There is nothing wrong with their legs but without the eyes of Sauron tracking them from out of space they will be unable to finish the race today.
Not only do they ruin the lives of those they infect but their deafening screech after every mile reduces enjoyment for those of us who like running and are being guided by our bodies.
Coca Cola and McDonalds are currently getting the shit kicked out of them because the stuff they sell is addictive. Garmins are too yet there is no mention of introducing a chump tax onto these devices. Those who use them have a physical addition to generating useless stats and yet these are the same people who mock the obese for constantly producing insulin.
Presumably the next step for Garmin is to produce a surgically attached version that is placed on your heart. That has already been done obviously but has yet to have a gps function. Perhaps one that actually controls your heart beat? Hopefully with a 20 hour battery life.
You probably "like" a lot of running pages on facebook. Some offer very good advice on running, others show inspirational videos, others have great stories or funnies. Then there are several who just every day churn out a picture of a runner with a "quote" which basically boils down to "I am a runner, you are not a runner, therefore I am considerably better than you".
We all have hobbies which is great. I choose to spend a lot of my time running (and writing about running and talking about running and running large bar bills). Others have different hobbies, chess, fishing, poetry, dance or cooking. Do we really need daily patronising reaffirmation via a picture of a lycra clad vixen to be convinced that we are on the right path? That’s what mothers are for. The reaffirmation bit, not the lycra bit. Do we really need to be told constantly that as runners we are "different" to everyone else? Apart from the millions of other runners of course. Luckily I am a Pisces and we don’t believe in such broad brush characterisations.
And why are we not allowed to say "I like running because it is nice". Why does it all have to be so fucking philosophical? I am running to align my physical with the metaphysical, my soul with my heart, to save the badgers, to inspire the masses, for world peace. Fuck off. We run for food and facebook attention. Nothing else.
The Marathon Des Sables.
I should be careful here, I could run into trouble. I don’t want to say something that is blatantly not true such as "this is the worlds toughest foot race". I don’t want to get sued for spreading misinformation.
I did the MDS in 2008, I was promised a race that would push me to my limits. They were right though they did not say at the time that this limit was in fact my overdraft limit. I paid 3500 to do this (70 days of running across the USA cost 4000).
Have you ever been on a package holiday aimed at poor 18-30 year olds? Where you travel like cattle, spend hours in queues (24 hours in total) and get mistreated by the staff who are offended that you showed up. Replace the risk of venereal disease with risk of diarrhoea and replace bikini clad girls with overpaid city wankers and you have the MDS. Tempted?
OK so I did it in a bad year, I was ill and it flooded. However there are so many things about this race that are wrong, or certainly against what I regard to be important about ultra running. Here are a few.
- It's easy. Too easy. It has a 99% finish rate. Finishing this race yields as much joy as achieving you scounts badge for helping an old lady cross the road. She was going to make it anyway regardless of your presence. It is regarded as the toughest because it is marketed as such, and some celebrities and DVDs. It isn't. it really isn't.
- You have more chance of being hit by a Concorde crashing down onto Camden high street whilst arguing with a goth than you have of not finishing the Marathon Des Sables.
- It is run mostly buy people who want to buy bragging rights. These people are not interested in the rewards of hard work but purely on been seen to have achieved things. These are the politicians of the future.
- It is very very expensive, more so than similar races.
- Marketing the race is more important than the runners experience. You have sand blown into your face by helicopters, you need to be constantly on you guard for cameramen who will happily knock you over for a good photo, you are made to stand around and told when to cheer for the DVD. You are required to display you running number not for safety but so that the sponsors logo appears always. Funnily enough this number is hard to attach to a pack that is made by a competitor.
- It's really really fucking easy. I think I already mentioned that.
I was really pleased that having read my blog a friend said to me "I now know never to enter that race". If you can reach one person and all that. I would however like to reach more.
Marketers like inventing problems that do not exist in order to get you to buy shit you don't need. See Millenium bug, plane dehydration, SARS etc.
The same is happening in running and one such example is the invention of the "technical trail". Running shoes specifically designed for technical trail come at a premium, a very high premium.
But what is meant exactly by the term "technical". Does the trail have an understanding of mechanical engineering? Was the ground talking to you in Python? Or was it simply the case that, like 99.999999% of the land on this earth it is just a bit of ground that had some stones and tree roots scattered across it?
This blog will probably get around 1000 views. I don't know where that ranks in terms of other blog posts. But I imagine it is pretty low. Perhaps that is only 0.001% of the hits that Steve Jobs got when he announced that he was planning on conning 20 million people out of 300 quid for a slightly smaller I pod. This I assume will be beaten the day Justin Blieblier blogs about growing his first pubic hair. Should I go around saying that my blogging is 0.000005% Blieber? That my income is 0.003% Zukerburg? That my looks are 147% Clooney.
Comparing yourself to others using scales is the most effective way of making yourself depressed. Really, yet runners do this all the time with this abominable scale called age grading. We compare our running performance against the fastest person to do the same distance who happens to is approximately the same age and sex as you. My marathon pb is 3.07. The worlds fastest is 2.03. This basically means I am 65% as good as the worlds best ever marathon runner. I am Haile Gabriselassie from the nipples down. Should I make my long term ambition to get up as far as his neck?
Now, my school history might be a little hazy but lets see how it goes. Listing the tumultuous events that changed the world forever;
The French Revolution. The monarchy is overthrown in France, people are liberated by the Republic. A lot of people lose their heads.
The industrial revolution. Britain and Europe discard religious superstition in favour of science and industry. Output grows and all measures of the human condition improve, lifespan, birth mortality, income, food etc.
The Russian Revolution. Some guys decide that Karl Marx's ideas were so good they should be MANDATORY. 50 million people die.
The Boost Revolution. Addidas invent a sponge that bounces a metal ball up and down a bit better than the sponge you get on the bottom of running shoes. Addidas put this sponge on running shoes.
What's that you say? The French one wasn't a proper revolution?
I can't begin to count how many REVOLUTIONS I have lived through and forgotten. There seem to be more REVOLUTIONS in running shoes than management changes at Chelsea. Despite all the marketing waffle about how waffles, barefoot, sponge, mojomax, super gel blah blah is going to make you run faster.
I have a question. Has any improvement in running technology EVER lead to a measurable improvement in running speed? EVER? I don't think so. Why should this latest pile of wank be any different?
And if technology did make you go faster then what is the point. Could you feel any satisfaction from that improvement in performance not due to your own hard work but due to something you paid for? Really?? Lance?
GET IT QUICK!!! Before you end up looking like a twat.
This is my ultimate item for room 101 and by ultimate i mean that this is the LAST thing I am putting in. I try to avoid marketing, knowing that they have bastardised with english language and science terms to make idiots buy stuff. Telling us that things are dermatologically tested or 37% more optimal performance.
What does it mean to do the "ultimate challenge"? Is it really going to be the last challenge you do? Is there really no bigger challenge that this? Surely the ultimate challenge is the one you die doing. I am running a race this weekend. It is not advertised as the ultimate race. But it could be.
Is it merely an abuse of a word? Yes ultimate has some of the same letters in ultra but is it really as simple as that. Speedo has a lot of the same letters as paedo but you don’t hear about that brand encouraging grown men to hang around swimming pools with practically nothing on.
Or perhaps it is just a marketing thing to encourage people to sign up to things, like how a jumper with Timmy Hogfingers on it costs three times as much as an identical plain one. Is the word "ultimate" used to sign up ultra running chavs?
One of my favourite song quotes is Mark Knopfler singing "two men say they're Jesus, one of them must be wrong". He was right, there can be only one "Ultimate" race. It is unlikely that we have seen it yet. It is probably a race where we are all competing to outrun an enormous meteorite.
So what are your items to put into ultra room 101?