■ Should everyone run with a watch?
I don’t see why – not if they don’t want to. Time matters to runners, but it isn’t the only thing that matters. By all means, time yourself if you want to, to the nearest hundredth of a second if you like.
But don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t enjoy running if you don’t have a watch. What do you think people did before watches became widely available? Running is the simplest of sports: that’s its beauty. It shouldn’t be gadget-dependent.
■ Does running with a watch make you a faster runner?
No – just as weighing a pig doesn’t make it fatter. It may help (with running, if not with pigs), because honest, objective appraisal of your performance is a great motivator. But the most sophisticated chronometer in the world won’t make you faster if you don’t put in the effort.
And there’s no law saying that you can’t be motivated by other things as well. I’m well into my fourth decade of running, and I find that simple enjoyment is a far more powerful incentive to get out and run than fretting about PBs.
■ Is an over-reliance on modern technology detracting from the simple joys of running?
Not for everyone, but I think it’s a risk we should be aware of. If you run with your focus on data – time, distance, heart-rate, cadence, how you measure up against international norms for your age and gender – then, inevitably, you’re likely to run looking inwards, worrying about your performance.
To me, that’s not a great recipe for joy. I’d rather run looking outwards, at nature, at people, at the world around – so that every run feels like an adventure.
■ What are the benefits of running without a watch?
Take away the watch, and suddenly you have to focus on something other than measuring your performance. So it becomes a human thing, not a numbers thing – whether you’re enjoying your surroundings, or your companions, or just running mindfully, in the moment, thinking about your movements and feelings.
There’s no “right” approach, of course. But I do think that if you focus on the joy of running rather than the data, you’re more likely to feel consistently enthusiastic about it. And when you reach my age, enthusiasm is the most powerful performance-enhancer there is.