There has been some talk "around town" about runners' use of HR monitors, pacing, zones, and other data that some runners use for different purposes. June asks, "Does that mean I am not a runner" if I don't use all these tools. James says wisely, "When you start worrying about times and distances and heart rates and zones and everything else that measures your performance, you start missing what your body is telling you." I'm certainly not going to settle the issue here but I did want to ramble a little about it, so bear with me.
First of all, I think there are 2 reasons why runners use tools like HR monitors, paces, mile markers, splits, zones, blah, blah, blah. One reason, and I would take issue with this reason, is to measure performance...to compare how fast I went today to how fast I went yesterday...to look at the data and try to push harder and faster and go further each and evey time you run. This is ridiculous, IMHO!! So many times I hear runners say they had a bad easy run because they averaged 10:00 min/mile pace instead of the 9:30 average pace they ran the same distance at last week. They say this was a bad workout because "I had to walk the last mile." Well, boo hoo!!! IMHO, runners who think this way just haven't been humbled enough by this sport to realize what a complex, beautiful, adaptable, intricate system the human body is. And then you throw in the mind and the spirit and all the external factors. How dare we say we've had a bad run just because we were a few seconds off or had to walk a little. How arrogant to think we have it all figured out to that degree. I'm really preaching to myself so readers, don't take offense. :)
Secondly, I think runners use these tools (as I do) to learn more about myself and about this sport. I use these data, together with how I feel, to help focus my workouts, to help slow me down, to help me recover when I need to recover and to push when I need to push. Many times the objective data helps validate how I felt during a training session and in tandem helps me draw conclusions about how to better train in the future.
Now to the question of "correctness." Does not worrying about these things make me a less sophisticated runner? Does worrying too much about these data make me a nerd? :) At the risk of sounding too much like a liberal, I don't think there is a right answer. Both sides are correct. In fact I think the nerd would be well-served to put down his monitor and pen and paper and run more like my friend, June. And I think, the runner who just goes out there and runs would find that focusing his/her training a little more would result in improvements as well. I just think that it's a matter of personality. I think there is a little bit, or a lot, or too much of the artist and the scientist in each of us. The artist just goes out every day and runs. If it feels like it was easy, it must have been easy. If it feels like it was hard, it must have been hard. The scientist records splits and HR and enjoys leaning on more emperical data to determine if the run was at the correct effort. IMHO, if the scientist could learn to be a little more artsy and the artist could be a little more scientific, they would probably both be better runners.
Sorry for the rambling. I have more thoughts but will reserver them for a later post. Sure wish Coach Steeve and Coach Bill would chime in on this discussion.