‘I HAVE A PROB­LEM WITH THIS SHARING MALARKEY’

Runner's World (UK) - - Human Race - BY SAM MUR­PHY Sam Mur­phy tweets @ Sam­mur­phyruns

Ac­cord­ing to the ‘if it isn’t on Strava, it didn’t hap­pen’ school of think­ing, I haven’t been run­ning since 2015. How­ever, I can as­sure you that many happy miles have been ac­crued since my short-lived flir­ta­tion with the world’s most pop­u­lar run­ning so­cial net­work fiz­zled out. Strava and I just didn’t hit it off, but re­cently – with an in­creas­ing num­ber of friends and fam­ily sharing their run­ning lives on­line – I have be­gun to won­der why, and even whether I’d been too hasty. A key stum­bling block is that data does not cap­ture me. I am one of an in­creas­ingly rare breed of run­ners who can hap­pily set off for a run with­out press­ing ‘start’ on any de­vice. In­deed, I would rather do so than stand on a street cor­ner wait­ing for my watch to find a sig­nal.

Much of the time, record­ing runs seems a lit­tle point­less. The two miles from the sta­tion to the of­fice is al­ways two miles, re­gard­less of whether I mea­sure it, and I ques­tion the value of know­ing my pace when it’s dic­tated by how many traf­fic lights are red, or how many pedes­tri­ans I have to dodge on Ox­ford Street. It’s the same on lo­cal runs: a foot­path that’s a shoe-suck­ing bog one month can be bone dry and rut­ted the next, ren­der­ing pace com­par­isons over that route mean­ing­less.

And I’ll be hon­est – I have a prob­lem with this sharing malarkey. Even when I do record a train­ing run, I have no de­sire to up­load my stats for the rest of the run­ning com­mu­nity to scru­ti­nise. I’m per­fectly happy to jot down a few key stats and notes in my train­ing diary with a biro.

You might as­sume that my an­tipa­thy to­wards data record­ing and sharing means I’m not mo­ti­vated by com­pe­ti­tion or con­cerned about speed and dis­tance. But it’s dawned on me that the ex­act op­po­site is true. I care far too much. Lay­ing your­self bare in such a pub­lic arena in­evitably means that peo­ple will make judg­ments and draw com­par­isons – I know, be­cause I’ve done it too. But when they’re por­ing over your mileage, av­er­age pace, long runs and 400m-rep splits, they’re not in full possession of the facts ( how could they pos­si­bly know, for ex­am­ple, that one of my par­tic­u­larly slow runs in­volved creep­ing around the edge of a field of skit­tish bul­locks?) – and that gives me a funny, ner­vous feel­ing in my stom­ach.

There are two po­ten­tial ways for the fiercely com­pet­i­tive run­ning per­fec­tion­ist to sur­vive the pub­lic arena of the on­line train­ing plat­form, and nei­ther of them is pretty. One – con­tinue to train as nor­mal but be so se­lec­tive about what you up­load that your feed presents only the truly ku­dos­wor­thy stuff (vain, dis­hon­est, time-con­sum­ing). Two – strive to put on a good show. (The word strava ac­tu­ally means ‘strive’ in Swedish.) Here, the draw­back is be­ing tempted to run faster, fur­ther and more of­ten than is good for you, to choose routes with fewer ob­sta­cles and in­ter­rup­tions rather than for the ter­rain or scenery, to de­lib­er­ately tar­get seg­ments (a seg­ment is a sec­tion of road or trail that’s been run and timed by any other Strava user) and get sucked in to ‘how far/ how fast?’ chal­lenges that ul­ti­mately turn run­ning into a race to­wards the end goal with­out due con­sid­er­a­tion for the jour­ney.

There is a third op­tion, of course, which is the one I took in 2015: log out. If I am go­ing to be judged by oth­ers, I want it to be on my race per­for­mances, not my train­ing runs, just as an ac­tor would want to be re­viewed on the open­ing night not at dress re­hearsals. When I toe the line of a race I’m mak­ing a state­ment that I’m ready to give it my all and be judged by the re­sults sheet. The rest of the time, when I’m hav­ing fun dodg­ing cows and pud­dles, I’d rather do it in pri­vate.

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