To Garmin or Not?

I’ll be toeing the start line of the Navy Air Force Half Marathon in a week and a half. This race completely snuck (is that a word?) up on me. Not in an I’m not ready for it kind of way – just in a I can’t believe mid-September is here already kind of way. I’ve been running like crazy and I’m more than ready for it distance-wise. In the last 8 weeks I’ve done 6 long runs in the range of 15-20 miles plus a 10-12 miler during the week each week.

I won’t lie though, I’m really nervous about pacing. While this isn’t a goal race necessarily, it’s a great chance to see where I’m at in my training, an opportunity for redemption after missing my goal at the Nike Women’s Half in D.C. earlier this year and it covers much of the same ground that I’ll have to face during Marine Corps Marathon in October.  No doubt I can do the distance, but I’ve been embracing the long slow run concept and keeping my long runs a bit slower than my marathon goal pace to avoid injury/burnout and to mimic the amount of time I’ll be on my feet come race day. This worked great for me at the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler, but I still haven’t attempted it for a successful half or any full marathons, so despite all the expert advice, I’m still skeptical.


I’ve rattled off plenty of miles during other weekly runs at goal pace and my track workouts have me going at even faster paces, yet I won’t be totally convinced until I see the results on race day. I’m a big-time data recorder and religiously track my mile split times on my Garmin. I know it’s not completely accurate, but I’m also constantly looking at the current pace during races as well to make sure I stay on track. Even if I don’t look at the watch throughout my training runs, I often (over-) analyze each mile time and what it means after I’m done.

Based on my Garmin-centric, data-obsessed running personality I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m actually considering running the half without a watch. Shudder. I wonder if I just base things off of effort if I’ll be able to maintain my pace and get my goal without the obsessive time checking? I’ve also heard of people who go even faster because they don’t see a pace that should be too hard for them on the watch and slow down because of it. What if I just miss my goal time though? Will I be kicking myself for not wearing a watch? From what I can find on the website, it doesn’t look like this race will have pace groups, so I can’t just tag along with one of those and know my time without actually knowing my time.

I haven’t made a final decision on this yet, but am thinking it might be worth a shot. I’d love to hear from you all – have you ever raced without a watch? How’d it work for you? Even if you haven’t tried it, do you think it could be a good idea or a disastrous one? Comment away – should I Garmin or not??

11 thoughts on “To Garmin or Not?

  1. I’ve had great success racing without a watch. I ran my second Big Sur in 3:45 (my third-fastest marathon at the time) without a watch, and MAJORLY negative split it. Like, the second half was almost 15 minutes faster than the first. I’ve never felt so victorious, blowing by everyone. If you truly commit to running by feel — and steer clear of pace groups that might affect you — it can make for a great, fast-finish race.

  2. I definitely think you should give it a go. You have nothing to lose really – you know roughly how fast you should be running – and if it doesn’t help then put it down to experience and go back to running with your watch.

  3. Looking forward to seeing what you decide. I’m also obsessed with numbers and wonder if it’s a mistake to constantly look at them when I’m running…I kinda think you should go for it!

  4. Hi Colleen! I’ve raced without a watch for my past several races and it’s worked out great. I like knowing I’m racing based on effort and believe it truly does lead to faster times. Going without a watch also means one less distraction during a race – instead of looking at my watch every few minutes, I focus more on how I’m feeling and racing. Give it a try and I’m excited to hear how the race goes for you 🙂

  5. I prefer to race without a watch for two reasons:

    1) I get freaked out by my paces. Even though I know what I’m capable of, I worry that if I even see I’m averaging goal pace during the race, I’ll get worried I’m running too fast!

    2) I prefer to go by feel.

    Most recently I did a half marathon PR of 1:23 without a watch. I ran by feel for the entire duration and had no idea of time until a few minutes after finishing!

    I also do all of my non quality workouts without going by pace, but feel. I think the most important thing with racing watchless is being able to control your pace in the beginning. If you need the GPS to slow you down during those first few segments, wear it.

    Kyle @

    • Thanks, Kyle. I really appreciate the input. Your first reason is my main driver behind wanting to go watchless – I tend to freak out when I see the pace on my watch and worry I can’t keep it up even though I know I’m more than capable of it. I just need to get out of my own head sometimes!

  6. Pingback: Race Recap: Navy Air Force Half Marathon | heart & sole

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