I’m going to run a marathon without a watch… sort of


I’ve done some stupid things in the past when it comes to running, but this one takes the biscuit.

After the highs and horrors of the London Marathon, I was shattered both mentally and physically. I’d trained so hard, sacrificed so much, and I’d managed to make myself slower.

I mean, it was a pretty good achievement when I think about it. To overhaul my diet, strength and sleep, demonstrably improve all of them and still manage to get slower. 

Here’s my theory: speed lives in Hobnob biscuits, (a delicious wheat-based cookie for our American pals), that I used to eat all the time. When I stopped eating them, I got slower.

(Well, it could have been that I was overdoing it in the gym or not training right… but let’s go with the biscuit theory).

Then something bad happened. A week ago someone offered me a place in the Liverpool Rock’n’Roll Marathon (in a northern city in the UK) for this Sunday… and I got tempted.

Maybe this is my chance of redemption? A chance to right the wrongs of London, a chance to put my nemesis Past Gareth (PG) to the sword and finally claim my Good For Age place in the London Marathon next year?

Nah, that was stupid. It’s only been four weeks since the last one, my body is tired, I’ve eaten nothing but cake and burgers, not slept, and most importantly: not run more than eight miles.

I did a bad thing

So… I’m going to be doing the Liverpool marathon on Sunday. 

I know it makes zero sense, but that’s what’s so good about it. This is a freebie. There’s no training effort to have wasted, no weeks of planning my pacing strategy or panicking about what to eat / wear / listen t to make sure I get the optimal wrong.

In essence, this is preparation to see how wrong things can go if you really don’t prepare or go in with any kind of ideas.

And here’s the big one: I’m not going to run with a watch. I’m going to run it completely by feel, letting the race unfold in front of me, and see where that gets me.

OK, that’s already a lie. I’m sorry. I am going to run with a watch, but not to look at. The reasons are threefold:

  1. I’m addicted to data. I can handle not looking at lap splits, pace and heart rate during a race, but I can’t not have that data to compare to after.
  2. When I get to 20 miles, I want to see how close I am to PG. I know that some benchmark there will give me the energy to keep going if I’m close.
  3. I might wear an Apple Watch 2 on the other wrist (but can’t track from that, as the data isn’t easily transferable to Strava from the most accurate Workouts app) so I want to balance things out.

In terms of the watch I’ll be using, it’ll be the Suunto Spartan Sport Wrist HR (I know, these product names just write themselves sometimes, right?). It’s a splendid watch with one of the best wrist-based heart rate monitors I’ve ever seen, although it’s very chunky and overly expensive.

Annoyingly, I can’t use the Garmin Forerunner 935 that I’m currently reviewing, as I’ve managed to misplace the charging cable (and again Garmin has changed the charging port so I can’t use my old lead… it’s so irritating).

It’s annoying as this Forerunner 935 is a brilliant watch, with phenomenal battery life I was looking forward to testing out during a marathon. I’ve not charged it for nine days now, and it’s still on 12%.

In fact, there’s a small part of me that wonders if I can get to Sunday with more than 10% battery life remaining that I’ll be able to the whole marathon with it. But that seems a pretty big risk.

So, I’ve got my Suunto ready, and I’m going into this race completely half-cocked. Apart from the basics (eating all the pasta for the days preceding) I’ll have done pretty much nothing right.

I signed up in time to begin tapering down (the period where you rest your legs for a week or so before the big race). I set my second-fastest time ever in a 10K race three days before the marathon.

I’ve eaten badly, drunk loads of bad drinks, not slept well and haven’t given a thought to race day.

 Run until I’m sick

Here’s my plan: put on some running clothes, strap on the Suunto, turn off the display and just go. I might have music, I might not, depending on how I feel on the day.

I’m going to run too fast at the start. I’m going to consider every mile whether I’m going to keep going, or slow down, or walk / run, or just go home.

It feels incredibly freeing to be going into this race with no idea what to do - and I know it’s going to be a decision I massively regret five miles in, when my lack of training and carb-loading and preparation will see my weeping on the side of the race.

But I’ve spent too long in my head with the running - and if there’s ever a time to screw it all up, well, it’s now… so wish me luck.

Gareth Beavis
Formerly Global Editor in Chief

Gareth has been part of the consumer technology world in a career spanning three decades. He started life as a staff writer on the fledgling TechRadar, and has grown with the site (primarily as phones, tablets and wearables editor) until becoming Global Editor in Chief in 2018. Gareth has written over 4,000 articles for TechRadar, has contributed expert insight to a number of other publications, chaired panels on zeitgeist technologies, presented at the Gadget Show Live as well as representing the brand on TV and radio for multiple channels including Sky, BBC, ITV and Al-Jazeera. Passionate about fitness, he can bore anyone rigid about stress management, sleep tracking, heart rate variance as well as bemoaning something about the latest iPhone, Galaxy or OLED TV.