A year or so ago, when I began running ultramarathons, my watch became less relevant in training runs. It didn’t matter how fast I ran the training miles. In fact, slower was sometimes better as it’s more time on feet, which is what ultimately matters for ultra training. And without a watch shackling my wrist, I felt free to enjoy the run, the surrounds–and especially my internal feelings more. Naked Wrist Running was branded. Well, we now ratchet it up: with its implementation at the Pullharder Marathon and Chancellor’s Challenge in the past week, Zoom Loco Enterprises now introduces Naked Wrist Racing.
ECON runners after the Pullharder Marathon. Naked Wrists everywhere.
I first tried going watchless on my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail more than 10 years ago. In college, I often felt chained by my watch; I wanted things to move slower, to allow me to engage more in the present. But when hiking on the AT in 2000, I always kept my watch on my backpack strap, knowing when to take snack breaks, etc.
Then one day, on a familiar stretch of the trail in Ole’ Virginia, I was pondering the Nietzsche quote: “Necessity is not a fact then, but an interpretation.” I didn’t need a watch–so turned the watch down so I couldn’t see it. And I hiked the 18 mile stretch, the “roller coaster” time-blind. Without stopping, without eating (it’s not necessary either), and without looking at my watch.
While this stretch of the AT is infamously hilly (hence the name), it was one of my most enjoyable stretches of the trail. I arrived at Blackburn Hostel shockingly soon–I wasn’t sure it was even the right place. I flipped over the watch, and was surprised to see that already 6 hours had gone by. I had hiked the whole time and didn’t eat, stop or even notice the time. I was deep in my thoughts and embracing the world around.
Last year I began Naked Wrist running on the beach and later implemented it in Torrey Pines–and eventually almost all the time. I felt how my body was reacting, and turned around when I was tired accordingly. One time, I ran a full hour longer than I even thought I was running. I had completely lost track of time. But I enjoyed it, and wasn’t watching the clock thinking “when will it be over” or “I’m going to be late to an appointment”!
But surely racing is different, right? It’s not a run on the beach or in the hills. A race is, ostensibly, when you go your fastest. Watches help you pace, and motivate, and thus run faster. So, why would you ever not wear one in a race–you’ll go slower, right?
Well, as the late Mohandas Gandhi said, “There is more to [running] than simply increasing its speed.” And Gandhi was a smart guy. After all, he learned from Leo Tolstoy. And Fat Leo certainly didn’t wear a watch–nor did he go running fast.
Sometimes without the distraction of a watch (hitting the splits, etc) we can focus on our breathing, our form. Pushing hard internally and not thinking about the time. Is this faster than with one? I think no, not most of the time, and not for most of us. Naked Wrist racing is indeed slower.
Maybe the Naked Wrist could be faster for someone who was very self aware and centered. But speed is not the only point. Racing is about pushing yourself– and to do so psychologically, having a watch may even be a distraction. Going fast is nice. But a time is not the goal, rather the best experience is what we strive for. And when there is competition, the Naked Wrist is not a handicap. Winning, racing is much more primal than hitting a split. Competition makes you run much faster than a watch does. You never look at your wrist on the kick. You resort to your very base competitive instincts.
I realize Naked Wrist bucks the trend of adding heart rate monitors, Garmins, power meters (for biking) etc. Those things might make you run faster. But if a fulfilling run is part of the game, and especially if the time is not too important, the Naked Wrist can be a good option.
At the Pullharder Marathon last weekend, I raced the whole way, including really hard the last 10k, no watch involved. I really did not know my time at all until the finish line. I just wanted to be sure no one passed me. Likewise in today’s Chancellor’s Challenge 5k. Could I have ran a bit faster with a watch? Maybe. But I think it would have distracted from the struggle and my internal dialogue. Neither of those races was a focal race for me, so I was without any doubt in debuting Naked Wrist Racing.
Zoom Loco enterprises would like to sell you on running watchless too–and we prefer if you buy our brand, Naked Wrist. We want you to try it occasionally- the Naked Wrist run. For this innovation, which is really a departure towards the ancient, we charge $0. But it is worth at least ten times that…
NB, the “Wrist” part is important. Absent it, you gotta be on Blacks Beach…