Running Naked

Cheeky picture, huh?

For the past three months or so, I've been having a tough time with my running. Not much feels natural and nothing feels easy, and my Garmin has morphed into an evil force that laughs at me every time think I might actually be moving well. I was sick of battling it out with myself, so I hired a friend of mine, Brianna Boehmer, to lay out a training plan and supervise this train wreck I was trying to plow through.

I entered a four-mile race on the 4th of July, and had an awful race. I started out at a pace (8:50 or so) that should be challenging but sustainable for me. But it was ridiculously hard, and I slowed and slowed. Four miles felt as long as fourteen. I finished with a 9:21 average split, which is slower than I used to run 12 miles as I ramped up for half-marathons. (Again, a note about splits: not my favorite thing to put up, because they may seem slow or fast to you and we all run our own races, but I gotta have something to anchor this story.)

My tank says, "This is the easiest part of my day." During that 4-miler, it lied.

What little enthusiasm I had for our beloved sport got sucked out of me during that race. I had no desire to run, let alone add 2.2 more miles to a race I had already committed to: the ZOOMA 10k in Colorado Springs. Two really fun runs with a neighborhood posse brought a smile back to my (grimacing) face, but still: the 10k loomed.

When I talked with Bri, I told her about how my only good recent runs were the ones with my friends. How my (highly inaccurate, I'm sure) Garmin was still really getting me down. How my legs felt heavy and unresponsive. How I didn't want to get in a race and then see bad numbers and have them vomit, so to speak, on me mentally.

So we decided I'd run naked. No Timex, no Garmin, no expectations except to find my running groove before it wandered too far away.

Back to race day. When I heard the tinkle of the Garmins around me at mile 1, I couldn't believe we were already one down. (By this point, I would've checked my data at least 10 times.)  Around mile 3, I asked a woman next to me how it was going. "I'm running faster than I should be, but I feel good," she said. I spied a Garmin on her wrist, and I had stop myself a couple times from asking how fast she actually was running. Towards the end of the race, when I heard one volunteer say we had 1.5 miles left, and then about five minutes (I think) later, I heard another one say the same thing, I wanted my own accurate data.

But other than those two times, I was so happy to have a bare wrist. As I ran along shady paths and next to Pikes Peak, I reminded myself, I am here now. Enjoy this mile, this day, this rhythm. Don't worry about the next mile. When we hit a not-insignificant hill, I adopted a mantra SBS talked about the day before, and I told myself, I feel great. I feel great. Okay, so I didn't feel great, but I also didn't walk, and, more importantly, I didn't have the Garmin going na-na-boo-boo'ing at me.

I often say, when I'm talking running with another mother runner, that my life is hard enough; I don't need to stress myself out with my running performance. We all know running is hard, but there's such a thing as too hard. For me, when the numbers start to dominate all the other benefits--stress relief, mental clarity, time with friends, recalibration of my soul and spirit--then running is too hard. I end up injured and being bitter towards one of the few activities that brings me both joy and strength.

It took me 6.2 miles of running naked to remember that.

I thought this entry would have an unbelievably perfect ending. When I came down a huge hill to the finish line, my naked eyes saw the race clock: 53:xx. I couldn't believe it: I ran sub-9 splits without obsessing over every step and checking my Garmin 620 times?  Impossible.

Yep, it actually was impossible. Turns out, the clock was for the half-marathoners, who started five minutes after the 10K'ers. So I didn't run sub-9 splits. More like 9:28 splits. Probably my slowest 10K ever, which, I'll admit isn't the easiest thing to type. But I am here now.

The run felt easy, and it felt natural. Most importantly, it felt hard in the good, familiar way. I'm not sure if I have my groove totally back, but at least I know it's running at a pace at which I can catch it.

34 responses to “Running Naked

  1. I ran semi-naked last night, having my tunes but tucked away in my fuel belt so I couldn’t see the Nike+ ticking away 90 minutes INDOORS. I’m Garmin-less, but somewhat obsessed with alternately checking, cussing, and arguing with my Nike+…This time, I simply set it and tucked it away. I ran with only the gym wall clock to give me an estimation of time, and no split calculation.

    The run was far more fun than I expected 90 solo minutes indoors could possibly be. I tried to stay ‘in the moment’ and simply enjoy the run, which was far easier without the siren red Nike+ drawing my eye.

    This was my longest solo to date, and now I know two things – I. can. do. this thing called running. 🙂 including an upcoming 10k, and tonight’s 5 miles should be a breeze. 🙂

    Loving the journey!

  2. Here is a link to a post that really spoke to me and got my head back in the game. I had both a “running with music” and a “running with Nike+” addiction. I felt like I could not really make it out for a run without my soundtrack and constant feedback about pace and distance. It was getting clunky and distracting, and I was feeling weighed down. This post was the tipping point for me. I have run without any feedback about pace, mileage, etc. and have listened to music only once since reading it. I have dropped that feeling of needing to be done and get back to other things or needing to have the run be at certain pace. I am enjoying running more than ever before and have actually gotten almost a minute faster per mile (based on race stats) because I have found joy in the run. Here is the link:

  3. Thank you for this post. While I don’t have a Garmin, I mostly rely on my Nike+GPS, I still completely understand all the feelings of not having a good run and feeling beaten down by all the numbers. I have recently found my groove in a very small, local running group. It is there that I am feeling more confident in myself than I have in over a year and having more fun, too. Love how I can come here and know that I am not alone and that in time things will get better.

  4. SO, we both didn’t have the race we wanted, but maybe we had the race we needed? To put things in perspective, we ran at what felt like a billion degrees (it was mid 90’s at the after party, but not sure how hot it was during the actual race) at major altitude! Just getting out there and racing with some amazing women, enjoying the beautiful scenery was well worth it.

    To mathematically look at things, the gentleman I ran with in the beginning of the race does a 1:15 half marathon and was over 20 minutes slower…I was 18 minutes slower than my PR (and about 10 minutes slower than what I wanted) AND I live out here…tough, but beautiful course and tough, but beautiful race conditions.

    For me, it wasn’t the race that made the weekend, but the amazing connections with the amazing women that were present…thanks for the inspiration!

  5. How timely that you should post this today. I received my garmin for Christmas and I love the feedback, the training features, etc. Well, as the airhorn blew to start a 5k yesterday, I realized that I hadn’t turned on my garmin to get it positioned. So, I turned it on and began running, looking at my watch the whole time so that I could hit start as soon as it located satellites. After I hit start, the garmin was beeping like crazy! The last time I used it was for a long slow run and it was set to alert if I went faster than a slow pace; I was running a 5k so I was trying to be faster than my slow run. I now proceeded to go through the menus to turn the training alerts off- still running. I finally got the garmin situated and when I reached the first mile and the course official shouted the time, I was more than a minute behind my usual 5k pace. At the start, I should have not tried using the garmin and just ran the race sans technology. I think that I need to try a “naked run”.

  6. I love your comment regarding your Garmin ‘na-na-booing’ you. And I love all the rest of your post as well. Funny how it seems we all have the same struggles at one time or another. I’ve been leaving my watch at home since a 5k I ran last month. It was my first since knee surgery and I put too much pressure on myself, trying to finish in a decent time (compared to pre-surgery) and I didn’t enjoy the race as much as I could have. It is so freeing to run naked!!!. If I had my watch with me, and I ran the first mile faster than usual ,I realized I’d get cocky and run myself into the ground. If I ran it slower, I’d talk myself out of the idea of being a runner and walk home. Without my watch I have time to actually enjoy the run and my surroundings. I just ran my second 5k since knee surgery and crossed the finish line, naked, 4 minutes faster then the one before. I know a lot of factors go into my faster time, but I”m sure that leaving the watch behind played a big part.

  7. I try to run once a week semi-naked, meaning no watch/Garmin, but still have my music. Those runs are when I give myself permission to just enjoy it, take in the scenery, think happy thoughts. Once the summer heat and humidity die down, I bet everything will turn around, too!

  8. I am not sure I’ve done a run without my Garmin since I got it about a year and a half ago. Perhaps this post is designed to plant a seed to not be so attached to that data? To run for the sake of running every now and again? Hmmmmm……

  9. How cool that you mentioned Briana Boehmer! She is coaching a marathon team I am running with for the Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon in October. There are over 70 of us that will be tethered together to break/set a new Guinness World Record for crossing a marathon finish line together after having run 26.2 tethered all the while. And to sweeten the pot, its in honor of Jenny Crain! We are Team Jenny and she is our Coach Bri! Its a fundraiser too-

  10. You’re not alone! It seems to be a trend. I don’t know if its the heat, but several people I’ve spoken with feel the same disillusionment. I’m back to, what feels like, square one after taking 5 weeks of for an injury. Four miles is hard and I’m back to being nervous about being ready for my fist 1/2.

  11. Love this. I need to work out my love/hate relationship with my garmin. I just got one in May when I started marathon training. Before that I ran without one. Maybe borrowing my husband’s every once in a while. It’s been fun in some ways and a real crutch in others. A few weeks ago, I actually skipped a planned run because my garmin needed charging and somehow I thought it wouldn’t “count” without it. Instead I ran later that day in the heat just so I could track that dang run.
    But last week I promised myself to limit my peeks at it and let my body guide me to a comfortable pace. I think I was able to pull off one run with maybe only a dozen looks. Why is that so hard? I know the route like the back of my hand, it’s not like I need to know where the 1/2 point is, I know that. And my pace–pretty consistent. Oh well. I like to look at the “player” thing on Garmin Connect.

  12. This is what I needed. I ran my first marathon last month, injured, and I haven’t been out on a run since then. I’ve been resting what I think is bursitis in my hip and I’m completely afraid to go out and run because I don’t want to see how slow I have to go. It’s good to hear that others are in a running funk like me and it’s a great reminder that I don’t have to keep track of how fast I’m going. What’s important is that I’m going, right?

  13. We should all run naked like this occasionally. But running in July and August is so not fun regardless of how you do it. (And as for yesterday’s races, that was NOT a nice hill at all. I know exactly which one you’re talking about!) I think your paces will come back with the first breezes of fall! It was good to see you again this weekend.

  14. I don’t have a garmin, but I know the mileage on my route, so I usually try and figure out a ballpark avg. per mile. This morning I tried running faster (for me) and was so hoping for a good pace, but it didn’t happen. I felt like I was running faster, and I really think I was, but in the end, I still feel like it wasn’t good enough. As if somehow running 4.2 miles is not an accomplishment for a 46 year old full-time grad student, wife, and mother of 2 who’s only been at it a year. Looking at it that way, I’m starting to feel better about that run……:)

  15. I needed this post. I have had ZERO motivation. It’s been over a week since my last run and I’m not even on vacation or anything. I’ve had a kind of gross cold, but mostly I just don’t feel like going. I *know* I need to, I just. don’t. feel. like. it. Maybe I will try a “naked” run tonight or tomorrow.

  16. I think that’s what’s the hardest part about running on the treadmill is the information RIGHT IN YOUR FACE! When I run, I only use a little dinky stop watch Walmart watch. I love it. I keep tabs on my splits, but I think I’d get too obsessed if I ever got a Garmin. :S

  17. I ran my 5 mile 4th of July race naked, too! It wasn’t planned (I hadn’t charged my Garmin and it crapped out before the race even began). I was kind of freaking out about it at first, but that race made me realize that the sport of running isn’t always all about watching your wrist. It’s about looking around, chatting with friends along the way, noticing scenery, and just being outdoors and doing something active (something difficult for my type-A OCD brain to embrace). I had a chance to chat with a friend I don’t often see and we just were out enjoying the run. I also realized on this run that this is MY run for ME in THIS MOMENT and it’s not about the others around me or any training up to this point. P.S. I beat my PR by 1:15 on that day!

  18. Thank you for this inspiring read. I have been having struggles w/ motivation, both mentally and physically and recently added trail running to my routine. While I have been having a difficult time increasing mileage and speed on the road while using my iPhone and Runkeeper w/ music, I’ve had a much better experience on the trails, sans any equipment. I feel free and natural and am not over thinking my run. I’ve actually increased my mileage and feel great! I need to figure out how to bring that to the road as well. Maybe I’ll ditch the iPhone on my next road run.

  19. You may not have felt great, but that is a fierce picture of you from the 4 miler! (Love the shirt tag line. I think I need one of those.)

    Even at my super-slow pace, I get a bit obsessed with the numbers part of running. I haven’t been able to let go completely and run without a watch or GPS, but I’ve found that it helps to find other goals to focus on as well. Not to self-promote too much, but I just had a guest blog post published on that very topic:, and I would love to hear other ideas about non-time-based goals.

  20. I have a love/hate relationship with my Garmin. I have had it for less than a year but when I first started using it, I loved everything about it! I do find the Garmin obsession can quickly become a major downfall if my pace does not meet my expectations while running. It is nice to take it off and just run for the sake of running without worrying how far I have ran or what is my pace RIGHT NOW! I started running to relieve stress and sometimes Garmy does not allow me a chance to just turn my brain off and go… without worrying about constant, immediate feedback. Running naked (sans watch only…clothes are always a must) sure does feel weird but I think it helps me reconnect with the real reason I started running in the first place.

  21. I’ve run 2 races. I don’t own a Garmin but I have a couple of apps I’m trying to learn. The difference between those two races was almost 3 minutes. My question is this: How do you account for the different courses? That second race was a really “fast” course so naturally I finished with a better time but is it really fair to say I got faster? I am highly skeptical that I got 3.whole.minutes faster in two months. As in, if I had run the same course as before would I have finished as quickly? This is making me crazy! So maybe I just run the same race again next year and compare apples to apples? I dunno. That’s why I come here…

    Either way, good post! Hope you find your groove and the joy of running.

  22. I love this post. I’ve been battling with this the past few months. That damn Garmin can really take you over and make you forget why you are even out there. My son played with it the other day and I couldn’t find it for a run. I was forced to go naked. It was hard! Harder than I thought. I do feel like I just enjoyed the run more…which is what it is all about. Keep up the running and the hard work…I know its hard not to compare the splits especially when some of the blogs are running like 5 minute miles loll..(not me for sure!) I think running without the Garmin should be a once a week ritual!

  23. I needed to read this- running is becoming a chore and I’m feeling draggy all the time. I just made up my mind- tomorrow, I’m running naked. Hopefully I”ll remember why I like this dang sport.

  24. Don’t forget: the heat takes it out of you. It was really hot (and late) at the 4th race, and I think Zooma had the same issue. There’s a big difference between running at 6am in 50 degrees and 8:30 in 75 degrees. I’m glad the run felt good, and I bet they will all start to improve once the heat diminishes.

  25. Dimity, I really needed to read this post today. While I have had a fabulous summer of triathlons (Sprints), the run is consistently a funsucker of the whole event. I don’t run with a Garmin, but have found many a day where my feet just seem to fail me. I may use RunKeeper sometimes, but am just trying to get over my hump and take inspiration from a post like this (although I am quite a bit slower! 🙂

    1. Kristen, I’m with you! I just completed an Olympic Tri with the Mother of all fun-sucking runs attached to the end of a fast swim and bike. I had my trusty Garmin on for the first time in a race and it was ROTFL the whole way. My spring race was naked and I qualified for nationals. I’m thinking naked might be the way to go for me!

  26. I only recently got my hands on an old Garmin, circa 2005. It’s about the size of an iPad strapped to my wrist. 😉 I have no booklet to accompany it, so I have no idea how it works other than to have a little pace guide on my wrist. And frankly, I’ve done without for so long, I often forget to check it at all! I use Runkeeper on my iPhone — I LOVE the post-run data I get from Runkeeper — and I haven’t yet decided if the fact that it spends the entire race silently tucked away in my race belt is a good thing or a bad thing.

    Speaking of Runkeeper, if anyone else uses it and wants to link up, email me: alisa at whatwouldbettydo dot com. I’d love to have virtual running partners to keep me accountable.

  27. I run naked a lot – with the exception of my jogbra and running skirt.
    There is something magical about running the way our kids do – naturally and without pressure.

  28. This is a great post. But I do love that picture up at the top. Maybe if we were all brave enough to run, uh ACTUALLY naked, we’d like running even more? Except for all the bouncing boobies, that is…how about running half naked? Good job for finishing the race. For real.

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