GPS Will Free You

One of the things I love about running is it simplicity – no deraileurs to adjust, no flats to repair by the side of the road in a chill drizzle – and the freedom to go nearly anywhere – pavement or trails, rural or urban, crowded sidewalk or lonesome nowhere. So it may not be surprising that I put off for a long time any thought of using a GPS. From the early handhelds to the initial wristwatch styles – comically oversized even on a big man’s wrist, which I do not have – they seemed like one more way to make our sport expensive, complicated and regimented.

At the same time, I accepted without thinking that I must limit serious training runs to half a dozen routes around home which I had been able to drive or measure on a topo map, so that I knew the distance accurately and could compute my time and pace. Runs in unfamiliar locations, while fun and rewarding, were pretty much just for maintenance, since I had no way of knowing how far I’d gone. Yeah, you can use Google Earth and map a route and get a distance, but it’s pretty cumbersome and not all that accurate unless you zoom way in to follow each twist and turn, not likely when you land in a new city and want to explore its neighborhoods and parks while maintaining the build-up to that next event.

Which is why I did eventually succumb, and discovered that running with a GPS actually grants me the freedom to run anywhere, and still keep track of it.

Not only can I go out to explore a new city, but even here at home, I no longer have to stick to established routes. Want to detour and add a hill?  No problem. Want to detour and avoid a hill? No problem. Feel like exploring that neighborhood I’ve run past a score of times but never ventured into? No Problem!

With GPS you can wander to your heart’s content and not only know how far you’ve gone today, but store that info away as a possible objective for the future. Where previously I’d felt limited to a few pre-measured routes, now every road, path or trail is a potential training route.

Just goes to show, you can teach an old dog a new trick, it just takes a little longer – and GPS will be happy to tell you just how long.

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