I run technology free meaning no watch, Garmin or other gadgets as I run completely "by feel." It has taught me to feel the various paces and control my breathing, as 95% of my running is aerobic running which means different things on different days but it means I run within my breath (even when racing other than the last 200-300 meters). As my friend Tuck has pointed out to me, this is similar to the Maffetone method although I admit I've never researched much about it.
Well, today I decided to wear a Garmin for the first time in months just to see if my "running by feel" approach matches reality in terms of how fast I think I'm running. This morning I ran slightly more than 6 miles in 39 minutes for a 6:10 ish' pace. Before I took off, I guessed that I would run in my 10k pace zone which is around 6:15 - 6:20. For the entire run, I was running comfortably hard but in completely control and it was fairly easy running and I was breathing easily. It was a good solid tempo run. I ended up running about :05 - :10 sec. per mile faster than I thought (or perceived) but very close to what I perceived and how the paces felt. To put this in perspective, 12 months ago this would have been a more difficult workout but having spent so much time just running by feel and focusing on aerobic running, this wasn't difficult at all. I could have easily kept this pace for 1 hr.
The other interesting thing is I use to do about 2-3 race pace workouts "per week" but since I started running by feel, I average only 3 race pace workout "per month." That's pretty close to a 75% reduction in my monthly race pace running yet I'm running faster than I was and it's much easier to do. Other than for elite runners, I think the vast majority of folks fail to realize their potential because they over-complicate running. It's so clear why Kenyan children become great runners. They don't have gadgets, but they run every day to school in their aerobic zone and over time, their aerobic pace increases and over time they become great runners. And, again, other than for elite runners, we put way too much focus on speed work and then often focus on the wrong type of speed work.
Well, the Garmin goes back into the basement closet as I don't need it . . . I will just continue to listen to my body. I don't deny data is often critical to solving problems but in this case, the body is the data and I don't need outside data as the data inside my body. The body tells me when, how far, and how fast to run each day and all the pressure created by outside data is removed. I get a thrill when someone asks me, "how fast did you run today," and I can say, "I'm not exactly sure but it felt like . . . "