External validation, has it become proof of the fact?
How is it possible to achieve something, yet not feel a sense of accomplishment until it’s recorded on a remote database or posted to an activity feed for all the world to see?
Recently I was 34km into a Sunday Long Run when my watch battery died. I stopped in my tracks. Then I headed home. There was no point continuing, no reason at all. If I continued running for the final 6km, to make up the planned 40km, it wouldn't be real.
Does this make sense? No, it doesn’t! It defies all logic. Yet, this was the nonsense going through my head, the predicament I faced. I actually thought it would be better for my training if I stopped, recharged my GPS and went out in the evening for the remaining 6km.
The reality is that it would not have been better; splitting my long run would have totally negated the training stimulus I was trying to achieve. This was a training stimulus I had built towards over the past six weeks, steadily increasing my long run, week on week, safely approaching a longer distance. Yet here I was, stopped dead on the trail, not wanting to run any further if I couldn’t record my distance, time or elevation. How would anyone know it happened? How would I be able to look back with pride and affirm I did the hard yards?
The answer is - it wouldn’t be possible. And I’ve come to realise that this is totally fine. In the ‘Real World’, where blood, sweat and tears are shed upon the trails, if it happened, it happened regardless of whether it’s recorded on your watch or phone. What matters is you physically went out and trained. The real evidence of training - and the only evidence that matters - is your performance on race day and your ability to live with a healthy body and mind.
External validation has gained far too much importance in today’s society. It’s a downside to the power of technology. More and more people are feeling a sense of illusion if they don’t document and externally validate something they have done. Yet this defies logic and it’s simply ridiculous.
GPS watches, smartphones and social media can help you train better by monitoring heart rates etc. However, in themselves, they have not contributed to faster times and/ or better fitness. Only the real work, the hard yards and “getting it done” results in greater performances and improvements.
So, what did I do at 34km of my long run? I got to the front door and thought: “This is rubbish. If I did the work but it’s not on Strava, it still bloody happened.” Then I turned around and finished the run.
Keep Healthy, Injury Free and Train Like You Want It.
Majell Backhausen is an athlete and coach.
thoughts, feelings and tribulations about running by runners.