Getting an iPod revolutionised my running a few years ago and it's got me through the boredom of many a long run, not to mention some of the darker moments of one or two marathons. I filled up my gadget with 5 hours of motivational tunes and happidly plodded away to an eclectic mix of 70s funk and noughties pap. Then I added a GPS gizmo to my amoury, allowing me to scrutinise the data for every session and providing cold, hard evidence that I'd been deluding myself about the actual distance of my runs.
However, once you've factored in the sports bras, the vaseline and the double-layer blister-proof socks, getting kitted up with all this gear turned a training run into more of a space mission than the liberating, faff-free sport that people make out.
Recently, I've been too disorganised to charge the gadgets (not sure I even know where the chargers are), so the faff-factor has been reduced considerably (although the sports bra remains a staple, you'll be relieved to know). This meant that I arrived at Blenheim 10K this morning ready to run without the usual paraphernalia once again.
As I shuffled around the grounds, I overheard two friends, both with earphones in, SHOUTING AT EACH OTHER:
Lady 1: "HOW ARE YOU FEELING?"
Lady 2: "YES, IT'S NICE ISN'T IT?"
Lady 1: "IS THE PACE OK?"
Lady 2: "I THOUGHT IT WOULD RAIN!"
Lady 1: "SHALL WE GO A BIT FASTER?"
Lady 2: "THE SUN'S EVEN COMING OUT NOW!"
Lady 1 then sprinted off ahead, presumably happy in the knowledge that her friend was in agreement.
It's not the first time I've pondered the pros and cons of iPods whilst running. It only took a few races of having my toes trodden on by other auditorily-overloaded athletes for me to realise that perhaps it wasn't necessarily the best idea in a crowd of moving people and some race organisers have recognised this and made attempts to ban MP3 players on safety grounds. There was also one occasion when I trumped so loudly I heard it over the shouts and screams of James Brown in my ears.
There must have been plenty of studies on the effect of music on physical performance and it doesn't take a genius to figure that a fast, upbeat tune is more likely to keep your pecker up than a gentle, instrumental arrangement of muzak. The right tune at the right time can be like rocket fuel, but the wrong tune and the wrong time is entirely different... memories of the late, great Isaac Hayes' Hyperbolicsyllabicsesquedalymistic playing whilst peripheral vision started to wane at mile 17 in Amsterdam marathon is enough evidence of that for me.
Last week though, my friend ran Henley Half Marathon, all the time tracking his progress with RunKeeper on his iPhone. Nowthatiscool.com. You can take photos of the route along the way and it takes spectating to a whole new level of ease; in fact, I followed his entire effort from the comfort of my living room, whilst also watching the Commonwealth Games on TV. He also ran today, much faster than me, but he couldn't hear me shouting to him on the loop back, probably because he was humming along to Mr Blue Sky at full volume.
I've tried to run two marathons without listening to my trusty iPod, but I've taken it with me as a safety blanket - both times, I've ended up listening to it. I'd like to think I'll be able to run London without it and soak up the atmosphere instead. I guess I'll have to wait and see. The GPS, I suspect, will have to make a reappearance but I'll have to find the wretched charger first.