I Shall Run This Goddamn Marathon As Half Man, Half Machine

I'm extremely slapdash when it comes to training for races, and it finally caught up with me. Can cutting-edge tech make me less of a bozo?

I’m basically now RoboCop (er, except much faster, because RoboCop is sslllloowww)

I’ve been running for just over ten years now, and the time has finally come for me to kiss my mum goodbye, pull on my too-big new blazer, and nervously head through the gates for my first day at Big School. Yep, I’ve finally signed up for my first-ever marathon – the inaugral Bristol + Bath Marathon, on 25 October.

I can tell that you’re silently judging me. I can feel it. Okay, yes, I admit it: ten years is a long time to be obsessively running on a regular basis without ever attempting the most (in)famous distance of them all. I’m forever being shamed by stories of people who take up running in February and then rattle off three marathons by Christmas. Good for them. Whatever. Bothered. Swots.

But enough’s enough. No more putting it off until next year. I’ve graduated from 5ks to 10ks, from 10ks to half marathons, and there’s nowhere else for me to go now. This is my destiny and my doom. I’m going to run 26.2 miles if it kills me. I’ll show you. I’ll show you aaallll!

Now, if I sound grimly unenthusiastic about the whole thing, I’m really not – I am genuinely excited to be finally closing in on my personal running Moby Dick. But at the same time, I am also – pardon my French – shit-scared. Why?

This is what the aftermath of my first run in six weeks looked like. Not the best.

This is my destiny and my doom. I’m going to run 26.2 miles if it kills me

Well, do you know how much marathons hurt? I do. Do you know how I know? Because people who’ve done them keep bleeding telling me, that’s how. Often they’ll do so while chuckling wryly and shaking their head in a “Oof, rather you than me mate!” fashion. Yeah, cheers. Big help.

This Time, I Will Do It Properly

The last event I ran in – Hastings Half Marathon, back in March – made me realise I should be a lot less slapdash and random with my training. While I managed to complete the race under my target time of 1hr 45min, my lack of preparation really hit me afterwards: my body fell to crappy bits on me, leaving me nauseous, dizzy and wonky on my feet. I couldn’t eat a thing for 24 hours.

Here’s me shortly after finishing the Hastings Half, and shortly before dying on my arse

Obviously, crumpling after 13 miles isn’t really an option in a marathon, so I’ve decided to train like a grown-up this time around: clocking my miles, monitoring my sleep, charting my progress and so on. So, I’ve decided to go full cyber-droid robo-runner and deploy a Basis Peak – “the ultimate fitness and sleep tracker” (says the box).

I’ve decided to go full cyber-droid robo-runner

Setting it up was almost unnervingly easy: charged the watch, downloaded the app to my phone, the two devices automatically synced to each other and that was that. I put the watch on and swiped right on its screen to see what would happen. Ta-daa! My heart-rate appeared. 

Pro tip: it takes the Basis Peak a moment to accurately ascertain your heart-rate (and it is very accurate, thanks to its cutting-edge “advanced optical blood-flow” tech). So, if it initially shows your heart as thundering along at 132bpm, don’t go and look that up on the internet and convince yourself you’ve got months to live.

As it turns out, my average resting heart-rate is around the 68bpm mark, well within the ‘safe zone’ of 60-100bpm. Phewf.

My resting heart-rate, on my resting wrist

Actual Running, Like An Actual Runner

I went for a 6k run, my first in six weeks thanks to a running injury called plantar fasciitis (an injury I can 100% recommend if the sensation of a red-hot knitting needle being driven into your heel all day sounds appealing). As promised, the completely button-free Basis Peak noticed the moment I started running and adjusted itself accordingly: the time display changed to a rolling-data display – steps run, calories burned, heart-rate etc.

I was startled to see my heart-rate peak at 172bpm as I run up a particularly hefty hill. That’s my normal resting heart-rate, plus an entire not-very-healthy-person’s heart-rate on top of that. Yeesh. Had no idea.

My run turns into data

Once I got home, opening up the Basis Peak app on my phone instantly brought up all the data that the watch had gathered while I was out. I’ve never seen any of my runs recorded in that manner – the effect is surprisingly gripping and instantly addictive. Straight away, it’s transformed my marathon training regime into a game, rather than just 17 weeks of increasingly lengthy and sloggy runs.

I really only scraped the surface of what it can do – I’ll definitely be falling further down the rabbit-hole as the weeks go by. By mid-August I’ll probably have tearfully flushed my phone down the loo when the Basis Peak app tells me that I burned 21 fewer calories today than I did yesterday. (I get pretty deep into stuff.)

Beyond the fitness and sleep tracking, the Basis Peak can also give you a buzz when your synced phone receives texts, instant messages, emails or calendar notifications, and you can read the first line of the message on the Peak’s wee (but clear) screen.

That feature’s maybe not for me – only because I’m an obsessive phone-checker as it is – but it’s definitely a cool touch if you want to go full cyborg.

The Basis Peak uses these cool-looking green laser thingys to monitor your heart-rate

Anyway, consider me a convert. I’m going to conquer this marathon – and the 80 jazillion hours of training leading up to it – by harnessing the holy trilogy of tech, stats and science.

I shall become part man, part machine. I shall conquer this accursed race with my Basis Peak, and none shall stand our my way. Hear me roar, world. Hear my might robot roar!



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