Running for High Score

I’ve started running. It’s about time. I bought running shoes a little less than two months ago, the first such shoes that I’ve owned since, oh, early high school[1], and I just now started using them for their intended purpose. It’s been a touch tough but I’ve been persevering through it. I’m not quite going by the “couch to 5k” routine but I am doing something similar in so far that I’m mostly fast walking with occasional jogs sprinkled in between. The idea being that you slowly build up your stamina for jogging, going a tad longer each day, until you can sustain it for longer distances. So far, I’m still in the more walking than running phase.

It’s only been a week but I already feel some improvement and benefit, enough to be motivated to continue and enough to start to develop the base foundations for a habit. That routine building, more than being able to full on run 5k, is the main goal. So far it consists of a walk down to Gladstone Park and, once I see that there are few people around (I’m not yet past the self-concious phase,) I start with a brief jog and slowly make my way around the park, cursing at the Dollis Hill ascent while listening to my iPod Shuffle. Oh, and before I start I make sure that I acquire the proper orbital satellite signal.

See, being a geek I am not content with simple lo-fi running, I need to bring technology into the mix. I have a Garmin Forerunner 250 that I bought, a presumptuous purchase, before coming here. Now that I am running it has proven its worth. After it establishes a GPS lock, a sometimes painfully slow process, it provides me a multitude of information: how long I’ve been running, how far, what my current and average pace/speed is, how many (approximate) calories I burned, a map of the route I took and all sorts of other information I haven’t dug into yet. It is great, especially for an infojunkie. The better part is that when I connect it via USB to my MacBook it syncs up with Garmin’s software which provides all sorts of charts and graphs about my running history. In essence, it turns running into one elaborate videogame.

This relates to what Clive Thompson recently wrote in Wired, about Weight Watchers’ program as an RPG, and it’s something that I truly believe in. Anyone that has me on their leaderboards for “Geometry Wars” or “Pac-Man: Championship Edition” knows that I am a competitive must-have-the-high-score type of person. The Garmin Freerunner lets me bring that competition into the difficult and tiring world of exercise. It gives me something to strive for — getting a better average pace or top speed — every time I put my running shoes on. It’s like Lumines’ timed mode, but with more sweat.

It’s very useful because the only other competitive option for me in this regard is signing up for a 5k or 10k race and I’m in no shape to do that. I’m unwilling to go to multiplayer unless I know I can compete, and that’s what this single player mode prepares me for.

Is it obvious that I’m missing my videogames?

  1. Which, quite conceivably, were Pumps.
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