The Running Mann

So there’s a passage in Everyware that states, more or less verbatim, that a good long run is one of those things I could not conceive of being improved by an overlay of real-time informatics. This, mind you, was before the Nike+/iPod sport kit hit the market, and ever since I’ve been wondering if maybe I wasn’t, y’know, wrong.

Only one way to find out, of course. I’m now two weeks into my experiment with Nike+, and my feelings are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, I have unquestionably run more and harder – much more and harder – in this two-week interval than I would have otherwise, and this is almost exclusively due to the fact that the Nike+ site has made my running performance public, social, and therefore competitive vis à vis people I know and care about. The results speak for themselves.

On the other, I fully endorse everything Chris Heathcote says here, and I have a few reservations of my own at the level of experience design.

For one, the voice actors are all wrong, all wrong. The voiceovers (“Turnaround point! Thirty minutes remaining”) are such an intimate presence that any offness registers disproportionately, so it would be a very nice thing indeed to have a wider selection of voices available. Also, while in some sense it’s certainly nice for one’s athletic accomplishments to be recognized, even the incremental ones, it’s a little silly to be congratulated for things like “your longest run ever!” And I especially don’t give a fuhuck when such blandishments are offered by the likes of (Nike shill?) Lance Armstrong.

But these are obviously quibbles. To reiterate my fundamental finding: I’m running more, I’m running harder, I’m having fun with the online challenges (come find me, I’m “speedbird+”), and I’m in better shape. I may have to alter, or at least soften, my judgment on such interventions in the second edition.

Just for shits’n’giggles, I threw on an old Triax C8 heart-rate monitor when I went for today’s six-miler. All I need now is a pair of adidas_1s, and I’ll disappear into a vortex of relational locative biotelemetry every time I head out to the trail.

I wonder if Steve Mann jogs?

6 responses to “The Running Mann”

  1. Greg says :

    Actually, I think you got it right in the book. But it depends on how you define “improve,” which comes down to the purpose of the good long run. If it’s just the performance of the run (and competition) then I think you’re seeing the ways that it can be improved. But if running is for other purposes (a certain kind of solitude, a way of clearing your head), then all these things don’t improve on that run. I tend to fall into the latter camp, myself, but that’s just me.

  2. speedbird says :

    Nail on the head, Greg. It’s all bound up in that word “performance,” isn’t it? Funny how both of its senses are relevant to what adding Nike+ does to my running.

    For years, my mother (she’s a marathoner) has been after me to “get more serious” about my running. She races competitively, she gets a lot of pleasure out of doing so, and this is the framework in which she situates her activity.

    Her husband’s a surfer, on the other hand, a real soul surfer. He surfs to be with himself, in the immensity and at the mercy of the ocean. That’s kind of how I think of running, which is why I’ve always pushed back against my mother’s advice. I know I could be competitive if I trained “seriously,” but that’s just not why I run.

    Thus the line I take in Everyware. I didn’t have any particular interest in Nike+ when it came out, because it simply wasn’t relevant to the way I run.

    Since I do feel that it’s sort of hypocritical, though, to take public stances on the value of something I haven’t given an honest try, I figured it was incumbent on me to check Nike+ out. I made just about the minimal investment possible – I duct-taped the sensor to my usual, non-Nike trainers, I bought a refurb nano, and so on – basically assuming that I’d quickly validate my line and move on. What I hadn’t counted on, though, was how much fun it’d be to share my runs, to participate in simultaneous “challenges” with friends in San Francisco and the UK. It’s a hoot.

    That said, it’s true that I haven’t gone for a good soul run since I started using Nike+. My runs have gotten more performance-oriented, as well as performative. They’re not simply for me anymore. And I’ll admit to a fair amount of reluctance to go for such a run and to fail to enlist it in my public account of exertion: the effort would feel “wasted,” somehow, because lost to the mnemotechnic. That strikes me as kind of sad and scary.

    At any rate, two weeks’ use is not enough to come to any kind of final judgment. About all I can say from this vantage point is that the original line from the book now seems too narrowly drawn, and that, as you point out, “improving” a run will have a lot more to do with why one is running in he first place.

  3. Christopher Fahey says :

    I can’t figure out how to see your public performance on the Nike+ site. And believe me, I want to see it.

  4. speedbird says :

    Hmm. Are you a registered user?

  5. Chris Brown says :

    What does Mrs. Manners say about the etiquette for quoting your own book?


  6. speedbird says :

    Chris, it’s OK if you’re disagreeing with yourself. : . )

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