Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Thu, 29 Mar 2012 19:30:46 -0400

Don't Look Now


(I’m marking this newsletter’s 30th anniversary by revisiting one piece weekly from each year of the publication. This week’s is from May 1998. It also appears on Facebook on the “Joe Henderson’s Writings” page.)

I’ve found it. Or I should write “IT” The initials represent Ironman Triathlon not the endurathon itself but a watch made by Timex.

I had a timing problem as walk breaks slipped more often into my runs. I’d spend as much time looking at the watch, checking on the next stopping point, as studying the passing scene and sifting my rambling thoughts. So often did I twist my wrist and neck for watch reading that they were at greater risk of overuse injuries than the feet and legs.

Paul Reese made a suggestion. He took breaks all the way across the U.S., and then across the remaining states, while running as much as a marathon a day.

“I don’t like glancing at my watch all the time,” said Paul. “So I take my planned breaks at mile points.”

He fell into a pattern of three-mile pitstops on his state runs. At home he stopped as often as every half-mile.

That sometimes works in races – if they mark every mile. But I never measure my daily runs – and never even know at the start where I’ll go that day. So I go by the watch, planning stops at 10-minute intervals.

At the Around the Bay 30K this spring I lined up beside Cathy Troisi at the start. She’s one of my longtime friends I see too seldom because we live at opposite ends of the country.

I watched her set her watch and asked about it. “I’ve tried them all,” she said, “and this is the best I’ve found.”

It was a Timex Ironman Triathlon. It kept running time and stored splits for later recall.

“Best of all,” said Cathy, “I can program it to beep at any interval.” She’s a committed walk-breaker and had set the watch to sound twice per run/walk cycle after four minutes of running, then at the end of her one-minute walk. The watch automatically and continuously repeated.

“I never have to worry about the time,” she said. “The watch does the thinking for me.”

Cathy convinced me. The next week I went shopping for a beeping watch of my own.

I bought a lower-end I.T. model than hers, which appeared to do everything but make morning coffee. Mine doesn’t record and recall up to 100 splits, but only stores a half-dozen.

It’s still the highest-tech running product I use, doing what no previous watch of mine has done. The I.T. has changed – no, revolutionized – my timing.

Most days now, I skip over the stopwatch feature. Split-storage is irrelevant with distances unknown.

Instead I put the watch in “timer” mode. This provides repeating countdowns from pre-set starting points.

Mine are nine and one minutes. At the end of each, the watch beeps discreetly for a few seconds to signal the start of break time, while the watch has already started ticking off the next cycle. (This count can hide behind either the time-of-day or stopwatch readings, and go unseen while still sounding off at intervals.)

The Timex now watches the time for me. It frees me to look and think beyond numbers.

UPDATE: This column was the first to appear on my web page. Warren Finke created it and still serves as its webmaster. The Running Commentary page now bulges with hundreds of columns.

I still wear a Timex Ironman watch most days. The walk breaks that it signals now come more often than they did in 1998.

[I’ve published nine books on and for reading on e-reader devices, smart phones, tablets and personal computers. All are minimally priced at $2.99 each. Those same books are available, with added illustrations, as printable and shareable PDFs from – also for $2.99 apiece. The titles: Long Slow Distance, Long Run Solution, Marathon Training, Run Right Now, Starting Lines, Going Far, Home Runs and Joe’s Journal, plus Rich Englehart’s book about me, Slow Joe. The Run Right Now Training Log is PDF only, from]

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