When I was eight my father bought me a digital watch for my birthday. It had the time and date. That was it. But it was the best present I’d ever had. It stopped me being late for roll calls and having to write out hymns as a punishment all night in the dark cellars of the boarding school I went to.
This birthday – my fortieth – I received another digital watch. Call it an upgrade. A watch so good that if I’d had it back then at school, not only would it have told me I was late for roll call, but how fast I needed to run to get there before the housemaster called out my name.
Electronic gadgets rarely excite me. I prefer stovetop coffee pots, home baked bread, old fashioned claret, highly salted potatoes, tripe, mashed turnips – but I can’t help applauding my new watch. Because in short my Garmin Forerunner 220, aka MegaSuperWatch, is amazing.
After years of calibrating how fast and far I’ve run by the cycles of the moon and sun, I now simply press a button to tell me where I’ve run, how long it took me, what my heart rate was, what my stride length was, how warm it was, how high I was, how many calories I’ve burnt, and my speed. It even cleans my shoes and washes my clothes.
The only downside is that I’ve had to dispense with my trusty Running Notebook that I’ve had for years. All the runs I’ve done from way back, wherever I’ve lived, meticulously noted down in this frayed and tattered affair. Of course, I’ll still keep it as a souvenir to my past glories, but I’m afraid the old Moleskin can’t compete with my Garmin. Can you plot heart rate against elevation gain? Sorry old friend.
The other application of this amazing device is this. Like most people I’ve had nights out that I still have no idea how I got back home. You see where this is going don’t you…
As I was pottering about the garden last night I must have accidentally switched on the watch. When I later uploaded the data to my computer I noticed there were two new runs on the screen. The run I remember doing early that afternoon, all nicely mapped out as the Preau Horseshoe as I call it (it’s not a Horseshoe at all, more a trapezoid, but I like the name). Plus another run I didn’t remember doing.
Weird, I thought, looks like a drunken man staggering around the garden trying to find his way to bed. Such was the wild zigzag of red computer ink splashed all over the screen. And then the penny dropped. Oh my God, it’s a perfect trace of me watering the plants and tending the garden. Imagine if I’d had that in Nottingham, circa1996. It could explain why I woke up on the flyover of the A52 near Derby after a party in New Basford…