The Watch Fiasco


If you’re a serious runner, you will empathize with this post. As you laugh along with the seemingly ridiculous emotions I describe here because you would feel the same way. If you’re not a runner, you might be inclined to label me a drama queen. I promise (well kind of) that I’m not- it’s just a runner thing.

After running on cloud nine with Shalane Flanagan in yesterday’s 5k, my watch flashed “low memory.” I have had my Nike SportWatch GPS for about three years and don’t recall ever seeing this message. I was a little worried about this in terms of tracking the next day’s half marathon but figured I could easily free up space my uploading my runs to later that afternoon.

Before heating up my prerace dinner (spaghetti with my mom’s homemade meat sauce, farmers market squash, salad, and watermelon) to bring down to the restaurant, I plugged my watch into my laptop. It was not immediately connecting to, but I hoped that it would while we were at dinner. Upon returning to our room, things took a turn for the worse- my watch showed a full battery, yet my computer showed no signs of recognizing it. This is when my stomach began to churn.

After experimenting unsuccessfully with all of the troubleshooting tips online, I desperately called Nike and explained my situation. The representative informed me that he was really sorry and that perhaps they could send me a new watch- well not by 4:00 am tomorrow, I thought. He suggested that I try syncing my watch to a different computer, so off I went to the hotel business center. After paying to use the internet and downloading the Nike software, a security message alerted me that I was not allowed to install software on this computer.

My heart was racing, my face was red, and I was on the verge of tears. In one last hope, I asked the concierge if he had any suggestions. He was extremely nice but informed me that no hotel computers would allow this. Crushed, I walked back into the elevator with tears running down my face. This felt like the end of the world.

As I write this, I know how ridiculous and self-centered this sounds. There are horrific injustices happening worldwide, and I’m crying because my watch is broken. But the emotional toll of running cannot be overlooked. I had been looking forward to this race for months and putting my full physical and mental effort into my training.

Without a watch, I saw no hopes of a PR- how would I be able to gauge my pace without the instantaneous number right there? Running watches are a new phenomenon, and history clearly proves that humans are capable of setting records without this technology. However, when you constantly train with a watch, you feel lost without it- it’s like riding a bike without training wheels for the first time, or taking a math test without your formula sheet.

My mom offered to drive home and try one of our desktop computers, but neither of us thought that would solve the problem. Besides, it was already 9:00, and I needed to get to sleep. Brilliantly creative as usual, she came up with a somewhat settling solution- I could use the stopwatch feature of my watch. While it wouldn’t track my mileage and pace, it was the best thing we could do. To supplement this, she handwrote my mile splits for a 7:30 pace on the back of a RunWestin paper bracelet. I didn’t think I would be able to keep a 7:30 pace, but it would be a good reference.

When I awoke at 4:00 the next morning, the first thing I did, naturally, was look at my Sportwatch. I couldn’t believe it- the screen was blank. My watch was dead. If you know me, you know I am always prepared. For a one night, two race trip downtown, I had packed four sports bras, three pairs of shorts, three running tanks, two t-shirts, four pairs of running socks, compression socks, two packs of chomps, four bananas, three servings of Multigrain Cheerios, eight bottles of water, four pickles, ten Tums, four epiPens, three tubes of glucose, two rolls of prewrap, five ponytail holders, etc- but I had never thought about bringing an extra watch. This felt like the worst possible situation, and as I plugged in my watch to see if I could get some charge, I called all the 24-hour Walgreens in town to try to find a stopwatch.

While I had no success with Walgreens, my watch summed up enough battery to function as a stopwatch, and things turned out okay. Well, better than okay- I set a PR by almost eight minutes and achieved my goal of breaking 1:40. Running with only a stopwatch was an interesting experience- not one that I’d be particularly inclined to have again- but it worked. I had overreacted (surprise!), but listening to my body rather than the numbers worked out alright after all.

When I arrived home Sunday afternoon, I immediately called Nike support. The weekend had started on a high note and ended on one too- the representative laughed at my story and dysfunctional watch and agreed to send me a replacement for free! This is what I love about Nike- as long as they do not see intentional damage on my watch, such as dog bites or evidence of taking it apart- there is a lifetime warrantee on natural wear and tear. My watch arrived in just two days. Although the all-black look is a bit masculine for me, it’s the latest Nike watch, it’s free, and it will allow me to run calm once again.