Diary of an aspiring half - marathon runner week five

I’m on holiday this week so may be taking a break from training.  I say “may” because I’ll be in Vegas, and I struggle enough in the temperatures we get at home so I’m not even going to attempt to run in temperatures of 40-degrees plus!  However, my hotel will probably have a gym which will no doubt be air-conditioned to arctic conditions! But I can already imagine the type of clientele at the gym - steroid pumped guys with muscle vests & bulging biceps and young, skinny gym bunnies wearing tiny scraps of lycra sipping whatever meals they’ve juiced up for the day! Somehow I think an overweight, 40-something, red faced & sweaty woman on a treadmill will spoil the picture somewhat! But I’ll make do with plenty of walking & swimming instead!


I did run on another holiday recently. I’d literally only just signed up for the half marathon & knew I had a daunting task ahead of me so I wanted to at least try & maintain my fitness whilst away if I could.  I was going on a cruise and knew we’d have a few days at sea so I told myself I could get up early on those days & get a run in before breakfast!

The first sea day, true to my word I got up early, threw on my running gear and trotted down to the promenade deck where you could run right the way round the ship.  There was even a helpful sign posted at various points on that deck letting passengers know that apparently, 3 laps of the promenade deck was a mile.

The SLJ Saturday session that week was going to be a timed 5K, as the beginners had just graduated from their beginners course. My plan was to do 10 laps which should therefore give me the same distance albeit a very different experience to Knole!  It was totally flat and, at the time, in the middle of the sea so nothing much to look at. With no music to listen to & none of the usual SLJ chatter & gossip, it was a bit lonely, but despite the early hour (just after 7am) the sun was shining and there were several passengers on deck enjoying the early morning sunshine & sea breeze so overall not an unpleasant experience. 

Despite knowing that (according to the sign) three laps would equal a mile, I was wearing my trusty Garmin watch, and thought it would be fun to leave the GPS function on as it would be an amusing route to upload when I got back home considering it would appear that I was running somewhere in the middle of the North Sea!

So off I set and after my first three laps I checked my watch (as it hadn’t “buzzed” to let me know I’d done a mile yet). Imagine my confusion to find that according to my watch I’d only done 0.75 miles!  I’ll admit, I didn’t expect the three laps to be bang on a mile but I was expecting it to be much closer than that!  I carried on and another lap later, the watch confirmed the mile.  So now I was questioning myself – had I miscounted and perhaps only done two laps when I thought I’d done three? I kept going, and paid special care to keep count – another three laps on and again, nowhere near the mile and not even 0.75 this time, I had to do another two laps before the watch confirmed I had done two miles. 

To say I was confused was an understatement – but my watch had never let me down before, and it’s GPS for goodness sake, surely that can’t lie!  So I kept running & running – I couldn’t remember exactly what 5K was in miles, but thought it was around 3.5 so I decided to keep going until I’d done at least that! Finally, at lap 15 my faithful watch confirmed I’d done 3.7 miles at last! Thank goodness – I was shattered and in need of a rest, but feeling pretty chuffed with myself for having actually dragged myself out of bed to run, even though I was on holiday!

I was somewhat disappointed to find upon checking my watch that despite the ultra-flat terrain it had taken me slightly longer than usual (42 minutes) and that my pace was a little slower than I’d hoped, considering I’m somewhere around a 12 minute mile on a typical SLJ run with the “undulations” (a.k.a. hills) in Knole park! 

I was really shocked as it hadn’t felt that way, in fact I’d felt I was running a pretty fast pace due to the flat surface, added to which I was feeling pretty tired – more than I’d expect for 5K.  The only thing I could come up with was that for half of each circuit I was running into the wind the movement of the ship was causing and perhaps it was stronger than I gave it credit for which therefore made it harder & slowed me down – but even so, it left me feeling a bit despondent about my chances of ever being ready for a half marathon, and I didn’t run again for the rest of the cruise.

Upon my return home, I mentioned it to a friend who pointed out that the GPS was unlikely to be accurate as I was running on a moving surface.  So I googled it… Sure enough – somebody else out there had already asked the same question, and this is what I found:

Will the GPS watch work while running on a cruise ship?
The answer is yes, it will work, but it will absolutely NOT be accurate while the ship is moving. First, out on the open ocean, you should be able to get a very strong satellite signal. But, if you run when the ship is moving, the GPS calculation tracks your movement and the ships movement at the same time.
Let’s say that you are running from the back of the ship to the front while the ship is in motion. The GPS will seem to cover a lot of ground. But, if you run from the front to the back of the ship, you will have covered less ground. If the ship is barely moving in a bay, you may even be standing still according to your GPS.
Your best bet is to consult with a member of the ships crew, or in many cases there are often signs already posted on any walking/running decks that will tell you the length of the track on the ship. Then, you can simply count your laps.

Doh!  Why didn’t I think of that!  Turns out the only accurate thing on my watch that day was the timer!  So as it stands, in reality I’d run around 5 miles (as I’m still not convinced 3 laps is EXACTLY 1 mile!) in 42 minutes which gives me somewhere between 8 – 9 mins per mile!  It’s a shame the watch didn’t record it accurately as that is a massive PB time for me!