GPS and Trail Racing = Cheating?

Trail Goat, here. Until last week I never would have considered whether wearing a Garmin Forerunner or other GPS device during a trail race to be cheating. While I still don’t think wearing such a device in a race is cheating unless the race director prohibits such devices, I’m no longer sure that it’s sporting.

So what happened that got me thinking about this? Well, I was walking back from picking up some yummy veggie Indian food for lunch when I caught up with two partners from the office. Not surprising for big city attorneys, they were talking golf. More specifically, they were talking about whether they should purchase range finding devices so they would always know precisely how far their ball was from the hole. Butting into their conversation, I immediately said, “That’s cheating!” They argued that such devices speed up play (less time spent considering distance) and that there weren’t enough distance markers on the courses. I countered that part of the challenge of golf was gauging the distance of the next shot and determining how to play the ball accordingly. I felt that to use such a device removed a judgment call that was vital to the challenge of the sport. Is it any different when one removes some of the vagaries inherent to trail racing?

  • Aren’t there times when you would fuel, drink, or run differently if you knew you were a different distance from an aid station or the finish?
  • Doesn’t seeing pace data make it easier to know if you are on target late in a race when your math starts to get fuzzy?
  • Heck, while we’re at it, is wearing a heart rate monitor any more sporting? Doesn’t it remove, at least in part, the need to determine the nebulous perception that is “effort.”

Let the iRunFar community know what you think about wearing GPS and heart rate devices during trail races.

Special thanks go out to Meissner, DeWitt, Grae, and Loomdog for sharing their great ideas in response to last week’s post on problems with the Montrail Ultra Cup. (check out their ideas)