Black Mirror and How Technology Conspired Against My Marathon


The watch that will soon take over the world

It’s not exactly news that social media has been called the new drug of choice for society.  Studies showing how checking emails and social media light up the same parts of our brains as hard drugs are pretty common, but not common enough to stop us from seeking our daily hits. In the words of Jim Carrey in Liar Liar, “Hit me again, Ike…”

So with this in mind, I kept hearing about this show called Black Mirror that was a sort of Twilight Zone for the digital era.  After continually reading about it, I decided to check it out.  First, let me say that this show is decidedly NOT for everyone, as will become evident in the first episode, which involves something vulgar happening to a Prime Minister and a pig.  This is a dark show about dark times/themes.  Much like Hope Floats, if you are in too good of a mood, then a Black Mirror episode will certainly help you out (seriously, if you’ve seen Hope Floats, you know what I am talking about.  Why do females like this movie so much? It is jam packed with tragedy and heartbreak. Watch it back to back with Seven and Leaving Las Vegas if you want to be reduced to a trembling, catatonic pile of devastation. Call it the Failure Film Festival).

Without spoiling any episodes, Black Mirror tends to be about the evils of the modern age, and how our society’s obsession with social media, narcissism, technological advances, and the ease of navigating the internet can have dire consequences. If you thought Skynet was terrifying, then Black Mirror takes it to another insidious level. (I should mention there is one uplifting episode so far-San Junipero-but even it has a melancholy lilt to it).  If this sounds like the last show you’d like to watch, then let me say that it is all executed brilliantly, with intelligent writing, brilliant storytelling, and impeccable acting.  And the ideas it presents definitely leave you thinking about how they do seem entirely possible, which makes them that much more horrifying.

I too experienced the nefarious repercussions of technology, when I was recently sabataged by my GPS watch during the Chicago Marathon.  I bought the watch back in May, thinking that it would help me to run appropriate paces as I trained for the race, as well as on actual race day.  In all fairness, I did have some warning signs that this investment was not all that it seemed. There were some random runs where the pace I was given was obviously not accurate, but I shrugged them off. “Oh, it’s cause I was in the woods. It will be fine when I’m running through the streets of Chicago”, I naively said.

So on race day I lined up with my race plan set, and when the gun went off, I prepared to execute it. Instead, my watch, which obviously had become sentient by now, decided to immediately tell me within the first ½ mile that I was running about 20 seconds too slow, to play a joke on me. I sped up, desparately not wanting to be off pace, since this was an attempt to qualify for the Boston Marathon for a 3rd time (the previous 2 times I’ve run Boston it has been approximately 10 degrees cooler than the surface of the sun, so I want to do it on a day that the weather is more seasonably appropriate).  Low and behold, when I got to the mile mark, I was about 30 seconds too fast. In a marathon, this is cause for panic, because you can’t bank seconds early on-you might dig too deep early and pay the price later on. I tried to adjust and was able to slow down somewhat, but my first 13 miles were still faster than I had planned on running. And at mile 20, my evil watch’s dastardly plans were realized as I crashed and crashed hard.  The only qualifying there would be on that day was to join that clichéd club of people who hit the wall at mile 20.  After licking my wounds I decided to sign up for the Jacksonville Marathon in December, because I did the same thing in 2010 when Chicago that year did not go well and was able to have a much better race in Jacksonville and qualify. The second time was not the charm, as it was a humid December day in Florida, and this time the crash happened between miles 14 and 15.  My watch of doom cooperated this time, but that’s kind of like a con man being polite after they’ve already ripped you off. A particular low point of the race was a woman in a tutu passing me in the last few miles. Perhaps I shouldn’t rule out that my watch had something to do with that too.

I may try to reach out to the producers of Black Mirror, to see if they want to use my harrowing experience for the basis of one of their future episodes. No doubt viewers will be stunned and mortified at the cruelty I was subject to at the hands of a gadget/technology that supposedly makes our lives better.  Next time I’ll just hire someone to run with me and tell me every mile if I’m on pace or not, because that clearly is the only logical solution. In the meantime, if you need me, I’ll be setting my watch on fire and dancing around it while laughing maniacally.


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