Garmins and GPS Running

Recently, I bit the bullet and finally caved to the allure of GPS technology. Maybe it was the 3rd or 4th time being utterly lost during endurance events, maybe it was seeing how easy it was for those runners with these ‘magic watches’ that told them which direction to head in every time the signs were not clear, or perhaps it was just the childlike craving for anything ‘James Bond’ and gadget like…


My reasons for leaving it this long are plenty: I like using maps; it feels more organic and natural. I didn’t even mind getting lost the odd time – I like to call it UST – ‘unintended, superfluous training’ (I’m hoping this catches on in the runners community). I also quite like leaving the house, particularly on a Sunday, where there were no time constraints and just ‘run’ somewhere; no destination and no eye on the time. Plus, there is the cost, which is no small thing.

The watch I purchased was the ‘Garmin Forerunner 405’. I’m not going to go into a review of the watch (there are plenty of those about anyway), but I will say that it is perfect for me. The touch sensitive bezel makes it quite simple to use, but still feel a bit James Bond. It is also very useful that you can lock the bezel when running, so to avoid pressing buttons by accident.

I had tried  it on a few short runs (3-5 miles) on the road and found it to be a great little toy, but I really wanted to test it on a long run, that travelled through forest and areas that might prove tough for satellite connection. I picked a nice trail route I thought would be tough on myself and the GPS and to earn extra ‘nerd-points’, I also brought my phone along to see if they came up with the same number of miles.

The run was great! A picturesque, trail route, up and down the tumultuous terrain of the Peak District. I will say that by mile 10, I was more in favour of running without the watch; mostly because I knew it was ONLY mile 10. I tried not to look too often, but it’s impossible not to. I returned home after my FR said it was 20.0 miles and my phone said 19.8 – “Hmm, that’s not bad; pretty close. I’m going to call it 20 miles then”.

Then the real fun and beauty of the technology happens; evaluating! I uploaded the run onto ‘Strava‘; and then proceeded to get lost in my own head for the following few hours, clicking on everything, where my slowest and fastest miles were, where the steepest bits are, and how my times on certain bits of the run compared with other runners. Say what you want about statistics, but they can be a bit more-ish.

My summary from this experiment is that I quite like it. The Forerunner 405 is spot on for me; it’s simple enough to operate and the battery lasts plenty long enough. I do think there are still times where it is better to leave it at home; to just run for the hell of it and not put pressure on yourself to set a new PB every time, but for those other times, I’m definitely a Garmin convert.

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