Like many other runners I have started my journey using my phone to track my miles and times and it has served me well but I started to long to join the elite/committed runners and get a GPS watch. Not only do I see it as a statement of intent to run hard and be a true runner I thought it would make racing and training easier to track and improve as the runs got longer so I decided to take the plung and buy one!!
Once you take the plunge that is when the fun starts! What brand and model to choose. There are so many brands and models out there it is easy to spend hours searching for reviews and prices to get the best for your budget. The 3 leaders are Garmin, Timex and now Tom Tom, after extensive research I opted to go with Garmin mainly because of their track record as most watches have similar features. I was really tempted by the Tom Tom but there are few reviews and endorsements due to how new it was. A true selling point for the Tom Tom was the cost and that it was fully waterproof as until the latest batch of forerunners they are only splash proof.
As a gadget freak I ended up buying a Garmin Forerunner 610 with Heart rate monitor through a company that sell refurbished Garmins with a 2 year warranty direct from America. I paid less for this than a Tom Tom with plenty more features and proven record.
So I have been using it for a couple of months and these are my thoughts:
GPS Watch V’s GPS Phone
I tend to train with music so I carry my phone with me so it hasn’t been a issue to use it to log my runs and the verbal feedback through Strava has been useful but it does rely on battery life so I always have to plan to charge my phone prior to a run. The same can be said for my Garmin but I can do several days training before having to charge it.
The GPS on my phone would work pretty much instantaneously where as my watch takes a few seconds to lock onto a satellite. Garmin have new technologies which speeds this up if you are running in a familiar place but you cannot just step out the door and run.
Smart phones and rain do not mix but even the older GPS watches are shower/splashproof so this is not an issue so it means I can no track runs in the rain (a must in Great Britain!). You can buy cases or just put your phone in a plastic freezer bag but it is not so easy to then activate.
Most races ban earphones so getting used to feedback via earphones makes you feel naked on race day. Unless you have got a pair of aftershockz headphones getting mile splits and times becomes problematic. I like to keep things as similar as possible to reduce problems on race day so I have like the change to a watch for this.
Unless you run with your phone in your hand (Definitely not encouraged) getting feedback without earphones or stopping and starting can be slow and a fiddle with a phone as if like me you cannot get on with arm bands and tuck your phone in you back pocket it always becomes a mix of running and yoga as the run/race starts. With a watch you can start/stop with a simple button and is far less fiddly and much easier on the go.
The Garmin I have has great software which gives me more than enough feedback both within a run but also after a run once I have downloaded the data to my laptop (cannot comment on other brands). I do however love the instantness of my phone so I can look at my splits, times and profile as I stretch off. I do like this instant feedback as I don’t always have time to upload my runs straight after a training session.
The feedback and features of a phone will tend to be less than you can get from your watch, (dependent on the model you choose) with most phone apps you will have to pay for a premium level to get as much feedback and possibly buy extra equipment (heart rate monitor). But a lot of this is down to how much you want to know.
So what is my conclusion……
Go with what you feel you want!?! Smart phones have made a huge leap forward and made the feedback far more accessible to all but I personally love my watch now. I do get frustrated with the speed of upload at times but I am beginning to get a system to deal with this. I love the ease of starting and stopping and the auto pause which makes my averages more realistic on city training runs. The ease of charging, carrying makes it easier as a training partner than my phone.
1 word of caution before you go out and buy a GPS watch, there are lots of makes and models on the market and it becomes a real mind field of choice. I went for the all singing and dancing 610 model (now superseded by the 620) and I have to say I only use about half the features so possibly could have got the 210 and not noticed but I think you just need to buy what you can afford. Personally I wanted a heart rate monitor as part of my bundle so I was sold but most have this feature but you may buy it as an extra.