To GPS watch or not to GPS watch

#garmin  #gps watch  #running  #technology 

I’ve been talking about this a bunch on Twitter for a while, but it continues to be one of those things in which I struggle to pull the proverbial trigger. Should I buy a GPS watch or not?

iSmoothRun iOS iPhone


Since day one, I’ve run with my phone and used that to track my runs. In the earlier days I used MapMyRun and RunKeeper, but for the past few years I’ve been all about iSmoothRun. The app features everything I need from the stats I want to interval/workout coaching, plus it exports data to DailyMile and RunKeeper. It’s really handy. To me, it makes sense to track my runs with my phone since I always run with it on me anyway. I like the idea of having it just in case something happens or goes wrong. There have been more than a couple occasions where I had to stop a run way early and been stuck miles from home only to have to call the wife to come pick me up. Without having my phone on me, I’d have been stuck with a long walk home. So, if get a watch, I’m probably still going to be running with my phone on me. Getting a watch doesn’t replace anything, it just becomes an additional thing to have on me.

My bigger concern, though, is how it could affect my running. I try to run entirely by feel and ignore my pace/time until after my run. I used to have my phone set to call out my pace at each mile, but I found I was becoming obsessed with it. “I know this is just an easy run, but I can totally go 10 sec/mile faster!” “What?! I’m going that slow?! No way I can let that be!” Eventually, I turned this feature off and wore my armband in a way that made checking my pace rather difficult. This allows me to only listen to my body and run entirely by effort. My running improved greatly after doing this, as did my enjoyment. My fear with a watch is that I’ll be too tempted to check it every ten seconds and I’ll become obsessed with my pace again.

On the other side of things, the Erie Marathon does not have pace groups so I’ll be on my own for keeping myself at my goal pace without being too fast or too slow. Because this is going to be another really important race for me, I don’t think I want to chance anything. Once a mile isn’t enough feedback for keeping myself on track. A GPS watch is the obvious solution to this and that may be enough to push me over the edge. Thinking about it logically, I’d want to do most of my training with the watch so I could get myself used to running with it and listening to what it’s telling me. I should make a decision sometime soon.

Garmin Forerunner 220

Garmin Forerunner 220

The watch I’ve been eying is the Garmin Forerunner 220. It’s highly recommended by everyone who has one and it has the features I want. I’ve looked at a few others, but it seems like, for the price, this is the best option. The Bia Sport watch looks great in a lot of ways, but the separate GPS piece really kills it for me.

But part of me wants to hold out just a little longer and see if Apple does, in fact, start selling an “iWatch.” Who knows what features the watch will include, assuming it actually exists at all, but one can’t help but think it’ll offer everything I’m looking for (either natively or via 3rd party apps) on top of everything else a smartwatch has to offer. Along the same line of thinking, why not just get a Pebble instead? iSmoothRun already includes Pebble support so I’d be good to go. Though, flipping back to the pro dedicated GPS watch side of things, maybe it would be better to avoid the one-device-for-everything path. There’s only so much battery life to go around and I already have to charge my phone at some point midday if I’m running anymore than 4-5 miles. A watch that relies on my phone and serves other purposes besides running not only doesn’t help that situation but it actually makes it worse by adding another device with a battery I need to worry about. A dedicated GPS watch can just be left on the charger when I’m not using it.

In typical Amelia fashion, I am taking what should be a simple technology-buying decision and making it way overly complicated. The bottom line here is that I’m about 90% certain I’m going to just go ahead and buy the Garmin in the next few days. I’ve got enough Amazon points to cover the entire cost and my Prime membership will have it to me in two days. If Apple does start selling an iWatch (or another enticing smartwatch hits the market), nothing is stopping me from buying one while still using the dedicated watch for running.

Do you run with a GPS device? If so, which device do you use? Do you like it? In your experience, how has it both helped and hurt your running?