GPS running

A few months ago, at the Rotorua Marathon, Wouna was the lucky winner of a Timex watch (as one of the major spot prizes). Given, however, that she never wears a watch, and that we have been forever thinking about getting a GPS watch, we decided to try and trade in the watch for a GPS enabled model. I initially didn’t have high hopes that we would be able to do this, but when I contacted GMB Watches, the NZ agents for Timex, they were extremely friendly and helpful, and without any quibbles arrangements were made for us to exchange the watch for a GPS model, simply paying in the difference in cost, during our next visit to Auckland.

The watch we decided on was the Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 GPS (quite a mouthful!), a sleek and functional GPS device that doesn’t set you back an arm and a leg, like some of the other high-end, very sophisticated GPS watches on the market. To keep things simple and to further keep costs in check, we opted for the version without a heart rate monitor.

I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the new toy, and my excitement knew no bounds when we finally picked up the watch in early June. Unfortunately our visit to Auckland coincided with one of the most dreadfully stormy weeks the city has seen in a long time, so it was only after we arrived back in Palmy a few days later that I finally had a chance to try the watch on the run.

My Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 GPS. A treasure trove of useful, realtime running info.

My Timex Ironman Run Trainer 2.0 GPS. A treasure trove of useful, realtime running info.

I had a lot of fun comparing the kilometer distances of our regular training route with the distances we had figured out before by driving the route. I’m happy to report our earlier measurements were pretty spot on – I would have been really gutted had I discovered that our 8km training route was only 7km long, or some similar horror story.

For the past month or so, I’ve been using my GPS watch non-stop to clock all our runs, including the recent Wellington Marathon, and it really does add a new dimension to running, especially if you download the run data onto one of the many web-based sporting platforms out there. I’m finding the Strava platform particularly enjoyable – not only can you log your training history (complete with detail about the shoes you were wearing etc), but you can share your runs via social media (Facebook, Twitter etc), follow the training of other runners, and explore routes in a specific region. To spice things up further you can subscribe to various challenges (personal or public), and compare your performance to others.

Interestingly enough, the added awareness and knowledge gained by running with a device providing realtime feedback on your distance, speed etc can have an interesting impact on your performance. If you feel like you’re running at a snappy pace, but find your watch telling you you’re not really speeding along, it can be disheartening. Conversely, you may think you’re running comfortably within yourself, only to have your trusty GPS tell you you’re running faster than you thought, which can result in one of two reactions – you can either be boosted by the fact that you are performing beyond your expectations, or you may suddenly, on the spot, feel tired as a result of the realisation that you’re running faster than you thought.

We experienced the latter first-hand during the recent Wellington marathon – by around the 24 km mark we were happily jogging along, chatting away, going at a merry pace of about 6:08 mins/km, which is a fair bit faster than our usual marathon pace. I’d made no mention of the speed we were going, but when Wouna asked I couldn’t lie, so I broke the news of our pace. And lo and behold, almost immediately our pace started dropping. OK, so perhaps it wasn’t a case of suddenly feeling over-exerted, but rather just a subconscious decision to preserve ourselves a little better for the latter part of the course, but we definitely slowed down from that point onwards, and I am very curious to know how we would have performed had we not been aware of the exact pace we were running at.

The Strava GPS overview of our Wellington Marathon performance.

Whatever the case might be, the genie is out of the bottle, and I for one definitely prefer the added info gained during and after every run. We hope to use the GPS on a few trail runs in the near future, where kilometer markings are often lacking, and look forward to experiencing the extra GPS input during our run. More on this soon!

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