Running with Rage

Eric Rutin discusses running, life and other semi-important things

Garmin or an App?

September 22, 2013

Recently Jen Lebo, a good friend of mine, posed a question to her Facebook friends asking their opinion of which was better – a Garmin or one of the many running apps around.  This is actually a subject I have developed a strong view based on a pretty extensive history using both.

Eric Rutin's Garmin 310

Eric Rutin’s Garmin 310

I have a Garmin 205 that I have had forever that Carolyn has basically assumed control of since her old 201 otherwise known as The Brick finally gave out. I also have a hand-me-down 310XT from my running buddy Jeff that I typically use these days.  Garmins are awesome since you can configure the data fields to display the fields you want to see, rather than custom fields someone else though important.  I like to have current pace, overall time, distance and and average pace.  There are many other data fields that others may find more relevant to their training such as cadence, elevation, speed, calories and a host of others.  You can even set up ranges to keep you training at the levels you wish or even a virtual race buddy.

Another great thing about Garmins are their spot-on accuracy.  I have driven routes just to check the mileage and they always match up with at most a .1 overall discrepency.  When I run a race, I get that familiar buzz right at the mile markers (provided the race directors are accurate).  With occasional except of the battery running down, I have never had a glitch in any of my Garmins’ performance.

The only complaints I can say I have are sometimes it seems like it takes an eternity and a half to find a satellite (though never had an issue with the 310)  and they are rather expensive.

Now a little about apps.  I was excited when I first got my iPhone and figured it was a great solution for music, GPS and in case I needed a phone for an emergency.  OK, I admit it, during the Rock and Roll Marathon a couple of years ago I was also using Siri to text Carolyn’s sister on her Boston qualifying effort.  As I previously mentioned, I have used several different apps, both paid and free, to find the perfect app.  I soon gave up on my quest for perfection and resigned to settle simply for being accurate.

During the same RNR,  I discovered that RunKeeper was about .1 miles short as the miles were clicking farther and father from the mile markers until eventually I couldn’t even see them on the horizon.  This may not seem like a lot, but over 26.2 miles it adds up to over two and a half miles of inaccuracies (see I am good at math).  I then realized that all of my previous training was off as well – my twenty mile runs were actually closer to 18.  It explains why I was training REALLY well.  I later drove some of routes and I discovered the app was off about 75% of the time and sometimes as much as .2 miles per mile.

Nike+ Running App

Nike+ Running App

While using MapMyRun I had the whole thing crashed mid-race and  when I relaunched it, it proved pointless.  I had similar accuracy and reliability issues with all the apps I tried.  I later discovered on a couple of message boards it comes down to cell phone company’s GPS accuracy and Verizon was generally viewed as the worst.  So if this is true I guess it really isn’t far to blame the apps as much as the technology they are bound to (leave my dangling preposition alone).  While I am not a huge fan of Nike running shoes, I will say that the Nike+ app was probably the most dependable.

So if you want to give my opinion on this matter any credence, which you really should, then I would say if you are debating between investing in a Garmin or downloading an app it comes down to your purpose.  If you are training for an event, a have performance goals, or are just serious about running  there is no question you should get a Garmin.  However, if you are just running for recreation or allow the occasional doughnut indulgence, then an app is probably perfectly fine.  You will be able to get general feedback and track your progress.

There you go.  you know are armed with incredibly credible objective facts to make a smart decision.

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One thought on “Garmin or an App?

  1. I haved used a Garmin for several years and generally love them. They do take a long time to link up with satellites. I have also had wrist band problems. It totally broke on my 410 and on my 810 the pins holding it together will randomly pop out and the strap pops off of the watch.
    It fell apart 3 times during one long run but stayed together on my half marathon last weekend. A friend of mine had his fall off during a race and now the glass is scratched. It also fell of his wrist one time when we were standing around talking!
    Between Garmins I also used RunKeeper. I’d stuff my phone in my running belt. Everyone got a kick out of hearing it tell me my splits and how far behind I was. I found it difficult to keep my phone on the right screen so I could hit start at the beginning of a race. Then need to stuff it in my belt, not drop it or run into anyone. Way too much work. and my touch screen never seemed to be touchy enough to start the app!
    I vote for Garmin.

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