My Perfect *RUNNING* Watch – Discuss

Nevo Balade ParisienneThis is what I would want for my ‘perfect’ RUNNING watch. It would be for general run training and, when needed, for racing too. Let’s say for any distance. It would be for track or for XC or for urban pavements or fells. Let’s forget the multisport stuff for a while.

This is certainly NOT my definition of a perfect watch for YOU. Just for me.

I think about these, and other, trivial things when running 😉 Just as you probably do. It soon became apparent in my introspective deliberations that my ‘needs’ are not so great and yet there is no one product that can do all that I ‘need’ and most fall short by a fair way in some shape or other. I’m sure I am not unique in that respect Dear Watchmakers.

  • Screen shape: I want a rectangular screen. A Forerunner 305/910Xt would be fine. That displays 4 fields, sorted.
  • Screen resolution: Nothing special. A Forerunner 305/910Xt or a Polar M430 would be fine.
  • Strap, lightweight plastic case?: Not bothered
  • Touchscreen?: Err no. I want a running watch and not a toy please. Pretty please?
  • Backlight/readability: Yes of course I want to be able to read it ALL THE TIME in ANY light conditions. Otherwise I would have a device in my back pocket.
  • Waterproof: Yes >=50m
  • Music?: See above. It’s not a toy
  • Aesthetics: I’d even take the looks of a 920XT for a functional sport-only watch.
  • Cables and connections for data: Unfortunately those proprietary charging cables or cradles are the best in reality. I prefer the cradle of the 920XT, that kind of thing please none of those junky fitbit/fenix5/polar micro-usb thingies. I also specifically like how Garmin let me access the device from a computer as a USB mass storage device. That is REALLY important to me and how I get data sent somewhere else (ST3)
  • Battery: I suppose 8 hours would be enough for me. I’d always leave it on the aforesaid cradle and it would always be charged up. Maybe 12 hours might take me through a holiday away somewhere for a week of running.
  • Smartphone connectivity for SMS alerts and Donald Trump’s latest tweets. Thankfully my ideal sports watch would not show any of those. I can live without connectivity for 60-90 running minutes.
  • Links to STRAVA, GC, TP, ST, MOVESCOUNT, FLOW to share data over multiple platforms: No thank you. I only need one analysis platform. For me, I use SportTracks 3.1 (desktop) – although the lack of development of that product particularly around running power and CP curves is incrementally pushing me to Golden Cheetah.
  • Social Links: As ‘me’, rather than the5krunner, I would use STRAVA to share RUNNING data between friends. There’s no other social platform that I’m especially interested in for sharing my sports data. For example I wouldn’t post PBs on FB. A PB is a PERSONAL best and not a PUBLIC best. It’s just me that needs to know and if my sporty friends are interested they look at the race page or parkrun’s page or STRAVA. As I want to use STRAVA then I’d be a bit stuck as I don’t think ST3 can link to STRAVA directly (although it could be done indirectly I know). I don’t need an active STRAVA link for segments/QOM/KOM stuff. Offline is fine.
  • Accuracy: I’m not interested in elevational accuracy at all. However I want very accurate and responsive instant pace to within 5 secs/km. If it has oHR then it has to be accurate and responsive ie +/- 1bpm. I’d like a good GPS track for post-run analysis but I would imagine that will come automatically with the accurate instant pace. I suppose this means GALILEO.

Garmin 735XT

  • Sensor support: I don’t particularly mind if it supports sensors through either BLE or ANT+. But for me it must support EITHER a decent polar or Garmin or Suunto HRM and it must support STRYD (or something equally as accurate for running power). It shouldn’t need to support a footpod as a source for running pace as we’ve already established that I want an accurate GPS watch. I don’t run on treadmills, even in winter. It should get reasonably accurate cadence from an internal accelerometer. Having said that I don’t mind BLE or ANT+ I have to say that if I owned more than one watch or one sensor type then BLE is just a pain in the preverbials. ANT+ is so much easier for what needs it for and I suspect the same is true for many of you even with a couple of footpods (Take note Polar and Suunto)
  • Metrics: Yes I’d like every performance-based that is currently available please…just in case. I’ll never use them tho 😉 When I display them I want to be able to customise the page setup so that I can HIDE the name of the metric and just show the number. I also then want to be able to enlarge that number so that it better fills up the available screen real estate. My eyesight is starting to go…happens to us all apparently. “All of us” is a big market I think?? Could be wrong.
  • Pages: Yes I’d like multiple pages but would only use 2 pages in reality.
  • Fancy dials: Again, this is not a toy and I am perfectly able to read and understand a simple number.
  • Structured workouts: In the past I’ve used those a lot. Currently  I just seem to know when 1 minute or 20 minutes of pain is up. I guess I’d take a simple interval creator on the watch that has just one interval duration, repeated ‘n’ times.
  • Alert Types: Both audible and vibrational please. Fully adjustable in intensity and volume. I’ll take the default tone and don’t want to add my own mp3 ringtone.
  • Alerts: Yes I’d want those for max/min levels of: pace; running power; and HR. I’m not bothered about cadence alerts. But I would like the ability to really easily turn off any alert when it starts to bug me for whatever reason mid-race or mid-workout.
  • Navigation: No, I don’t need any of that thank you very much.

Garmin Fenix 5X

  • Lap Summaries: I guess these are occasionally useful for me. So long as I can choose to display whichever lap metric I want, I’d be happy with just displaying one or two metrics on the lap summary screen.
  • Workout summaries: I don’t really look at these either. What’s done is done. What’s run is run. However the Garmin Fenix 935/5’s post-workout summaries are pretty awesome. It summarises everything, or so it seems to me. That summary is then effectively stored it the logbook but I rarely look at watch-based logbooks either. So I don’t need these.
  • Warmup mode. I want a HRV-enabled warmup mode. It tells me when I’m warmed up and ready to perform the workout. And it really had better work super-properly or I’ll just turn off the feature and never use it again. Maybe a similar post-workout recovery mode could also be good for a warm-down? I’d use those. Not sure they exist though.
  • Intelligent Interval Mode: I want to be able to define intervals by how my body responds – HRV would be the easiest method. For the sake of argument, I might set out to do one minute intervals but then what I want is for the watch to match the durations/intensities of subsequent intervals so that I get the same stimulus. For example after 20 of these nominal 1 minute intervals the actual interval time might be reduced to 30 seconds…something like that. I think are the closest to this with some of their bike apps and their concept of MPA and how they dynamically factor-in fatigue.
  • Laps: I really want autolaps (I usually do 1km autolaps for running) but I also want a separate series of manual laps as achieved by the SPARTANs and POLARs (not Garmin). But what I also want here is the ability to swap the two modes of lapping. What I mean by that is that I SOMETIMES like how Garmin works where pressing lap takes you to the next autolap state ie to the next interval, in a workout. So I want to be able to configure how the manual lap press works ie it works like Garmin or, other times, it works like SUUNTO/Polar.

So it sounds like I want a Ferrari that just does one job well rather than a connected, hybrid family Ford car that caters for very many needs of all car owners. I’m not holding my breath. Either for the Ferrari or for the perfect watch 😉

What’s VITAL for you and your running? And/or what have I missed?

On closer inspection you might conclude that the Garmin 920XT + HRM-TRI + STRYD would be the closest match to my RUNNING needs. And you wouldn’t be far wrong. But that would still only be about 85-90% of the way there and would cost well over £500 ;-).

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16 thoughts on “My Perfect *RUNNING* Watch – Discuss

  1. your list sounds quite reasonable. 🙂
    In addition to what you want I do want navigation, that it is lightweight, battery life longer than 10 hours (preferable more), round or semi-round, preferable programmable (eg connect iq) so that the geek in me can be happy too 🙂

    1. ah but what kind of navigation dear sir? Back to start directly or following the route in reverse? How would it handle visiting the same place more than once? Would altitude be useful during navigation and if so what method of getting the altitude? Would you want maps? Would you want POIs. Would you want customisable maps and customisable POIs. Would you want elevation corrected automatically at POIs?Would you want NorthUp orientation? Would you want orientational logic built it that know if you are moving or not and hence how to orientate the screen? assume you’d want a compass? but would that need declination as well? Would you want route creation options? How about surprise me navigational options? eg when running in a new area on holiday? would you want round trip route creation?

      Secretly I admit to really wanting CIQ as well but… 😉

      1. back to start and “follow the line” courses are a must 🙂
        maps and surprise me functionality are a plus but not necessary

        I don’t care about elevation while I’m doing activities, you have to get over that mountain anyway, I do look after the fact how much I climbed. 🙂

  2. I really like the way you write. Its sometimes hard for a non-english person but that i like.
    Can you felle me what you mean with the “music: see above” part. Did i miss something?
    Keep it up!
    Regards, Don

  3. I’ve got a Garmin 935 Now and I’m pretty happy with it. If I use that as my starting point with some of the things that I think it gets right…
    I’m not serious athlete so I want a watch that does look ok in any environment
    I prefer round watch faces
    Definitely not a touchscreen
    Always on display
    Battery 12hours+ of GPS
    As long as Garmin Connect pushes seamlessly to Strava that’s fine
    Barometric Altimeter
    GPS accuracy is good enough and seems to lock quickly

    …and what I’d change
    Music – yes I run with music, an iPod shuffle which Apple is stopping making so when that dies I’ll be unhappy. I’m slightly scared by how Garmin might choose to implement this with another proprietary cable, some unfathomable desktop software and impossible navigation once an activity is underway but I’d still like it
    Figure out laps automatically if I’m running round and round a park or track (maybe it can do this and I need to read the manual)
    Not interested in swimming functions but Garmin won’t give you a proper altimeter if you don’t swim as that clearly makes sense
    Not interested in mapping (if I’m lost I want a bigger screen, like a phone size screen to get me un-lost)
    I want to mix and match units at my whim. If I want to use mph for cycling and kph for running and measure temperature in degrees Kelvin (ok maybe not that one) then it should let me.
    No more proprietary cables. Micro USB please.

    1. lol
      yes I do miles or Km. but when it comes to metres I don’t do feet or yards.
      micro usb is pretty much certain to fail I reckon. just like the one on your 935 probably will unless you are VERY careful when inserting/withdrawing 🙁

      1. I mainly say micro USB so it’s at least a standard cable (or I suppose USB-C would do if we’re looking to the future). I’m generally fairly careful with my tech but I’ll heed the warning regarding the fragility of the connection thanks.

        I’m actually metric all the way except mph when cycling. There is a CIQ data field (called AppBuilder) that allows you calculate fields on the fly so I’m using that to get my mph while the watch is otherwise metric ?

  4. Concur with most of that save for shape and strap. I have no complaints with my fenix3 – none at all. I wear it 24/7. It’s functional but not unsightly and doesn’t look like an ’80s Casio throwback (a la 920XT). I fitted the Garmin Velcro strap because the plastic orthodox strap was either too loose or too tight. Add to that the fact that I do some gym strength work and my forearms do get a bit of a ‘pump’ effect, the Velcro strap is ideal. 18 months on, the hook/loop Velcro is wearing thin and so I now add the security of a rubber band to stop it coming loosevabd falling off (esp open water swimming).

    As for stuff like nav or music – if I want that, I’ll run with my iPhone in my hand or in a holder – I don’t need need it in a watch.

    1. missed out rubber band compatibility. apologies 😉

      thank you for your comments. Why does your name sound familiar? yor are flagged as a first commenter?? twitter?

  5. I would like to have some kind of emergency contact information and relevent health facts, Asthma, allergies, etc. Not sure how it would be implemented, perhaps if you are detected as no longer running, and the altitide has dropped by a few feet…(can the OHR sense blood loss)? I typically don’t carry a phone when out so having this kind of info onboard would be useful.

  6. I really like the sound of an Intelligent Interval Mode, but imagine it would benefit from being linked to BSXInsight strap. Which then makes me think how great it would be to have all that BSXInsight tech inside my watch too. Wishful thinking I suspect.
    ps. where’s my LVL strap. Haha

    1. ha ha indeed. I think they are REALLY keen to get it right as there is SHED loads of money to be made from medical usage.

      I was thinking more from it coming from HRV from a standard HRM but I guess something similar from Muscle oxygen could work (requires extra, specialist kit tho as you know)

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