While I discovered free running apps that used GPS through my phone, I found the signal to be very unreliable, especially on cloudy days. On one particular long run, the app said I had gone 21 miles instead of the 15 I had actually completed. It was then that I decided I needed a GPS watch for more accurate readings.
I eventually got one — the Garmin Forerunner 220, and I can’t imagine my life without it. Here's why the watch was the best investment I’ve made:
If you’re a fan of Strava, Nike+ or any other number of running apps, never fear — Garmin and other brands can be synced up to a number of apps with ease. My favorite is Strava, which easily tracks when I’ve completed another route again and lets me know if I’m running faster or slower than usual.
Whether you’re in the brand-specific app or not, you can look at your various runs and see how you’re improving or where you need to pick up the pace to reach the next level. You can also figure out your records at a simple glance.
I’ve had very few runs with my GPS watch that I haven’t felt were completely accurate, unlike my days using the free running apps on my phone. Occasionally, the map of my run will be a little off, but it never appears to be more than a tenth of a mile under or over by my estimation.
I can easily see where I am distance-wise and how my pace is going without a loud voice talking to me and disrupting everyone around me. And the pause feature on the watch is super responsive if I need to stop at a traffic light or grab a drink of water from a nearby fountain.
With a GPS watch, you don’t need to carry your phone to keep track of your run — it’s all in the wrist. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stash your phone in a pouch, however. But it does mean you don’t have to leave the volume turned on to full blast.
For more from Katharine Lackey, visit Kat Runs D.C.