Running OCD and that Darn GPS

I got a Garmin last Christmas despite insisting that I didn’t need one. I just wore a regular watch and used the Gmaps hack after I got home. A year later, I’m pretty attached. When I fell last week and tore the band, I was heartbroken. When it refused to turn on last night, I had a full-on meltdown.

What do I love about my Garmin? It gives me freedom. I don’t need to plan out a route; I can just head out and figure out what to tack on at the end to hit my distance. It allows me to run in a new place more easily. It helps me be more spot on in workouts where pace matters (tempo, interval etc). The heartrate monitor keeps me honest.

What’s not to love? I’ll fully admit to running circles in a parking lot to hit an even mile. On a bad run, the pace feedback just breaks me down. And the face of the watch is literally bigger than my wrist.

Then this article comes out. I know that the Garmin (and all GPS) algorithm is off because it uses a series of points to calculate distance and results in shorter measurements than the actual run (which Will Moss had explained to me years ago.) I’ve never had it be significantly under at a race however; at Vermont City last year, my Garmin read 26.36. That likely reflects the fact that humans don’t run perfect tangents.

So what does it mean for training? For me, nothing. I don’t think it’s off enough to matter and in the winter, I do enough work on the indoor track to have a good sense of my paces. I’ll do some wheel measured workouts as I approach VCM to make sure that my paces aren’t drastically off and otherwise appreciate the benefit of an extra tenth of a mile here or there.

Do you use a Garmin? Ever run an extra lap around a parking lot?

2 thoughts on “Running OCD and that Darn GPS

  1. @NotPinnock

    I use the Endomondo Pro app for my iPhone and basically tie my entire self-worth to how far/fast it says I’ve run. Just kidding (kind of). But as you know, I am definitely a run around the parking lot/’hood so I can end up my run no a nice round number type of guy.

    Thanks to linking to this.

    1. runnerunderpressure

      I think most of us are. We follow these plans like recipes and until you get enough experience to know that you can substitute, it’s hard to improvise. I try to force myself to run without a watch at least once a week, both to free myself from the “gadget” and to test myself on knowing my pace.


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