My first experience with a Garmin Forerunner came during the New York City Marathon in 2009. I ended up linking up with this woman and running with her for a few miles. We had just hit the half marathon mark and I was trying to determine if I was still on pace to break 4 hours. She could see me doing the math and looking at the splits written in Sharpie on my hand. She asked me what pace I was running and I told her I was hoping to run 8:20’s. She looked down at her Garmin Forerunner 305 and quickly told me we were on pace and up by a minute. Just. Like. That. I immediately began to wonder why I did not have one of these and what was I missing?!
After the marathon I focused on running for the sake of running. No pace, no times, just running. So my desire for a Garmin Forerunner diminished. Then in February 2011 I signed up for the Chicago Marathon. I was thinking back about the NYC Marathon and what I would do differently. The Garmin Forerunner. I started checking them out online to find the best deal and determine which one I wanted. I knew I wanted the Forerunner 405 with the heart rate monitor. In March 2011, I came across a great deal and bought it….so here’s what I think about it.
Price: At the time the price was around $250 to $300. I found a deal at my local running store, Marathon Sports and bought it for $220. I live on a budget so this was a splurge for me but I could justify it. A really nice running watch is almost a $100 and the Garmin Forerunner offers more features such as the pace calculations, and GPS.
Look and Feel: The watch itself is pretty big but unlike the Forerunner 305 it is a little sleeker and more rounded so it fits more comfortably on my wrist. I bought mine in green which I love because it is a little bit more feminine than plain black. The fonts are really easy to read and plenty big enough thanks to the ample screen size. It has buttons for start/stop and lap/reset but the rest of the settings are imputed through the touch buttons on the bezel. The touch can be slow to respond which I find frustrating when I’m trying to make an adjustment before heading out for a run or mid-run. The charger is kind of bulky but easy to use since it clips right on to the watch. The heart rate monitor is made of soft plastic so it is bendable and very comfortable. The strap on it is a little but large and requires me to tighten it all the way in order to have a snug fit that won’t move during my runs. I’d like if they had small/medium sizes and a large/x-large size for the heart rate monitor.
GPS and Features: The GPS is a great feature, and mostly why I bought the watch. It is very accurate for reporting my course and distance. On very cloudy or rainy days the GPS can take quite a long time to find a signal. While it is doing this it seems to lock up the watch and does not allow me to even use the timer to start timing the run. This can be frustrating if you are trying to get in a run quickly, or avoid standing in the rain. The workout feature is nice. I have only used it for intervals with a warm up and cool down. The watch basically tells you what to be doing for how long and at what pace. It takes the thinking out of running. I do prefer however to do my interval workouts by using the lap button to separate the segments and monitor the pace. I find that not every workout goes according to plan and it can be hard to look back at the results from a workout if what you did varied significantly from what you planned. The courses feature is nice however I use it more often in the Garmin Connect software to compare runs that were done on the same course. It also gives you a place to save your different routes. My favorite feature is the virtual training partner. This feature consists of two screens:
The first screen shows where you are in relation to the pace you set. The lower left hand corner shows how far ahead or behind you are in distance and the lower right hand corner shows how ahead or behind you are in time. The second screen allows you to change the pace of the Virtual Partner. This can be done before a run or mid-run. Mid-run changes will not be saved as the default pace as it would be if you adjusted before starting a new workout. The Garmin also allows you to set goals in the software and send them to the watch. It will then track your progress towards the goal. Additionally, there a lots of settings and data fields that can be displayed on the training screen. The screen also let’s you scroll through three different screens to see all of the data should you need more than what is displayed on the front training screen. I found that pace, distance and total time were enough for me.
Overall the GPS and features is great, it did take some time and experimentation to determine which screens and information were most valuable to me and my training needs.
Software and Data Transfer: In order to transfer workouts and runs from the watch to the software you need to use the Garmin USB Ant Stick.
It connects wirelessly to the watch and transfers the data. You have to have the Ant Agent Software installed on your computer and must pair the Garmin with the Ant Agent. The software is downloaded for free off of Garmin’s Website. It is quick and simple and after the first time there is no need to do it again.
Once you have uploaded data you can access the information via Garmin Connect which is internet based or the downloadable Garmin Training Center Software. I have used both but ultimately decided to stick with the Garmin Connect option since it is web-based and I would be able to access my runs and training information at home, at the office, on my iPhone or virtually anywhere. I love the dashboard feature as it gives a quick overview of the loop and past runs.
The player allows me to get more details on my run, pace and distance.
The calendar is a great feature for checking on weekly time and mileage totals and day by day view of my workouts.
I also love the compare view to see how much better I’m doing on the same runs.
Final Words: All in all I think this is a great product and have recommended it to numerous other runners. It’s easy to use and has all the information you could ever need about a run or workout. After using it for 6 months I would say I definitely got my money’s worth and think the product is priced accordingly. It has truly made me a better run. My pace is more flat throughout a run now and I have a better grasp on what my different speeds feel like. If you are looking for a GPS watch, I would say the Garmin Forerunner 405 is the way to go!
Note: Please see the disclaimer, I purchased this product on my own and have used it for my own purposes. All opinions and suggestions here are my own.