Running Tech: Luddite vs. Gadget Man

I was at my desk, innocently trying to get some work done, when GadgetMan came into my office. He had something to show me. Something he was sure was going to improve my running experience.


We all know a GM, right? He who must have (and show off) the Latest and Greatest of all things, especially with technical toys like phones, tablets, and cool apps. I find GMs harmless, if a bit annoying, and I can usually avoid or ignore them. But our company’s GM is one to whom I owe fealty and obeisance, so I had to pay attention. Besides, he couldn’t accuse me of wasting company time.

RunKeeper ProGM knows I am a runner, and that I keep track of my split times and distances with a Garmin ForeRunner watch. He runs a bit himself and once used a watch, too, but when the RunKeeper Pro app for the iPhone came out, he threw it away. And that’s what he came to “sell” me. The watch would screw things up on occasion, he informed me. And if he forgot to pause it at stoplights, or forget to restart it, the information would be (gasp) inaccurate. The iPhone app, he said, performs flawlessly, and I should ditch my obsolete piece of junk and get this app.

Perhaps RK Pro does work well – I’m not disputing that. But there are two problems with adopting his suggestion. First, I’d need to get an iPhone, which I have no interest in. I don’t even own a smartphone. (Which, by the way, GM and my loving wife are in active and gleeful collaboration to change.) Second, my Garmin suits me just fine. Most of its features I don’t even use; with the iPhone and RunKeeper there would just be more stuff I wouldn’t use.

Now even though I have no smartphone or fancy apps, (and despite my wife’s claim) I am no Luddite. My degree is in computer science, and I have spent my entire professional life in high tech, including 12 years developing software. And I love reading Gizmag and seeing how fast technology is improving. But I tend not to invest in it until I have a real need for it. I didn’t even get my watch until I began training for my first full marathon. And even then it’s an older model watch. (I like the big display.)

An oldie but a goodie: the Forerunner 305.
An oldie but a goodie: the Forerunner 305.

I use the Garmin for distance, pace, and split times, mostly. I have also used the heart rate monitor occasionally (and probably should use it more often). Every now and then I upload the data to Garmin Connect. I suppose I should actually check my accumulated run data now and then. I might learn something. Until then I’ll rely on my Excel spreadsheet, where I’ve recorded every run since April 2008.

So I don’t feel the need to update my running tech at present. (And I take a certain perverse pleasure in playing contrarian with GadgetMan.)

Question for you all: What technology do you use for running? And could you live without it now?


P.S. While Gadget Men can be a bit annoying, they actually tend to have many good qualities (which includes the one to whom I owe fealty and obeisance). See this article from Digital Crossroads for the good news about gadget hounds.

7 thoughts on “Running Tech: Luddite vs. Gadget Man

  1. I like that you have an old Garmin 305. That was my “go to” watch for many years for tracking my running. During the later part of those years I used various smartphones and strava for cycling.

    Then last year I made the switch to a Garmin Fenix 3 to track everything. I would never go back to the 305. Everything I need is on my wrist and it syncs automatically to both strava and connect.

    1. Actually, my 305 gave up the ghost last year, just after the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon (in the rain). So I replaced it – with a used Forerunner 310XT. Same big screen, awesome battery life. It’s good for a full 100K. Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Angela

    Hmmm, firstly I would not trust your GM as he appears to not know much about Garmins in the first place. Auto Pause sets your Garmin to stop when you do, then start up again when you start moving. Personally I don’t use it because (like the RK app) it sometimes stops & starts when you do things like briefly let a pedestrian pass or slow drastically for a few steps to let a light change, & that annoys me. I like to be in control of the starting & stopping manually, which is hard to do with a phone app. I also like to be able to see both my instantaneous & average paces whenever I want, which also doesn’t really work with the phone apps. Personally, while I’ve found the apps to be more accurate than my Garmin for hiking (or anything that involves moving slowly in an erratic path), I’ve found them to be less accurate for running. So yeah. My two cents. 🙂

    1. I agree – I don’t use the AutoPause either. You also need to understand that GM is a Mac-ophile, and always has been. You know, the “number three in line for the next iPad” bit. So he’s a bit biased from that angle, too. 🙂

  3. hello, fellow running person comrade. I always carry myiPhone when I run in case I croak or want to take a photo or need to google what the names of all the three stooges were, but I still VASTLY prefer my Garmin for running. And I don’t often uppercase words, so you can see my enthusiasm here. Mostly it’s just way easier to see a watch than to dig out the phone, no matter where you keep it on your body. And the runkeeper doesn’t give you splits by mile, I also find its display harder to read. Can’t beat the 305’s four-section display, although mine went to heaven and I have a 610 now. I use runkeeper as a backup when I’ve forgotten to charge garmin, but I never end a run happy when I’m using it.

    but you really should get a smartphone. nothing more irritating than a 10 miler when you can’t remember Curly Joe’s name …

    1. My wife’s great uncle was a UCLA professor and one of the smartest people I’ve ever known. But he had an old console TV and wouldn’t buy a VCR. One day I asked him why. His answer: “Because I don’t want one more thing in my life that I can’t live without.” All I could say was, “Amen”. And that became my outlook too.

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