If you aren’t already running with a GPS device, chances are that if you look around at your next race or group run, most runners will be wearing a GPS watch or carrying a GPS-enabled smart phone. Today, GPS technology is rapidly improving and there are a number of watches, wearable devices and smartphone apps, which empower you with real-time data about your running—but, it’s worth noting that this technology has come a long way over the last decade. It wasn’t long ago that the accuracy and accessibility of GPS data was a far cry from where it is today—and GPS devices available to runners were similarly clunky.
In fact, it wasn’t so long ago that runners ran without GPS. Although the US began development of the Global Positioning System in the 1970’s, the first running watch with a GPS receiver did not hit the markets until 2003. Prior to then, we used stopwatches to keep time but distances were generally just estimated from a map, or if you were an experienced runner, you might guess at your pace. In 1984, Timex came out with an LCD watch targeting runners, and the Timex Ironman series dominated runners’ wrists for the next couple of decades.
When Garmin released the first few GPS watches, they were bulky and anyone brave enough to wear one received a lot of smirks and oddball comments as fellow runners wondered why someone would use such a funny-looking watch. I used a Garmin 201, which took up much of my forearm and created an odd feeling of weight imbalance on the run:
The Garmin 201 also took about 5 minutes or more to acquire a signal, and the charging system was a bulky cable with an RS-232 connection. But […]