I just got my Garmin Forerunner 305. I have been looking at this running watch for a long time, and finally decided it was the right one after Garmin released the Forerunner 405. I bought the 305 for two reasons, the first as a motivational tool for my running and as a replacement for my aging Ciclosport HAC4 on my bike. I have had the HAC4 for nearly 8 years now and two functions are invaluable. The first is the ability to download this information to my computer so I can review it after the exercise, the other function that I used all the time is the ‘virtual race’ function. Basically if you record a bike ride, and then do that ride again you can see how you are performing compared to your previous ride. This gives you a readout saying how much time you are ahead/behind your existing ride. I found this is a great motivator to increase my speed on the regular rides.
The HAC4 is designed as a bike computer first and foremost, and uses the speed of the wheel to determine the distance. It could work as a running computer but would only give out a heart rate reading while running. The Forerunner uses GPS and therefore gives a similar function while running.
My first impression of this device is that the Forerunner 305 is big. I had read people saying that it is was big before I bought, but didn’t exactly realise how big it was. Especially off your wrist it looks like a monster, but part of the watch wraps around your wrist, and isn’t as unwieldy as it is seems in the box. However if you have small wrists take heed of this as it might be too big.
On my first run, the first thing that I noticed was that it is heavy especially compared to other watches that I have. I had to tighten the strap on my watch to stop it moving up and down on my wrist. The big problem with any watch on a run is that it is difficult to read as it is moving on you wrist. I could read the Forerunner, but it was quite difficult. Once at home I could download my run and review the run, looking at my speed and heart rate. After the first run I had some useful information but nothing that I couldn’t have got from carrying a GPS data logger with me.
It was on my second run that I saw the power of the Forerunner. Using the included Mac software I was able to load my first run as a course. This adds an entry to the training menu on the watch. Once I had selected that I wanted to run against my existing course, a couple of extra displays are included on the watch. The first is details of the course (how far you are away, how long the course is etc), an altitude map, and a virtual partner. For me the virtual partner is the most useful. This splits the screen in two, showing a visual representation of the yourself and your previous in the top, and on the bottom a display that shows how far ahead/behind your are of your original course.
\The person who designed the virtual partner screen had obviously used this running, as it changes from black text on white if you are in front, or white text on black if you are behind. While running you might be able to see how far ahead/behind you are but you can easily tell if the bottom of the screen is white or black. Because the watch is using GPS the course is automatically started/finished when you go past the start/finish line. This is really useful and it cuts down the amount of button pushing you have to do while you are running.
I have also got a bike kit for the Forerunner and I will post on how well the Forerunner works as a bike computer.