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The problem I had when I started training seriously for my first half marathon was that although I knew how long I was running for, I just could not be sure of the distances I had been running. I only had a rough idea of my distance from driving the route but this was not ideal, especially as parts of my runs were over areas that you just cannot reach in the car. I did not think anyone would be very pleased if I drove my car over fields, just to measure distances. I searched the chat forums on the 'Runners World' website for a solution and this was where I came accross the Garmin Forerunner 201.
Garmin Ltd. is a group of companies who design, manufacture and sell navigation and communications equipment. They have a wide range of products which are used in aviation, marine, automotive and general recreation. The company started out in 1989 with only a few engineers who had the ideas for these products. Today the company is huge and had distributors in almost every part of the world.
The Garmin Forerunner 201 is not cheap so I would only advise you to purchase one if you are training seriously, rather than just an odd run here and there. If you are looking to buy one just now expect to pay in the region of £110-£120 from most UK retailers. I bought mine on 'Ebay' from an American seller and it cost me about £75 including postage and packaging although I have had it for a while now and you can pick one upon ebay for about £50 now. Beware if you buy this way though as although the Forerunner 201 is exactly the same as you would buy in the UK, you will not be able to charge it with the American charger supplied. A UK charger will cost you about £35 from Garmin which eats up most of the saving, although I managed to get an adaptor from another member of the 'Runners World' website which she kindly sold to me for a tenner.
Your Garmin Forerunner 201 will come with a small charge in the battery but I would advise you to charge it fully before going any further. To get a full charge you will need to charge the unit, which has a rechargeable lithium ion battery for about three hours. Once fully charged you get about thirteen hours worth of use before having to charge the unit again. The charge you have remaining on the Forerunner is displayed on the screen, so for instance you know when you only have two hours of charge left.
Also before using your Forerunner 201 you will need to switch it on and take it outside for aproximately fifteen minutes so that the unit can track itself to the satellites.
*****WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE?*****
The Garmin Forerunner 201 straps onto your wrist like a normal watch but it is a lot bigger. I would say the face of this GPS is about twice the size of a stopwatch so it does look slightly cumbersome. The benefit of the Forerunner 201 being this size is that the LCD display is also larger meaning it is much easier to look at and track how your run is progressing.
As well as showing you how much charge is left in your battery, the LCD display shows you:-
1) The time you have been running for.
This part is just like a normal stopwatch and takes up the largest part of the LCD screen on the Forerunner 201.
2) The distance that you have covered on your run.
I found this to be very accurate with only a minimal difference between runs for instance on one loop of my usual run the display would say 3.48 miles and on the next it would say 3.49 miles. This could easily be explained by maybe haveing to run round an object on one of the runs.
3) Average Speed
This helps you to pace yourself during your run for instance you may want to train at the constant speed of nine minute miles, so the average speed on the display will help you to decide whether you need to speed up or slow down.
*****HOW DOES IT WORK?*****
The Garmin Forerunner 201, like other GPS systems tracks itself into the satelites and knows how far you have travelled from this. The only problem with this can be a slight loss of signal when you are in built-up areas or under the cover of trees but once you are out of these areas and have a signal again the Forerunner will calculate your disance as if you have been running in a straight line during this time.
1) Virtual Trainer Mode
This mode is where you set yourself goals for your run, for example by entering in the distance you are going to run and the time that you would like to run this distance in. You will then see a graphic of your virtual running partner and the Forerunner 201 will display a message telling you how far in front or behind of the virtual partner you are. This is a very handy mode and is very like having someone setting the pace in a race.
2) History Mode
This is where you can take a look back at all of your past runs where you can see a note of distance, time spent running, average pace, fastest pace and calories burned on each run. If you are serious enough about your running there is also the ability to download these details directly from the device to your PC.
3) Go Back Mode
This is a handy mode for someone who is exploring new areas while out running. The Forerunner 201 will mark out the route you have just came and when you are ready to turn and go back it will tell you where to turn so that you do not get lost on the way back.
My opinion is that the Garmin Forerunner 201 is a tremendous GPS unit to have if you are doing some serious training. The device performs very well even although it does lose the satellite signal sometimes in built up areas. The Forerunner 201 does not have to be used just by runners either as you can purchase a bike mount for it, so this unit can also come in handy for cyclists or hillwalkers etc.
I would recommend this unit to you if you are training hard for a long race etc. as it will help you to reach your targets. If you just run for fun then I would probably stick to wearing a normal watch.