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While I was travelling around the world a few years back, I picked myself up a great little device called the Speed & Distance watch from Timex. What this box of tricks consisted of was a Timex digital watch and a Garmin GPS receiver that strapped around your upper arm. The upshot was that the GPS receiver transmitted your ever changing location to the watch, which then calculated your speed, distance and pace for you. Although I loved my Speed & Distance watch, it wasn’t the most elegant of solutions, and the AAA batteries in the receiver didn’t last too long.
I was therefore quite excited when Garmin sent over the Forerunner 301 for me to take a look at. Rather than having a separate GPS receiver and a watch, the Forerunner bundles everything into one device and throws a heart rate monitor into the equation as well. Now, any serious sportsperson knows that a heart rate monitor is probably the most useful training aid you can use, so its inclusion makes the Forerunner a very compelling proposition.
Obviously squeezing so much functionality into one device is going to make it quite bulky and it has to be said that the Forerunner does “stand out” when you’re wearing it on your wrist. That said, it’s reasonably light and doesn’t seem to get in the way too much, even when you’re cycling and wearing gloves.
The front of the Forerunner is dominated by the large screen. The beauty of having such a large screen is that it’s easy to read it at a glance, even when you’re running or cycling. One of the problems with my Speed & Distance watch was that it wasn’t that easy to read on the move. The default screen shows your stopwatch, speed and distance – pretty much everything you need to know in the midst of a training session. At the very top of the display you’ll see your current heart rate, assuming you’re wearing the heart rate band of course.
Along the bottom edge are six buttons that control all the functionality of the Forerunner. At the far left is the power button, which is pretty self explanatory. Next along is the Mode button which takes you into a series of sub-menus for configuring the Forerunner to your personal needs. Next up is the lap/reset button, while the big red start/stop button is to the right of this. The last two buttons are up and down arrows for navigating the menus.
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