As a gadget and tech junkie, it was to my good fortune that my initiation into the world of distance running rough coincided with the appearance on the market of several new high-tech running gadgets: the Garmin Forerunner 205 and 305, and the Nike + system . I have used both the Garmin Forerunner 205 and Nike + for greater than 6 months each, and what follows is a review and comparison of my experiences with them.
The Nike + System
Back in 2007, I was just beginning my life as a runner, and I was looking for tools to help me progress. The Garmin Forerunner and Nike + systems both had instant appeal to my techie side, though I was initially hesitant to invest the several hundred dollars (at the time) needed to buy a Forerunner. I was also swept up in the excitation surrounding the introduction of the Nike + system, and my first pair of "real" running shoes were Nike + ready. Since I owned an Ipod Nano, and had shoes that could accommodate the little Nike + foot pod accelerometer internally, I decided to give Nike + a try. In the interest of full disclosure, I'll say at the outset that I no longer use the Nike +. However, that does not necessarily mean that I would not recommend it to anyone since it does have its benefits and uses. The Nike + certainly helped my running in those early days, and the motivation provided by the on-line Nike + challenges was great. I liked being able to gauge my pace, track distance, and record my runs on-line. But for a perfectionist like myself, the Nike + has some major drawbacks.
The most serious problem I had with the Nike + was that it was only really accurate if I ran at the same steady pace on every run, and stuck to more-or-less flat ground. Any deviation from the pace you calibrate it at messes up both the pacing data as well as the distance recording for your run, and at times I found these measurements to be quite far off. Now, for many runners this is not a big deal, but if you like to mix up your training and include things like interviews, tempo runs, and long, slow runs, the Nike + comes up way short. Furthermore, for me as a road racer, tenths of a mile and accurate pacing data matter a lot, so these shortcomings presented some major problems. That being said, I'm glad that I used it, and it did help a lot when I first started out. Even after I upgraded to the Garmin Forerunner 205, I did still continue to use Nike + for treadmill runs (this probably goes without saying, but GPS does not work on a treadmill). The Nike + recordings on a treadmill are accurate enough, and in my case are more accurate than the readout of my treadmill's own data console (it has never worked …