A blog by runners. For runners.

Pace Coach review by a front-of-the-pack runner + Garmin junkie


Full disclosure: I am a Garmin junkie. I jumped on the GPS bandwagon around the time Garmin released its juggernaut, the 405 cx. My goal was to supplement, not replace, my internal pace calculator. As an unplanned side-effect, I found myself constantly checking my watch, a nervous tick, a distracting habit I am actively trying to reduce.

As a runner, I came of age in the pastoral farm fields and shaded dirt roads in north-Jersey. My cross country coaches taught me essential skills with a Jekyll and Hyde delivery. Coach Voll commanded our attention with his six foot six frame and booming voice. He spoke; we listened. He romanticized running and coached with passion and grit. At five foot ten, Mike Paul coached from a rich background in kinesiology and biomechanics. He provided a scientific reason for our every drill, interval, repeat, and mile.

As I’ve developed as a runner, I’ve come to understand the language of my body; the rhythm of my breathing; the tacit transactions between mind and muscle. I can ballpark my pace within 5-10 seconds during any run on any day. But as a front of the pack runner with a busy schedule (don’t we all?), I find myself not only training alone, but racing alone, too. I find myself either leading the pack or chasing the (just) out of reach studs. And when I can go elbow to elbow with a competitor in the final miles of a race, I run my absolute best.

Making the switch from wrist to arm, from watch to phone was odd at first; but soon after I opened the newest version of the WalkJogRun app and cued my goal pace for my threshold run, my concerns were put to rest.

As you can see in its initial review , the new WalkJogRun app is packed with features that will make data junkies drool. And while it was not practical to my winter season of aimless, here and now training, it will be vital for my spring and summer focus on threshold, pace, interval, and hill workouts. (More on the different run types here.)

For my maiden voyage, I tried 4 miles at my current threshold pace, 5:28. I warmed up off the clock: one mile followed by speed drills and light stretching. I then set my target pace in the app and selected voice notifications to alert me if I was going 5 seconds too fast (5:23) or too slow (5:33). I locked into my pace early in the first mile and experimented with slowing down and speeding up. The feedback was accurate and provided me the freedom to keep my eyes on the road—without looking down at my watch.

And as I got into a rhythm, I became more comfortable; I felt more natural. I didn’t feel so alone, either. No, I did not develop feelings for the software like Joaquin Phoenix in Her, but I felt a presence—my goal—now a tangible force by my side.

Although the WalkJogRun pace coach provides awe-inspiring visual feedback during the run (and after), I appreciate the option to be independent from it. And with such independence, I can more accurately and naturally listen to my body and the voice in my head. I can keep my eyes on the road!

If the next update includes the ability to personalize the voice alert (hello again, Mr. Voll and Mike Paul!), I will officially shelf my Garmin.