In a recent email, the Frankenrunner posed this question:
What type of running watch should I buy? I went to the store and there are so many options. Some are more than $200 dollars. What should I do?
I've had this same question posted to me by the Soccer Mom, Pondering, the Little Red Haired Girl, the Real Runner (these people are members of the Cast and some of the awesome people I've had the pleasure to know). I honestly cannot answer this question. There is good reason for this: running watches are very personal. In much the same way that I will not recommend a specific sports bra, there are lots of different options for lots of different prices that fill lots of different needs. Plus, my personal experience in wearing sports bras is quite limited and I wasn't even sure that I was getting the appropriate level of support.
To make matters worse, you don't even need a watch for running. Hell, you don't need anything. No shoes. No shirt. No shorts. No nothing. If you decide to go all natural, start slowly. When you've perfected it,
So, the big question for you, and for the Frankenrunner, is, 'What do you want the watch to do?'
Watches can tell time, give pace, take splits, do distance, show heart rate, calculate elevation, measure calorie expenditure, impregnate your wife, and much, much more. In the end, you know your budget and desires much better than I do.
If you really NEED advice, start small. Get a watch that does total time and has a 'lap' feature. These are very cheap. I have had good luck with Timex Ironman brand. If I wasn't married, I'd walk down the aisle with my Garmin. There are very many other watches out there that are just as good. And, just like the sports bra, my personal experience is very limited to say which is the best for whom.
In the end, when selecting a watch, you need to know what type of data you want and how you will log the data. That's the reason I gravitate towards my Garmin. I am incredibly lazy. The Garmin will log the data for me with very little effort on my part.
For all of my runners, I want them to have a watch that has a chronometer, does laps, and has a lap recall function. For my adult runners, I prefer that the get a watch that also does heart rate. The difference? My kids tend to run while I am watching them. I can put my own stopwatch and control their pace. Since most of my adult runners (historically) have been female, they get kinda creeped out when I watch them too intently. They prefer to run on their own and I can advise their pace via heart zones. That's the data I want from them.
For myself, I prefer a much greater amount of data. This makes the Garmin 310xt a good fit for me. Plus, I use my running watch to gather data while biking.
In the end, my advice is to get whatever watch you want, that will collect the data you want, for the the price that matches your budget. Just be careful with the watch around your wife.