Review: TomTom Runner watch

TomTom’s new Runner and  Multisport watches look pretty swish, but are they any cop?

What: TomTom Runner
Cost: £149.99

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Sport watches, some of us run with them, some use an iPhone app, some prefer to run technology-free. Personally, I favour a watch. An iPhone’s too big, you can’t see the data as you run and if you put it in your back pocket it pulls your tights down. And while I do enjoy the odd ‘naked’ run, generally I like to monitor my pace and distance so I can see where I need to improve and what to aim for next time.

If you’re a techno geek, you could spend some serious dollars on an all-singing all-dancing watch you can swim with, cycle with, download training programmes on, take to the prom… However, as someone who struggles with the washing machine and thinks Excel is the devil, this would be money wasted on me.

I like my watches simple and easy to use but with enough features to see me through the varied runs, distances and paces of marathon training.

My usual watch is a second-hand Garmin 305. It’s served me well but is hitting retirement age, starting to lose satellite signal and the size of a small TV. That’s why i was pretty happy to get my hands on the new TomTom Runner (they do a MultiSport version too).

Yep, that’s TomTom as in the whatsit you put in your car. This is their first TomTom branded watch, although they previously provided the technology for Nike watches so have some experience in the area. One of my friends asked if it gave you directions as you ran? It doesn’t, but that’s quite a nifty idea can someone make an app for that please? Instead it’s an entry-level watch made for the ‘challenger athlete’ – someone who runs three to four times a week and wants to improve rather than get a podium finish.


Hey good looking

TomTom Runner

First things first, it’s not bad looking. You can choose from dark grey and, of course, pink. Mine’s pink – hey, hot pink’s my favourite colour, leave me alone! You can also buy it with a heart rate monitor or connect to your own Bluetooth® Smart Heart Rate Monitor. It’s light and unobtrusive on the wrist with a slim-line flat screen and one large button, which is used for all your controls as well as housing the GPS. You navigate through the menus by pressing the large button to the left, right, up or down, self-explanatory. Battery life is good too.


Speedy satellite – just make sure you sync it

It can take a while till you see this screen

It can take a while till you see this screen

The first time I used it I was very impressed how quickly it picked up a satellite, literally within seconds. But then, each time I used it, it seemed to take longer and longer. After a few runs I thought either the watch was broken or I was, no matter how hard I pushed (and I pushed till my eyes bled) it always told me I was running between 8.26 and 8.28 min miles – I was pleased to discover that this was a satellite issue not a decline in fitness. The QuickGPSFix technology, which gets you that speedy signal, wasn’t up to date. The watch needs to be synced with your computer every three or four days to make sure it’s got the latest satellite info. If you want to avoid five minutes of jogging on the spot with your wrist held skywards before you set off, ensure you charge it via your computer rather than the wall socket and you should avoid any issues, although, that said, it can still be a bit slow to connect at times. Placing it on the floor where there’s no movement helps.


The display

Choose one large stat two small

Choose one large stat two small

You can set the large display (which has a back light for night time runs) to show three different strands of data while you’re running (one large two small, and the small are very small and quite hard to see so choose the data you think you’ll use the most as the large one). There’s a choice but I went for average pace (large), distance and time elapsed (small). At the risk of sounding stat obsessed, I’m used to running with four measurements and although you can scroll through screens to get more it’s always tricky when you’re on the move. It would be good to have the option of splitting the screen into four equal parts at equal sizes and including another – I’d like to see the time or my current pace on there too. But it’s good for the basics


The big-ass button

As I said, the controls are very easy to use and, unlike phones, work when you’re wearing gloves too – handy for the winter. I did find an issue with stopping and starting again though. While it would be great to run continuously for like ever and ever, if you’re running in the town or city you often have to wait at traffic lights for an eternity. The watch is simple to pause. You press the left hand side of the large button. To start again you press the right of the button. While this sounds simple enough, I keep pressing left again by accident, which stops the whole run and means you have to start a new run and add them all together at the end. Highly bloomin’ irritating. However, TomTom are very good at listening to feedback from their customers and apparently they’re looking at fixing this issue with a software tweak in the future. This will make me most happy.


Special training modes

Race, Goal and Zone

Race, Goal and Zone

Ok, I admit, I haven’t tried any of these out yet. Anything tricker than start, stop and I get a bit confused. However, you can set the watch to ‘race’ mode and race yourself over a distance you’ve already completed. I WILL try this down at the track soon. You can also set a ‘goal’, whether that’s distance, time or calories and the watch will count you down to completion and alert you when you’re 20%, 50%, 80% complete etc. There’s also a ‘Zone’ setting which allows you to set a target pace or heart rate and the watch will let you know if you’re pushing too hard to more likely (at least in my case) need to push yourself harder. All good ways to mix things up and make training a bit more interesting.


Storing your data

Past runs can be stored on the watch as well as online

Past runs can be stored on the watch as well as online

When you’re uploading data to your computer the watch will sync to MyTomTom, it’s own platform, but also you can set it to automatically sync to other popular running communities that you might use including MapMyFitness, RunKeeper, Training Peak so you can analyse, store and plaster your training all over Facebook if you wish. This is so simple to do that even I managed it!

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My verdict

An easy-to-use entry-level watch. A few software tweaks will make it much better though, hopefully they’ll be coming soon. At the moment I’d give it 3 and a half stars out of five.

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