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>>Tools 'n' Gear >> Garmin Forerunner 201

FORERUNNER 201 by Garmin
uses GPS technology to produce precise speed, distance, and pace data for runners - highly integrated into a wrist watch type device.

Be a real forerunner! Get off these dreary well marked and pre-measured trails. Run free! And let FORERUNNER dutifully, accurately and automatically record your stats.

No more tracing routes with a car odometer or bicycle velocomputer

Your training plan tells you to do a "9:00/mi" pace. Simply set up a Virtual Partner™ in FORERUNNER with a "9:00/mi" performance. Now all you have to do is keep up with your animated on-screen virtual race partner...

FORERUNNER's a cornucopia of information: calories burned, elevation (height above mean sea level) or grade/slope in percent...

Last but not least FORERUNNER comes with fully integrated GPS navigation capabilities. While you travel your animated on-screen avatar leaves a dotted trail. If you like you can assign location names and symbols to make your maps more real. Anyway, you can navigate to these locations and quite easily retrace your steps to a starting point - along the "electronic bread crumb trail" you left behind.

Forerunner weighs a meager 2.75 oz. covering an area on your wrist slightly smaller than a credit card.

Note on GPS: Same as your TV satellite dish, GPS receivers perform best with an unobstructed, clear view of the sky. Buildings, heavy tree/foliage cover etc. have quite adverse effects on GPS signal strength and signal acquisition...



Ease of use:
  • Press "Start" / "Stop" to (de-)activate the timer and distance tracker
  • Press the "Lap" button to record when a lap is completed (FORERUNNER can automatically trigger a lap when the athlete reaches a certain distance)
  • "Up" / "Down" lets you cycle through three data screens: "Timer", "Current Lap", "Custom"

Auto Pause:

  • FORERUNNER automatically pauses the training timer when you slow down below a specified resting pace (assume you stop at a traffic light); timer resumes when you start running again

Calorie consumption:

  • FORERUNNER calculates the mount of calories burned over the course of a workout based on athlete's weight and GPS motion data (i.e. time, pace and slope of terrain). (Don't be surprised to get quite diverging calorie readings from each and every type of runner's computer - for one and the same workout. Means calorie consumption is pretty much "soft data")


  • Pace alert: sounds when you begin traveling slower than your individual "slowest pace" or faster than your individual "fastest pace"
  • Distance alert: sounds ("once" or "repeatedly") when you reach a specified distance in your workout (e.g. "1/2 Marathon", "10 Mile", "5K", ...)
  • Time alert: sounds ("once" or "repeatedly") when you reach a certain time (e.g. "2 Hours", "1 Hour", "30 Minutes")

Auto Lap:

  • Automatically triggers a lap when you reach a specified distance
  • Set "Lap Distance" to "1 mi" or "1 km" and run wherever your feet take you. FORRUNNER'll then churn out precise performance data on a "1 mi" / "1 km" basis

Workout History:

  • FORERUNNER lets you review your training records (i.e. lap time, lap distance, average pace etc.) organized by day, week or as overall total


  • FORERUNNER can save up to 100 marked locations (so called "Points of Interest" or POI). In order to "embellish" your maps and make them more human readable you can give these POIs names and attach graphical symbols. Thus in the middle of nowhere you'd simply do a "Find Location" and FORERUNNER shall guide you from your current position to one of the saved locations. But beware, the pointer arrow on the FORERUNNER screen works like a compass needle: it creates an imaginary straight line from point A to point B. Hence, FORERUNNER is not in a position to direct to the nearest bridge across a river in an uncharted ("unmarked" to FORERUNNER) terrain.
  • Speaking about Navigation features, FORERUNNER resembles the Garmin Geko 201 give or take a couple of bytes in waypoint storage. (Well, FORERUNNER has got no notion of a "route", whilst the Geko can handle some 10 of these...)
  • At first sight FORERUNNER seems to resembles the Garmin GEKO 201 when it comes to Navigation features. However, hikers, cyclists, mountain bikers etc. might opt for the GEKO 201: It is in the same price bracket, is more geared to navigation and its "Trip Computer" makes a decent speedometer / odometer.

Virtual Partner:

  • The virtual partner gives you a fun way of knowing if you're running as fast as you hoped
  • There's a knack in it! Virtual Partner's great motivator. Configure it to do a half marathon in 1:30 hrs - and chase that rabbit (Oops, don't overdo it...)

Bottom line:

  • It's a bit of pity FORERUNNER does not have a heart rate monitor integrated. Let's make the assertion here that a sizable number of serious runners own an HR monitor anyway. Don't dump your Polars! Just strap it to your other wrist. Nothing wrong with having access to both HR and current pace.
  • Navigation features ("Find Location", "Back to Start"): Sure this electronic amulet will guide you back home safely... Still, many runners are likely to leave the "Back to Start" navigation screen dormant during their workouts. But look at the navigation package as a freebie byproduct good enough for easygoing trekking or orienteering events.
  • To be honest, FORERUNNER loses GPS signal now and then (->Note on GPS ). You'll notice the satellite dish icon on the left side of the screen flash and a "Weak GPS signals" warning pop up. What might put some users off is that FORERUNNERS in that case displays a (wildly or mildly) inaccurate "current pace". FORERUNNER provides a "Pace Smoothing" option in its "Settings" to counterbalance these glitches. Still, if "current pace" is the hub of your personal training and performance tracking, then we might have a problem here...
  • A companion PC software ("Forerunner Logbook") for performance analysis is said to be available as a free download from Garmin’s website in early 2004.



MarathonPeople meanwhile look into the nitty-gritty of conveying log data from FORERUNNER to RunPlan for Palm PDAs...

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