Category Archives: Reviews

Reviews

Review & Recap: St. Pat’s 5K & 10K

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I had been hankering to run a 5K + 10K double for a while, and when I saw Pacers was replacing its St. Pats 8K with a double a week earlier, I was in. It was two weeks from my Rock ‘n’ Roll D.C. race, so perfect timing.

A sleet-snow-ice storm was moving in during the morning hours, and there was some concern the 10K could be canceled or shortened. Luckily, the longer race went off without a hitch! It was snow-sleeting for this entire double race: 5K & 10K, but with a hat, warm layers and some fleece-lined tights, it was a fabulous experience.

My friend Natalie ran with me for most of the 5K, which felt like a very slow start because we couldn’t get far enough up in the corrals before the start line. Then, she ran the entire 10K with me! It was so nice to run a race with her (she’s quite a bit faster than me and this was the first time she ran a race with me), and we finally got a race photo together!

Onto the races. The two courses were great — started at the Washington Monument and went around the Tidal Basin with NO Hains Point. The 10K went farther up Rock Creek Parkway and did a loop on Independence Ave. to make up the extra distance.

For whatever reason, the 5K felt like it took forever, but I hit a good stride and finished in 28:15, a 9:06 pace.

PowerPoint PresentationAs a bonus, my splits were great:

StPats5KNear the end of the 5K, I started to feel hungry. I drank an entire water bottle and waited for the 10K start. And froze. It took the first mile of the 10K for me to warm up again.

20150301_StPats10K-BB-1297-(ZF-8552-53002-1-001)I knew the 10K would be a test because of feeling hungry, and that I’d need to slow down a bit to avoid bonking. The sleet and snow was also picking up, and some spots, particularly on Ohio Drive near the 3-mile marker were getting slushy.

Plus, along that stretch, the wind and sleet was blowing into my face even though I was wearing a hat — thank God the course didn’t go all the way around Hains Point as that would have been brutal!

That not-so-fun stretch only lasted maybe 3/4 of a mile, and I was able to finish the race feeling strong. Natalie and I got a photo on Independence Ave. near the turnaround. For whatever reason, the 10K felt like it didn’t take as long as the 5K, but I’ll take it!

PowerPoint Presentation

I was happy with my splits. I went out too fast and tried to drop down to a 9:30 pace, but mostly got in the 9:20s. My official time was 58:44 (9:27 pace). StPats10K

IMG_4498Because of the freezing temperatures, Pacers decided to forgo water stops along the course. That didn’t bother me — a bottle of water after the 5K was plenty for me. They also didn’t hand out race medals after the finish line, which was understandable, but still a little disappointing because I love my medals! Luckily, my medal arrived at the end of that week, and is fabulous.

Overall, these two races were fabulous despite the sleet-snow, and a great way to prepare for my half two weeks later!

Reviews

Review: Fairfax Four Miler

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This was my last race of the year, and I had been hoping to go out fast, but that didn’t happen.

Two nights before, I agitated my foot near the old injury site and I still felt some achiness while walking around doing my normal errands the next day.

I fretted about whether to still run the race and didn’t decide until mid-day Wednesday that I’d give it a go, in my ankle brace.

I got to the race with about 15-20 minutes to spare before the start and sat in my car until about 7 minutes to go — it was a little chilly!

Because of agitating my foot, I decided to run slow — even 10:15 to 10:30 pace would be fine. So, I plopped myself about halfway into the running pack, figuring that’d be a good place.

It wasn’t, exactly.

I must have started much farther back than I thought or more people signed up than last year. The first half mile was brutally packed, and I was running super slow — in the 12 min pace range to start, then finally speeding up to near 11. I rubbed elbows with more than a few people and regretted not wearing my headlamp to make sure I didn’t take a bad step while trying to avoid the pack during the darkest part of the race. It finally opened up between a half and 3/4 of a mile and I felt much less crunched.

I knew I would need something to take my mind off worrying about my foot, so I ran with music for the first time during a race. I only put in one earbud, and I didn’t turn my playlist on until I got out of the crowd.

I did this race last year and remembered there were a few uphills to contend with especially after mile 2.

Luckily, my foot felt fine the entire race!

I even decided to pick up the pace the last half mile, and was pleasantly surprised by how fast I was able to go. I peeked at my Garmin here and there, and was able hold an 8:35 pace for a while, and reached a peak speed of 8:06. I crossed the finish line nearly 5 minutes slower than when I ran last year — 40:23 for a 10:06 overall pace (faster than the 10:15-10:30 I’d planned).

If you’re looking for something fun to do on New Year’s Eve, this is definitely an event to add to your list — everyone is in a great mood, you get to safely run at night, and you get a rockin’ sweatshirt!

 

Reviews

Review: Yurbuds earphones

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I finally got frustrated enough at fiddling with my earbuds during treadmill workouts that I bought a new pair. Those earbuds performed a little better than the previous ones, but still slipped once I’d worked up a sweat, and I was constantly fiddling with them.

I waited almost another year before getting completely fed up and buying a new pair, this time from Yurbuds. I ended up going with the Focus 100. The best part about Yurbuds is they have an entire line designed for women — we have smaller ears after all! I chose the Focus 100 because I liked that they had the wrap-around that goes behind your ear to keep it in place.

I’ve worn these earbuds on at least a dozen workouts on the treadmill and elliptical, ranging from 30-minute to 45-minute workouts, and I haven’t had any problems whatsoever.

The buds have a lock-in technique, where you twist them slightly forward after placing them in your ears. That appears to be key since they’ve never fallen out on me — they feel secure the entire time! I haven’t had to mess with them at all during my workouts.

My few complaints about the Focus buds are that they don’t have a clip to keep the excess wires from floppy around constantly. They also didn’t come with a pouch to keep the buds in when they’re not in use, and I don’t like it when my earphones are just roaming free in my bag, potentially getting damaged or tangled. And the piece that goes behind your ear can pop off (hence the need to not let them float around in your bag unattended to).

inspire-400-for-women copyStill, I loved the pair so much that I bought a second pair — the Inspire 400 — more geared toward running with music because it has volume controls. I’ve only just started to run with music during my outdoor runs, and I love it.

My only complaint about these buds is the wind noise — there does seem to be quite a bit even on days there isn’t much of a wind, and it’s not like I’m a super fast runner or anything.

The Inspire buds included a clip that’s very helpful to keep the wire from bouncing around and came with a zipper pouch to put them in — I wish they included this for all their earphones!

The volume and pause controls when running outside are key. You don’t want to be messing around with pulling your phone in and out of your armband, pouch or pocket to adjust the volume. I try to keep my volume relatively low so that I can still hear things going on in my surroundings for safety.

The Inspire buds also come with a microphone so you can answer calls that come in, but that is one feature I plan to never use unless someone in my family calls me twice in short period of time (the signal something urgent may have happened).

 

Reviews

Race Review: Jingle All the Way 5K

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After 5 days of clouds and rain, I was so excited it was going to be sunny Sunday, and that I was getting to run another race!

PAC-Jingle-5K-MapI ran the Jingle All the Way 8K last year, but this year it was a 5K. I really like the 8K distance — it’s the perfect medium between 5K and 10K, but apparently road closures and construction forced them to shorten the route this year. Hopefully next year it will be back up to an 8K!

Last year it was cold and snow, which seemed fitting for a Christmas-themed race. This year it was sunny (yay!) and a little chilly. The winds were gusty, but I didn’t feel them much on the course — only a couple of times really. I think the buildings helped block them some.

Parking was easy to find — I ended up parking on the other side of the White House so I could walk by it on the way back to snap a photo.

The course was great — running towards the Capitol on the way out, then right by it on the way back. There was one real turnaround and then a few street corners to turn, and I actually like that — it keeps things interesting instead of just running in a straight line for what feels like forever.

IMG_3457I set out wanting to run this race a bit faster than the Turkey Trot 5K I ran a 10 days prior, and I decided to aim for somewhere around 9-minute miles or a touch faster. I ended up finishing about 50 seconds earlier than the Turkey Trot, so I’ll call that a win.

The course was completely flat, which really helps me keep a steady pace, and you can tell that from my splits. The first split is actually off by a couple seconds because of walk/running from my spot across the start line. My official time was 27:47 for 8:57 pace — that’s about where I was this time last year, and much faster than my recent runs and races.

As with all Pacers events, the race was well-organized and the volunteers cheering us on were great. Mile markers at every mile, and a DJ to get us pumped up before and after the race.

The long-sleeve tech shirt is a bright, “Christmas” red with a reindeer motif, and it’s super comfy. It’ll be great to wear out on my runs this winter.

 

 

Reviews

Race Review: Fairfax Turkey Trot 5K

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IMG_3431Last year I had to work early on Thanksgiving, so I wasn’t able to do a Turkey Trot. But this year I didn’t have to be in at work until a little later, so I squeezed one in!

I ended up choosing the Fairfax Turkey Trot for its inaugural run. The race was put on by Pacers, so it was pretty much guaranteed to be a great time.

Packet pickup was quick and easy — I stopped by on Tuesday and was in and out of the store in 5 minutes.

The shirt was my least-favorite color — white. White seems to ALWAYS be see-through, so that means I can’t wear the shirt alone after the race, which is usually my post-race tradition — to wear the race shirt for the rest of that day as a badge of honor!

IMG_3435But at least the shirt had a cute, almost glittery print, and it works great as a warm-up pullover on top of a T-shirt — I used it earlier last week on one of those odd, warm days to stay for the first mile.

On race day, parking in Old Town Fairfax was quick and easy. I found a space less than a block away from the race. It was a cold morning, and I had meant to stay huddled in my warm car until 5 minutes before the race, but I got bored and decided to check out the start line.

IMG_3430It was fun to see everyone in their turkey-themed costumes — some had full body outfits, but a lot just had turkey-themed hats. Check out Swim Bike Run Photo’s Instagram pic for a sampling.

Not staying in the car ended up being a slight mistake — they announced shortly before the race was set to start at 9 that they were holding it for another 5 minutes. Then, a few minutes before a 9:05 start, race announcers said it would hold for another two minutes. Ugh!

When the race finally kicked off, my legs were frozen. I don’t think they’d ever been that cold. They felt cold and numb for a half mile before I warmed up.

Since I was still recovering from my foot injury, I really didn’t have any major goals for this race. I wanted to finish in 30 minutes or less, but that was it. And if I ran slower for some reason I wasn’t going to be super-bummed. The cold must have pushed me to run faster, though.

I wasn’t trying to push it, but I ended up with decent splits of 9:04, 8:53 and 9:20 with the final .1 at a 8:35/mile pace. My official time was 28:40, at 9:14/mile pace. (Garmin gave 9:04/mile for pace because of the always little extra you add running a course.) That made me very happy, and hopeful I am starting to get back just a little bit of my speed.

IMG_3429The course had a couple hills, but there were more downhill than up. For a good 3/4-mile starting around mile 1, there was a nice, long downhill. I love, love downhills. And my pace for that mile — 8:53 — showed it. I made sure not to take it too hard again because of coming off the injury.

(I actually had slight shin splint pain the next day from all the downhill — it’s been a while since I did any or ran that fast.)

Overall, this was a great race and perfect way to kick off Thanksgiving. I will definitely consider running it again next year, but I’d also have liked to get in a longer run — like a 10K or 10-miler if there is one nearby — that’d make me feel ever better about stuffing my face later with pumpkin pie, my Turkey Day weakness.

 

Reviews

Review: Cherry Blossom Fall Kickoff Reception

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A free drink, raffle, wine pull, $10 Potomac River Running gift card, a T-shirt and a Milestone Pod — not a bad night at the Cherry Blossom Fall Kickoff Reception.

I had a blast running my first Cherry Blossom 10-miler last year, but I didn’t make it to the fall reception that takes place a good five months before the actual race.

It’s been getting cold in the D.C. area this past week, and it’s crazy to think that in 5 months we’ll be welcoming spring. The race is a week later this year — on April 12, 2015 — because of Easter. I haven’t decided yet if I’ll try to get into the lottery, but I only have 12 days left so I have to make that decision soon.

Back to the reception. I went with Natalie — who attended last year’s kickoff and told me how fun it was. We arrived a little after the start, and quickly made our way to get our free Milestone Pod and drink. It was great to be in a room with so many other runners — very easy to start up a conversation and make new friends!

The event took place at the 201 Bar downtown. I’d never been there but it’s definitely a cool spot, and I might go back at some point on a random night out.

IMG_3360The raffle was for bypassing the lottery for the race and 25 tickets were given out. You still have to pay the registration fee even if you do get a free pass on the lottery.

At the wine pull, I got a $14.99 moscato for the $20 entry — not too shabby. Recommendation: Either bring a large purse or do the wine pull last. We did it first, and were walking around with a bottle of wine in our hands until we decided to try to stash them underneath our coats and hope they were still there/didn’t get knocked over by the time we left. (They were — the moscato was good!)

Appetizers were passed around, and despite being starving I was able to grab enough to fill me up. The highlight of the night was the unveiling of the race T-shirt design. I loved last year’s design, and this year’s is totally different, but still great. It’s a sort of mosaic with the blossoms the Washington Monument in the background. Because the design was so colorful, the color choices for T-shirts were more bland — a light gray, heather gray and off-white. I chose the gray, but I think the heather gray won out. If I do run the race, I’ll plan to get a tech shirt!

We ended up leaving the event around 8/8:30 after we’d had our fill. It was a great night, and one to add to any D.C. runner’s social calendar. Hope to meet even more people there next year!

And maybe I will have to sign up for the lottery afterall!

Reviews

Race Review: .US National 12K

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The .US National 12K is the last major race on my schedule, and the longest distance I’ve run since the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon in mid-September because of my injury.

IMG_3335First and foremost — I had no pain in my foot during the entire race! I had a couple twinges here or there, but they never developed into anything more. My goals for this race were two-fold: To finish in anything under 1:15 (10 minute miles) and to run the entire distance. Spoiler: I met both goals!

It was a cold start — but warmer than my Friday 3-mile run, so I wore capri running tights and a T-shirt with my lighter running jacket over it. That ended up being plenty, but my hands were freezing the first mile and a half of the race.

The race start was staged near Oronoco Bay Park. I was surprised at the absolute zero line for the porta potty — I’ve never had that before! But after I found out there were a little less than 800 participants, it made sense.

IMG_3342I met up with my friend Natalie and we made our way to the start line.

The course was great! It started in Old Town Alexandria, then after a mile or so made its way onto the George Washington Memorial Parkway. It reminded me a lot of the GW Parkway 10-miler, but opposite, and not as long obviously. The race wasn’t crowded, and it was super easy to move around the entire time without risking tripping someone over or bumping into another runner.

I grabbed some Gatorade around mile 3, but that was it — no other walking (other than three steps at the turnaround to avoid hurting my foot)!

There was a point around mile 3 that I started to get bored, and wished it was a 10K instead of 12, but I focused on making it to the turnaround point. (I’m thinking more and more that I like out and backs as opposed to one-ways because of this.)

bazu-3792223The race was well organized — with Gatorade and water at mile 3, 5 and 6 and chocolate protein shakes and tons of Gatorade products at the finish — so many that I wished I had a bag to place them all in. And the medals were awesome!

The website, however, not so much. A little more than week before race day I still didn’t see packet pickup information even when they said you couldn’t pick up on race day. Eventually, packet pickup information was listed under “Race information,” but under FAQ, it still said details to come. The “Transportation” link was likewise blank up until race day, but under “Race information,” public parking information was available.

IMG_3359I was glad to see the parking information since it led me right to an underground parking garage that was super close to the start (and warmer!).

Back to the race!

When I started running, I told myself to take it slow and that anything near 10-minute miles would be fine, particularly given my regular runs lately had been around 10:10-10:20 minute miles. But somehow, I ended up keeping a 9:33 min/mile pace, with a final time of 1:11:12!

I’m really, really happy with my splits. The last mile and a half, I decided to go for it and push harder despite wearing the ankle brace and coming off my injury. I ended up doing mile 6-7 in 9:12 and the final half mile at a 8:26 minute pace.

My race schedule through the rest of the year is up in the air — I’m looking at doing a few more 5K or shorter races, and slow ramp up my weekly mileage and long runs through the late fall and winter. Hopefully, this year there won’t be a near constant polar vortex!

Reviews

Race Review: Run for the Parks 10K

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The Run for the Parks 10K ended up being my successful return to both running and racing. It was the first time running on the pavement in 5 weeks where I didn’t have any pain during or after (even hours after) the run.

I had sworn off my November races two weeks ago, but after learning my diagnosis of peroneal tendonitis, getting in a pain-free 3-mile run and talking with my personal trainer, I decided to go for Sunday’s race, with the knowledge I might not be able to complete it.

IMG_3277I signed up for this race months ago. I knew I wanted to get a 10K in my fall racing schedule, and I had done the Veteran’s Day 10K last year, so I thought it’d be fun to do a different race (even if it did have the *exact* same course) — and this one came with a really sweet technical pullover.

I had originally targeted this as a potential PR race. My last 10K was in the summer, in the downpouring rain, a day after a huge 5K PR — so I didn’t run that for a good time. Before that, my last 10K was the Veteran’s Day 10K last year. When I got injured, any idea of a PR went out the window, as did even running the race.

On to the race, which was put on by Potomac River Running.

It was along the 10K course that goes around Hains Point and back. In longer races, I am not a big fan of Hains Point. It seems to go on forever. But in shorter races, it seems to be somehow easier to break up. Only once did I start to feel bored — shortly before reaching the point on the way back.

IMG_3276Sunday was the coldest day so far this fall, and it was windy too. (And we got to sleep in an hour later — essentially — because of the time change!) I struggled with what to wear — I haven’t run a race in that weather in a while, and the wind makes it more complicated. Plus it was really cloudy. I ended up wearing my lightly-lined fleece pants, my heaviest winter running top and a jacket. I ended up checking the jacket at bag check — after walking three-quarters of a mile to the start, I had warmed up enough to do that.

Bag check was easy, but it was odd to be at a race where the bags were just trash bags and you put a piece of tape and wrote your number on it. It seemed it would be harder for them to find the bag after the race, and what if the tape came off? This didn’t end up being a problem for me — pick up after the race took two seconds.

At the start, the sun was beginning to peek out and the wind wasn’t great, but it wasn’t too bad heading out on the course. I even got a little warm after a mile and a half. I took off my gloves and headband, and rolled my sleeves up just a touch.

Then it clouded up a bit more and as we rounded the point on the way back, the wind picked up — a lot. Suddenly it felt 10-15 degrees colder, and I was glad I had worn such a thick top.

IMG_3282I kept my pace conservative throughout the race. I hadn’t run much in 5 weeks, and I didn’t want to aggravate my foot. I had to stop about a mile in when the lace on the ankle brace came undone — I double tied it and got back out there, but that stop did cost me 30 seconds on the clock.

Since I had run 4 miles two weeks ago and didn’t have pain until the last quarter mile on that run, I figured I’d likely be OK until at least mile 4 — after that was a whole new ballgame. I went into this race with few goals — really to just get as far as I could without pain. If I could make it to mile 5 without pain, that’d be progress.

So I was ecstatic to cross the finish line in 1:00:05 (my slowest 10K time yet), having run the entire length of the course without pain. My legs felt heavy throughout the entire 6.2 miles, but that didn’t surprise me much given the lack of running lately.

After mile 4, I kept an even closer monitor on my foot, being sensitive to any signs of pain, and focusing on keeping a steady pace, not hitting any potholes, hitting the ground with my mid-foot and making sure to stay to the right side (where the road slanted to the right a little, meaning my right foot would be the one taking a little more pressure than my left).

A couple times, I felt what I thought could have been the beginnings of the tendon flaring up, but it also felt like it was farther up my foot, and could have just been a twinge from wearing the ankle brace since it went away quickly.

IMG_3272I decided to try to pick up the pace the last half mile, but the wind made it difficult, and I was actually starting to get a touch cold. I’m very happy with my splits, especially for taking this race at what felt like an easy pace.

About two seconds after crossing the finish line, I was cold and my legs felt tight. I grabbed my jacket, some water and a granola bar and we walked back to the car. I could feel then that my brace was rubbing a little bit around the ankle, but not too bad.

Between that and my tight legs I couldn’t keep up my pace walking, but we didn’t want to stop and stretch and get colder. I ended up getting a good stretch in later in the day at home.

Overall, this was a well-organized race. There were two water stops — a main one on the way out around mile 2.75, and another, smaller one on the way back, around mile 3.5 or so.

It was odd not having a regular bag for bag check, but using trash bags probably helps PRR keep its costs down, which is great when those savings can be passed on to their runners! I tore my bag opened when I got it back, and I did miss having a bag to stuff all my things in after the race — Garmin, gloves, headband, cell phone, water, etc.

The pullover is awesome, and I can’t wait to wear it on some runs. It’s ventilated and the logo is fuzzy — it reminds me of a fuzzy sticker! Size was good too — I got a women’s small and it fits great — not too big!

 

Motivation Reviews

Review: “Born to Run”

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If you are a runner, you must pick up “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall, as soon as Tarahumara-ly possible.

The book tells a story of the Tarahumara Indians in Mexico’s Copper Canyons, following the trail of Caballo Blanco — the White Horse — a man who left the modern world to run with the tribe of super-athletes. (His real identity is revealed at the end of the book, so I won’t give it away here.)

IMG_3114I’ve never considered doing an ultra-marathon, and have no intention of ever doing so, but am amazed by such feats. McDougall weaves a fascinating tale taking you through his own running woes, to one of the toughest ultras in the world — the Leadville 100 — and into the desert, where he competes in, “the greatest race the world has never seen,” as the subtitle of the book suggests.

In between, McDougall artfully weaves in tangents about the modern running world, including barefoot running and well-known ultra-runner Scott Jurek.

To be truthful, I don’t completely buy into the barefoot running concept that McDougall seems to endorse in the book. Perhaps if you’ve been barefoot running your entire life, it’s for you — as it is for the Tarahumara, who run using just a slim sandal-like shoe. But, for me, I’m sticking with my favorite Asics.

In the meantime, the stories of Jurek and other ultra-runners discussed in the book are fascinating.

McDougall ends the book telling the tale of the race Caballo always wanted to pull off — and it’s amazing.

This is an inspiring tale about running that will make you excited to be a runner, and make you itch to get outside, even if it’s late at night.

 

Reviews

Review: Garmin Forerunner 220 … I am in love with you

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I got my Garmin Forerunner 220 in April, and I have been meaning to write a review since my first month in using it.

In two words: It’s amazing!

I previously had been using RunKeeper and MapMyRun when I went out, but they didn’t seem to be super accurate depending on the day, and it was annoying to have to listen to a voice telling me my pace and time every mile, when I could instead just look at my wrist.

I got the 220 with heart rate monitor. I have every intention of using the heart rate monitor, but I haven’t used it yet, 6 months later (oops!).

Onward: The watch is so, so easy to use and has become key in my training. It tells me when I’m going too fast or too slow, in addition to keeping track of my mileage.

When you get the watch, you get an account at Garmin Connect, and I also recommend you download the app on your phone. I usually leave a little bit of walk time — even if it’s just half a block — after a run, which allows me to sync the run to the app and online so I can view it later.

Fairfax

The app — whether online or on the app — breaks down your overall pace, your splits, elevation gain, weather (including humidity) and cadence, among several other metrics. You can change the title on each run if you want to — a feature that’s especially cool for races.

The watch also features an interval trainer, which I have yet to use but plan to as soon as I can.

It’s an easy-to-charge device — just plug it into your USB port and you’re good to go. And the battery lasts a long, long time. I even had a 12-mile run where at mile 2 it told me my battery was low. The power actually lasted all the way to 10.5 miles despite that.

My one complaint is that sometimes it can take a while to sync up to the GPS. When I was in Chicago, I had trouble on all three of my runs syncing up quickly to the GPS. It tended to take longer than when I was at home. Even when I’m at home, I’ve had the occasional wait, even on a clear day.

Chicago2

All in all — if you are serious about running, and want to make sure all your runs are accurate, buy this watch. It has a big price tag at $300 with the heart-rate monitor, $250 without, but it is well worth it.