I ran 21.1 km. Did I run a half marathon?

Recently, I posted this question on Facebook to see what others think of this “sensitive” topic. Specially those who are into the habit of running the distance and then proudly announcing the same on various social media forums. Interestingly, and quite unexpectedly, I got a real mix of responses, both for and against.

My view on this is very straightforward, or so I would like to believe. A lot of people say it depends on the situation, or the effort, etc, etc, basically, that the answer is not cast in stone. That I totally cannot believe, it has to be either a yes or no. I simply believe that if you run an organized half marathon race, an event, then you ran a half marathon. Otherwise, what you have really run is just 21.1 km, or to put it in other words, you ran the “half marathon distance”.

To check my views against an established audience of runners (not that my running circle on Facebook is considered any less established), I posted this on letsrun.com running board, the largest and most popular running forum in the world. Folks on letsrun.com had a more one-sided view of this, almost everyone suggesting that just self managed training runs do not count as half marathons.

Posting on letsrun.com has some side benefits. You always see some snarky and some really funny answers, the audience certainly has a great sense of humor. So, for your extended reading pleasure, I am taking the liberty to pick out some gems for you and posting them here. Enjoy 🙂

  • Yes, this counts as a legit half-marathon, and as such comes with responsibilities. You now must display a 13.1 oval decal on the back of your car.
  • After work, I ride my bike home, then run it into the garage and immediately hop into a shower. Does that count as a tri, or am I tri-ing too hard?
  • It’s the year 2061. You sneak into the pharmacy area of your old folks home and pop a few dozen viagra. You wheel the first blue haired lady you can find in to your room and do the deed. Turns out it was 91 year old Cindy Crawford. Did you just nail a supermodel? No. No you did not.
  • I have run 1 half marathon and 2 full marathons. I am going to start telling people that I have run 5 half marathons.
  • No, you didn’t. A half marathon is exactly 21097 meters in miles this is: 13.109068 miles. So if you stopped at exactly 13.1 miles, and we assume your method of measurement is accurate, then no…..no you didn’t run a half-marathon. aint it a-shame, to be shot down in flames!
  • and finally, a more logical one: Running “A half marathon” is running in an organized event, on a certified course, with official timers and other runners on the course at the same time, and you get an official place.

State of GPS Running Watches in India

What brands of watches do runners wear when running half marathons and marathons in India? Are phones still popular despite the inconvenience of carrying them around while running? What brands lead the way in some of the biggest events in India?

I have been thinking of doing this for a long time, and finally, I was able to do the data lifting required to get the runner’s data available publicly from Strava, and get a sense of what devices do runners use when running marathons. So, with that out of the way, lets get down to business, shall we.

ADHM 2016 Runners Data: Summary

656 runners were identified as using some sort of GPS device on them. For reference the number of finishers at ADHM was 7732, so we have data for 8.5 percent of the finishers. To clarify, 656 does not represent the actual number of runners who had GPS on them while running, but is likely a big subset of that data. Would I be able to get more accurate numbers of actual usage? Yes, it just needs more time investment and data digging. But when I started on this article, I was more interested in the breakup of these numbers, how phones vs watches stack up, and the relative share of the brand presence. Maybe some day, I will dive deeper.

So, how did things finally stack up? Truth be told, I was a bit surprised by the high use of mobile phones, both Android and iPhones. Almost half (46 percent) of the users with GPS on them used their mobile phones for the purpose. Garmin continues to lead in the overall GPS watch market with 33.1 percent, given their presence for a long time in the country. But the recent entrant, TomTom, have built up a sizable presence with 15.9 percent, in a relatively short time. What’s more interesting is that other players in the market like Fitbit, Suunto and Polar are hardly a factor with very limited presence.

Phone App30346.2

ADHM 2016 Runners Data: Detailed

Detailed data provides more interesting stats. One is the high percentage of iPhone users, compared to Android users in spite of iPhones just having 2% of the India phone market. Runners seem to have a higher percentage of iPhones compared to the overall iPhone users market share, and they are not afraid to use them on their runs!

The other interesting data is the TomTom watch being the single most popular watch model in the Indian market, by a big margin. Truth be told, they do have two models in the market, TomTom Runner and TomTom Spark, but Strava reports them as one. Even if that would not have been the case, TomTom would be the leader here.

Strava Android App16725.5
Strava iPhone App13620.7
TomTom GPS Sport Watch10415.9
Garmin fenix 3426.4
Garmin Forerunner 220314.7
Garmin Forerunner 235253.8
Garmin Forerunner 620203.0
Garmin Forerunner 310XT182.7
Garmin Forerunner 920XT172.6
Fitbit Surge111.7
Garmin Forerunner 15111.7
Garmin VĂ­voactive111.7
Garmin Forerunner 22591.4
Garmin Forerunner 73560.9
Garmin VĂ­voactive HR50.8
Garmin Forerunner 1040.6
Garmin Forerunner 23040.6
Garmin Forerunner 910XT40.6
Garmin Forerunner 40530.5
Garmin Forerunner 2520.3
Garmin Forerunner 41020.3
Garmin epix10.2
Garmin fenix 210.2
Garmin Forerunner 61010.2
Polar M40010.2

SCMM 2017 Runners Data: Summary

We have a higher numbers captured here compared to ADHM, 928 runners. I focussed on getting the data for full marathon runners, but I am sure what I actually got was a mix, half and full marathon runners included. SCMM had 4680 marathon and 11991 half marathon finishers, so we are looking at data for 5.5 percent of finishers, compared to 8.5 percent I got for ADHM. This probably means I missed capturing more half marathon runners data.

The one surprising figure here compared to ADHM is that mobile phone usage at SCMM was lower by a massive 10%, from 46.2 to 36 percent. This means that the Mumbai audience is probably more exposed/aware about the GPS running watches, which would not be surprising to those who follow the two markets, and have seen the efforts of the brands in these markets. This 10% drop in the mobile phone usage is complemented by a 12% higher share for Garmin, who command 45.3% in Mumbai, a reflection of having a stronger vendor presence over a longer period of time.

Phone App33436.0

SCMM 2017 Runners Data: Detailed

One aspect which surprises looking at the detailed stats is how some of the highest priced model lead the charts, TomTom being the exception and the leader. For example, Garmin Fenix 3, and Garmin Forerunner 235 lead among Garmin watches, in spite being two of the costliest watches in the Garmin stable.

What’s perhaps more surprising is that the Garmin entry level variants, the Garmin Forerunner 10 and 15 hardly have any significant presence. For a marathon, this is likely because a typical marathon runner would perhaps avoid at least a Forerunner 10 as it would be difficult to make it through a marathon with the watch still running, due to the lower battery capacity. But, for a half marathon I was expecting these numbers to be much higher, but surprisingly are not. Which probably means that novice runners or runners happy with a decent basic functional capability set, and those looking at value for money options are sticking to the king of VFW, the TomTom Runner and Spark.

Strava Android App20321.9
Strava iPhone App13114.1
TomTom GPS Sport Watch12413.4
Garmin fenix 3616.6
Garmin Forerunner 235606.5
Garmin Forerunner 920XT454.8
Garmin Forerunner 220404.3
Garmin Forerunner 310XT313.3
Garmin Forerunner 225293.1
Garmin VĂ­voactive212.3
Garmin fenix 2181.9
Garmin VĂ­voactive HR181.9
Fitbit Surge151.6
Garmin Forerunner 620151.6
Garmin Forerunner 15141.5
Garmin Forerunner 910XT141.5
Garmin Forerunner 230131.4
Garmin Forerunner 735121.3
Garmin Forerunner 1050.5
Garmin Forerunner 2550.5
Garmin Forerunner 63040.4
Garmin fenix30.3
Garmin Forerunner 40530.3
Garmin Forerunner 61030.3
Garmin epix20.2
Garmin Forerunner 21020.2
Polar V80020.2
Garmin Forerunner 3510.1
Garmin Forerunner 41010.1
GPX File10.1

So, that was a quick gist of what I found looking at the data. Did you notice anything interesting which I may have missed, do share in comments below.


Rio Winner Eliud Kipchoge To Run ADHM 2016



This has got to be the biggest news ever at Airtel Delhi Half Marathon.

ADHM gets the biggest name in distance running for 2016 edition!!! Eliud Kipchoge won the marathon at Rio Olympics and is the third fastest marathoner ever (2:03:05), behind Dennis Kimetto (2:02:57) and Kenenisa Bekele (2:03:03).
* Winner of World Marathon Majors (WMM) series title last season
* Leads this season’s WMM over Bekele
* Has an average marathon finish time of 2:04:22
* Has won 7 out of 8 marathons he has run till now

He is already being labeled as the “Greatest Marathoner of All Time”, and possibly a candidate to break the world record at the next Berlin Marathon. Well, ADHM is a half and Kipchoge doesn’t have strong half credentials yet, so we’ll see how this one goes.

Can’t wait to see the man himself.

Kipchoge says he still wants to break the marathon world record but won’t put a timeline on an attempt. He currently holds the second-fastest time in history, a 2:03:05 he set in April at the London Marathon. He has also won the Chicago and Berlin marathons.


The Ultimate Running Watch Shootout

So you want a running watch and cannot figure out which watch to buy. The choices confuse the most informed of runners. Watches continue to be launched with tons of features, and it’s easy to get overwhelmed selecting the right watch, and something I have personally struggled with. I continue to get messages from runners on which running watch to buy, and what usually stands out is that they are not sure about what they need, and are simply asking for advice without that information, not an easy task.

So, I finally sat down and put the proverbial pen to paper. Runner’s identify what features are important to them in a running watch, refer to the watches in this shootout, and quickly be able to figure out which watch cuts it for specially for them. It may not be what every Tom, Dick, or Harry is wearing around your neighborhood, but that’s the exact purpose of this shootout, to help you select something you need.

The biggest challenge for doing this running watch shootout was selecting which watches to shortlist out of the very vast set of units available from a variety of manufacturers. The watches were finally shortlisted based on the below mentioned feature set. GPS capability was a must, since the primary focus of this article was runner’s watch shootout. Price was an important consideration which eliminated a few high end products from the shootout.

Shortlisted Features  
GPSOn-board MusicMulti-sport support
HR, 24 hours HRInterval TrainingBattery
NotificationsColor screenActivity tracking support

Based on the feature set above, the following watches were shortlisted. Not every watch meets all the requirements, in fact, none of them do. But these watches surely meet a majority of these features, and provide users an opportunity to select the running watch as per their requirements, and not what the manufacturer would like to sell to you. So, here you go, straight on with the shootout, without wasting any further time, and see how the selected watches did.

Shortlisted Watches  
Garmin FR235TomTom Spark 3FitBit Surge
Garmin FR35Apple Watch 2
Garmin VivoActive HRPebble Time 2

Runner’s Watch Shootout: Results

Running watches shootout. Click to enlarge.

Detailed Result Analysis

GPS: What’s a runner’s watch without GPS? We shortlisted only those popular models which had this as standard. Several other popular models like FitBit Blaze, or the Garmin Vivosmart HR may have most of the tracked feature set, but without GPS, the accelerometer based distance measurement simply does not cut it for pace/distance accuracy for runners. Pebble Time 2 depends on the additional clip-on Pebble Core for GPS access, a separate device which is expected to go to retail at $100 in Jan 2017, along with the Pebble Time 2 which will start selling at $200 this December.

HR: 24×7 hours HR enables continuous monitoring of your heart rate, which also enables you to track your resting heart rate (RHR), an important metric to check our current fitness levels. Things are looking good here with most of the watches, with continuous 24×7 heart rate monitoring and display quickly becoming the norm. Surprisingly, two of the newest models here, the TomTom Spark 2/3 or the Apple Watch 2 both lack this. Apple Watch 2 has a heart rate monitoring app and the sensor is activated only when the app is loaded (or a workout app is turned on).

Phone Notifications: As watches continue to become smarter, leading to overlapping of feature sets between a typical runner’s watch and a smartwatch, the expectations are higher to have your running watch phone notifications enabled (calls, text, other app notifications), and be able to wear it through the day. The running watch manufacturers have responded with getting notifications to your watch. TomTom Spark is the only model which does not support this (though rumors about a software update to enable this have persisted since 2015, but remain to be materialized).

On-Board Music: This remains a niche feature limited to just a few running watches. Note that we are talking about onboard music capability which can be used by runners to load their songs on the watch and listen via bluetooth headsets and not having to carry their phone around for the same. TomTom Spark has been one of the pioneers here with 3GB onboard music. Pebble Time 2 will once again depend on Pebble Core to bring along this feature, though it will have a wider collection of choices, with 4GB onboard storage, and options of streaming music online directly via a sim card on the Core, supporting Spotify, Amazon Alexa, and other services. Apple Watch 2 is also in on the game with 2GB onboard storage for music.

Interval Training: Serious runners need interval training support in their watches, the ability to do repeating workouts of the kind like 400m repeats with 2 mins rest, or other combinations of distance and time. Many runners also require support for custom intervals which may not be as simple as a repeating sequence of work/rest interval, but different distances or time for each interval (think ladder intervals). Only Garmin FR235 has full basic + custom interval support here. Other watches have basic interval support while Garmin Vivoactive HR and FitBit Surge do not have interval capabilities.

Screen display and Color: To be used as your regular all day watch, it needs to look good, and a bright, sharp display, along with support for colors goes a long way to make that happen. Most of the typical running watches are more focussed on functionality over form, but this too is changing gradually. We no longer see those bulky alienish looking watches any more. Sleeker watches are in (even with compromise in battery life due to size constraints), and the displays are getting better. Apple Watch 2, Garmin FR235 and Pebble 2 take the lead here, with nice color displays, ability to customize screens with watchfaces and widgets, and color screens. Vivoactive HR is the cheapest one with color display support. Rest of the watches are monochrome, with simple, functional looks.

Multi-sport Support: Cycling and swimming support is demanded by runners, who look at them as tools for cross-training. We are not talking about full triathlon support with transitions here, but meeting the basic needs of tracking for these sports. All watches listed here support bike rides. Support for swimming is however a bit limited here, since that brings in additional hardware and design complications to keep things working in water. Garmin FR235, FR35 as well as FitBit Surge are not designed for swimming.

Activity Tracking: All watches here support the basic activity tracking feature. Steps, sleep tracking, calories, its all there. Not really the most desired feature for a typical runner, but more like a good to have to keep up to date on how active we have been through the day.

Battery: 10-13 hours with GPS (with 24 hours HR if applicable) seems to be the norm for most of the watches here. Basic time display and activity tracking, notifications etc can get these watches from a week to up to 3 weeks. The significant exception here is the Apple Watch 2 here, with a meager 5 hours GPS support, and a day as your regular smartwatch. What that essentially means is that if you take it out for say an hour training run, you would barely be just be able to make it through your day. If you are looking at running more, like a half marathon or a marathon, well that will mean the watch will need to be charged again before the end of your day. For runners who are not that fast (slower than a 4 hour marathon), well, they may risk not having their activity recorded completely, or unable to make calls right after the run with no battery juice left, not a very inspiring thought when you would be running.

Price: With an entry level price point being $250 for most watches here, most of the watches reside in the middle to high end price bracket. Garmin FR35 provides great value at a reasonable $200. The two best looking watches here, the Apple Watch 2 ($369) and Garmin FR235 ($320) are the priciest. The Pebble Time 2 is the odd one out here, since you have to essentially buy 2 devices to get the required capabilities, with the watch itself at $200 and the Pebble Core, which provides GPS and Music support at another $100.

Where to Buy?

I hope this article was able to help you identify the right runners watch for you. You can use the below links to buy your choice online from Amazon store (US and India links provided), or from the Apple or Pebble stores (linked below). TomTom Spark 3 is not yet available in India and so the original Spark link is shared below (functionally similar for this features shootout).

Buy Online (US)Buy Online (India)
Garmin FR235Garmin FR235
Garmin FR35Garmin FR35 (NA)
Garmin VivoActive HRGarmin VivoActive HR
TomTom Spark 3TomTom Spark 3
Apple Watch 2Apple Watch 2
Pebble Time 2Pebble Time 2
FitBit SurgeFitBit Surge

Please share your feedback and any comments below.


Garmin Forerunner 35 vs TomTom Spark Cardio – How They Stack Up

Garmin has just released the next iteration of their entry level GPS watch for runners, the new Garmin Forerunner 35. This series started with the very basic Forerunner 10, before moving on the Forerunner 15 (activity tracking, HRM strap support, and improved battery), and then the Forerunner 25 (phone notifications, bigger screen).

The new Garmin Forerunner 35

And now, Garmin improves the experience for runners who prefer a simple device (if we may refer to this device as ‘simple’, with increasing number of features on offer) by bringing in the hottest trend for running watches, a built in optical-HR sensor. No putting on those uncomfortable chest straps anymore. What more, all this is brought to you at an almost entry level price point of USD $200. Ok, that’s not strictly entry level when GPS watches from Garmin itself and other respected brands are available in the market for $100, or even lower in some cases, but, a basic runners watch nevertheless with some advanced features.

With that, let me get to a head on head comparison of the key features of this watch with the one watch I regard as a great value proposition for a basic running watch, the TomTom Spark Cardio.

TomTom Spark Cardio
TomTom Spark Cardio

Feature Comparison

FeatureTomTom Spark CardioGarmin Forerunner 35Winner
AnnouncedSep, 2015Aug, 2016
Interval TrainingYesYesDraw
Racing against timeRace ModeVirtual PacerDraw
Zone based trainingYesNoTomTom Spark Cardio
Activity TrackingYesYesDraw
Auto LapYesYesDraw
Multisport supportRunning, Cycling, SwimmingRunning, CyclingTomTom Spark Cardio
Vibration AlertsYesYesDraw
Phone notifications, call alertsNo (rumors of late 2016 addition)YesGarmin FR 35
Phone music controlsNoYesGarmin FR 35
Wireless phone syncYesYesDraw
BatteryAs watch: 3 weeks
GPS: 11 hours
As watch: 9 days
GPS: 13 hours
Optical HRYesYesDraw
Cost$160$200TomTom Spark Cardio


With the feature comparison covered, lets look at how the two scored. We will award 2 points for a win, and 1 for a draw. Adding up, we get to the following results.

Garmin Forerunner 35 – 13
TomTom Spark Cardio – 15

Winner: TomTom Spark Cardio. The Spark Cardio edges the Garmin Forerunner 35 not only in overall feature set, but more importantly, at a price point which is $40 less than the Garmin.

Final Words

So, there we have it, a nice little comparison of the key features of both these GPS watches, to help you decide based on what’s important for you! From my perspective, TomTom Spark continues to be the king of the runners road with greater features per dollar. One thing to keep in mind though is that unlike Garmin Forerunner 35, Spark comes in a variety of variants, with the one compared here being the Spark Cardio. In fact, with a budget of $200, you get the Spark Cardio + Music which includes 3GB music storage on board and an ability to play music wirelessly to your bluetooth headphones without requiring a phone.

Where to Buy

Amazon.in: TomTom Spark Cardio, Garmin Forerunner – NA
Amazon.com: TomTom Spark Cardio, Garmin Forerunner 35