A Runner’s GPS: The Last Survivor of a Dying Species

Consumer GPS device sales have heavily declined since their public release in the mid to late-90s. An extremely large and bulky car navigation system used to cost over $500, and now it seems that industry leaders such as Garmin and TomTom aren’t even able to give them away. Smartphones, now equipped with free real-time navigation applications, have almost eliminated the necessity for purchasing a separate GPS device.

One exception to this vertical is with runners. While there are running GPS applications for smartphones, many races do not allow the use of phones on the course. This limits runners on how they can track their distance. GPS watches now track not only distance, but calories burned, and elevation achieved. These are desirable features for those looking to track their performance. But are running GPS devices perfected? Far from it. One of the biggest complaints is the post-race distance displayed on the device not matching up with the certified course distance. This may not seem substantial to the everyday Joe, but to someone who trained hard to achieve a new personal record, these discrepancies can be alarming. So if the distance on the device is longer or shorter than the actual race, who is to blame… the course length or the device?

As explained in this infographic below, released by Rock N’ Roll Marathon , the course measurement process is extensive- maybe even unnecessarily perfect. So it is only conclusive that the discrepancy lies in the GPS. From government accuracy regulations to satellite interferences, it makes sense that the end reading could be off by quite a few meters. Fortunately for the running GPS industry, these devices are a really a wonderful estimate, and runners are ok with the accuracy of the devices even if it isn’t as accurate as the course’s measurement. As for car navigation systems, they may be the new dinosaurs of technology.


Running GPS vs Course Length Infographic

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This article was contributed by Chris Beck who is a Content Producer/contributor and also a well published freelance writer in the insurance and tech space. Originally from Asheville, NC and a University of South Carolina Alum. I am also an avid Gamecock sports follower... I have a family of four including a twin brother, 6 if you include our Fox Hound and German Shepard.
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