The Runner's View: Building the dream running watch

What runners want to see on their wristy training partner

There's no denying that running watches are as feature rich as they have ever been. Garmin, Suunto, Polar et al. have all raised their game by packing in more modes and extras than we could ever possibly use. But it's always nice to have more features, right?

Running watches will undoubtedly get better and smarter but is it about offering more or offering the right features? The ones that runners would happily pay extra for.

Bookmark this: Welcome to Future of Running Week

We've spoken to the companies that are making them, but we also wanted to know what the people who are using them regularly would want in their dream running watch. That's why we've asked a bunch of runners, from Olympians to avid runners, a simple question: "If you could have one killer feature on your running watch that doesn't exist yet, what would it be - and why?"

Here are the wide ranging responses we got.

Want to have your say too? Let us know in the comments section below.


The Runner's View: Building the dream running watch

Robbie Britton, Team GB ultra marathon runner, running coach (Twitter: @ultrabritton | robbiebritton.co.uk)

"I really like the navigation features of the TomTom Adventurer, but I guess the next step might be live advice from the watch if you're running near a cool feature, like a trail or a view point. Say you're somewhere new and there's a great park nearby, maybe the watch could pipe up and say 'Take the next left for a sweet trail'. Almost like TripAdvisor for runners, but on the go."


Ben True, US cross-country runner (Twitter: @bentrue | Instagram: benjtrue)

"I'm looking forward to having improved safety features on a wearable, without having to carry a phone. Since I tend to run solo in rugged terrain, far from cell service or neighboring houses, it would be a huge piece of mind if I could press a button and alert an emergency contact of my location if I were to fall and twist an ankle, or other tragedy."

Dame Kelly Holmes, former Team GB Olympian, Garmin Brand Ambassador (Twitter: @damekellyholmes | kellyholmes.co.uk)

"A motivational voice or display that tells me I have had a good workout or that I could have done better. I love reading my data on Garmin Connect following my workout but to have updates throughout on whether I have reached, exceeded or may be behind my targets would be a bonus. Also, a pacer so I can set my runs and it can then alert me to increase or reduce my pace set."

Andrew Boyd Hutchinson, author of The Complete History of Cross-Country Running (Twitter: @real_xc | Instagram: the_real_xc)

"I've thought about questions like this quite a bit. I'd love to have a feature that streamed my speed and position in real time. A watch interface that gave me data that I could view but was really meant for an audience. Most footraces consist of a computerized camera system that captures when you cross the finish line (and records every lap), but there's no data that appears relative to the competition taking place.

"In auto racing and even horse racing, general speed and lap times are streamed directly from each competitor. No chip system streams that to an audience yet. In trail races or marathon courses that involve a set start and finish that are apart, you similarly cannot find out your position or pace or even navigation relative to your racing line. It's possible to see your running pace, distance and direction independently, but relative to other competitors or a pre-existing course, there's nothing possible yet."


The Runner's View: Building the dream running watch

Luke Tyburski, endurance athlete (Twitter: @luketyburski, Instagram: luke tyburski, | www.luketyburski.com)

"My dream feature would be to have wireless charging between the watch and a small discreet charging device. Alongside this, the watch would have to work as per normal recording data as you run along throughout the night knowing all your stats are being recorded. As an ultra endurance adventurer, the watches that have long battery life (I'm talking over 16-18 hours and beyond) are like wearing fridges on your wrist."


Tom Marshall, Saucony UK athlete (Twitter: @tommarshall1500)

"It's a difficult question as a running watch does pretty much everything you need it to do. Most watches don't do it all successfully, but they do have the features.

"For me, it would be a running watch that would pick up signal immediately, wherever you are, whatever the time, whatever the battery percentage. This would prevent the waiting around that you often have to do, and the annoyance that comes with a low battery. A watch that picks up signal would save waiting outside in the cold, which isn't always the best fun, and can lead to injury or illness."

Claudia Schroegel, Adidas Runners captain (Twitter: Claudi8S | wearedaybreak.org)

"For me there isn't a simple answer or one single killer feature. What I appreciate most and rely on is the outdoor package – a watch that becomes a companion for outdoor adventures. GPS, maps, navigation, elevation reading, altimeter, barometer, compass and thermometer. Also having extensive and accurate on the go data if I need to tap into it, including storm warnings and 'find back to start'."

Lucy Charles, professional Ironman triathlete and Zwift user (Twitter: @LucyAnneCharles | lucycharles.com)

"My dream future watch would tell me exactly how fresh or fatigued I am. Then it would tell me exactly how hard I should be working, telling me to push on or ease off. I am pretty bad at easing off!"

Darren Smith, (Instagram: @runnersknees, Twitter: RunnersKnees | runnersknees.com)

"I really need an app that would allow me to upload any format gpx etc, so I don't get lost!"


The Runner's View: Building the dream running watch

Gwen Jorgensen, US triathlete and 2016 Olympic champion (Twitter: @gwenjorgensen | gwenjorgensen.com)

"If I could add any feature to my watch, it would be a link into my nanny camera so I could check in on Stanley while running."


Charlotte Thomas, lungesandlycra.com (Twitter: @lungesandlycra, Instagram: @lungesandlycra)

"I'm really quite bad at fuelling on the run, so a watch that could test for dehydration, tell you when you need to take on more water and show you the effects on your performance of not having enough liquids would be useful.

"It'd also be great if it could use these dehydration tests, along with heart rate and data from previous long runs, to inform your nutrition strategy, letting you know the optimum times to take gels or energy products and water and sending you reminders on long runs to maximise performance.

"How a watch is going to test for dehydration, I'm not sure – maybe through body temperature or a series of questions that allow it to make an educated guess, let's leave that bit up to the experts."

The Runner's View: Building the dream running watch

Steve Way, elite ultramarathon runner, Garmin ambassador (Twitter: @marigold_bac | steveway.co.uk)

"I'm really disorganised and never keep track of my watches battery life. I'm even worse with my Garmin 935 as it lasts so long I forget all about it....until I need to go on a really long run and I haven't charged it!I'd love some sort of wireless charging that can do it from a small distance away so when I'm wearing it in bed at night it just magically charges!"

Justin Brochocki, Runner Beans cofounder (Instagram: @justin_runner)

"I'd love to have a something that could tell me relative pace when running up steep hills. If I go for a tempo or interval run and hit a decent hill, I know I can't go as fast, but would love for the watch to be able to advise the pace I should be going. For example, I target a 3.30min per km tempo pace, but up a steep hill (depending on gradient) the right pace might be 3.50.

We know that watches can work out gradients, so if they could help a runner mid run with some smarts like that, it would be awesome."

Kieran Alger, manvmiles.com (Instagram: @manvmiles)

"The next big thing I'd love to see is a watch that's smart enough to know what training session I should do next, based on my goals, and how I performed on my most recent session. This kind of adaptive training plan. I'd love the watch to read all of my data and recommend the best training approach, with real-time flexibility for example, if my heart rate suggests I'm fatigued.

"Finally, the Alan Partridge in me would also like a watch that could record voice memos. I'm constantly having moments of genius while I'm in the middle of my long run, only to be forgotten once I get home. Running is a brilliant way to break the mental blocks around certain problems and having a way to easily capture your clever solutions, or just remember that you need to buy more anti chafe would be amazing."


The Runner's View: Building the dream running watch

Marathon Marcus, Asics FrontRunner (Instagram: @themarathonmarcus | themarathonmarcus.wordpress.com)

"For a runner like myself, sometimes more isn't always best. For a running watch the simplest formats for me personally are the best. I think a lot of the features are unnecessary for a few of the brands. For me the stop start, tracking miles, intervals, heart rate etc is important. Whereas steps taken or stairs climbed doesn't add anything extra of value. I know it may be unpopular but unless it's for health etc. Then I'm for it."


Kerry Mccarthy, Commissioning editor, runnersworld.com (Twitter: @rwkerry, Instagram: @kerryjmccarthy)

"In an age where tech brands are producing smaller and lighter devices with more and more bells and whistles, they can sometimes forget that covering the bases efficiently is just as important.I've been testing GPs sports watches for 10 years (i.e almost the whole lifespan of the genre) and I've yet to find a brand or model that can truly provide a 100% reliable GPS function - both fo accuracy and connection speed and reliability. Nobody has worked out how to solve the problem of lost signal in built-up areas or to provide instant satellite lock every single time. I would pay big money for a watch that guaranteed this.

Keep running: Join the Wareable Run Club on Strava

"My futuristic wish would be a trining watch that periodically projected a large hologram of your stats into the air about 20 feet in front of you - like a realtime bat signal - so you could see where you're at without having to squint at a screen and scroll through data fields on the run. Especially useful for those, like me, who don't run with earphones and thus can't use audio trainers."

Dr Andrew Murray, Merrell brand ambassador, ultra-endurance runner, Sports Medicine Consultant University of Edinburgh (Twitter: @docandrewmurray)

"A decent battery life would be great. A load of the watches shut down after 8 hours of running! What I'd love in the future is a watch that can take really decent photos. It would save me having to carry a phone."

Nick Hardy, Saucony UK technical representative (Twitter: @sauconyNSC)

"My one feature would be that it would untie my shoe laces for me. When I've had a hard run if I have to bend down and untie my laces I fear I won't get back up! When saving my run on my watch if that sent a signal to something on my Saucony's to untie them then that would save a lot of worry about being able to stand back up.

"As a Tech rep I travel a lot and when on the road it's often hard to find a route that's the correct amount of time that your training plan says. If the watch had a link to my Uber account and when I finished and saved my run more than a mile from the start it would call an Uber to come and get me."



What do you think?

Connect with Facebook, Twitter, or just enter your email to sign in and comment.