Before I did our Apple Watch Ultra review, I used to alternate between my Garmin Fenix 7 or my Garmin Forerunner 955 for tracking my training runs (I’d often forget to charge them, so I’d take out whichever had more battery) and my Apple Watch 7 during the rest of the day.
I never loved or trusted the Apple Watch 7 on my run, hence the Garmin, but as someone who quickly became addicted to closing those damned rings, I’d swap back to the Apple Watch once I got back from my run. That is, until now.
I really believe that the Apple Watch Ultra was designed for runners like me. I run at least five mornings a week; I walk the dog for two hours a day; and I do the odd Peloton or strength training class in between.
I’m by no means an athlete — you won’t find me training for an ultramarathon or going out on multi-day adventures anytime soon, and if I do go out on a longer hike, I’ll stick to the beaten track (sorry folks, I think I skipped the map reading, orientation PE lesson at school).
I also use an iPhone, have an iPad for reading or watching Netflix on the move, and a Peloton Bike+, which syncs seamlessly with the Apple Watch, so I can use it as a heart rate monitor while spinning (you simply hold your Apple Watch up the Bike’s camera when starting a class — read more about how to use your Apple Watch as a heart rate monitor on Peloton here).
I ditched my Garmin for the Apple Watch Ultra...
After doing a few test runs with the Apple Watch Ultra and my trusty Garmin Fenix 7 on my wrist, I soon realized that the GPS was pretty spot on — both gave me very similar results. I even drilled down into the data after a 12 x 400m repeat session on the track to compare the splits between two watches. You can see the data below.
Once I’d convinced my control-freak mind that the two watches were giving me similar readings. I swapped my Garmin Fenix 7 out for the Ultra, wearing it for all my activities for the week. And I was surprised to find that I didn’t miss my Garmin all that much.
One of the main reasons I never loved running with my Apple Watch 7 was the lack of physical buttons. I found trying to swipe the touchscreen, or manually press the side button and digital crown at the same time impossible with sweaty fingers, or when wearing running gloves. The Action Button solves this problem — you can pause an activity by holding the Action Button and either the side button or the crown. (Here’s more on how you can use the Action Button on the Apple Watch Ultra).
I also didn’t miss having to sync my Garmin running data to Strava, then from Strava to Apple, in order for the data to affect the status of my rings. Garmin won’t share calorie data with Apple, so a run on one of the best Garmin watches won’t close the Move ring on one of the best Apple watches.
Despite all my running friends commenting on how big the Apple Watch Ultra was, with its 49mm screen, I soon got used to it and loved how bright and clear the screen was, even in direct sunlight. I even accepted the battery life — as I noted in my intro, I frequently forget to charge my Garmin, so even with a much longer battery life, I’d find myself ready to go for a run, then sit in the kitchen waiting for my watch to get enough charge.
With the Apple Watch, I’m almost in sync with taking it off each night and charging it alongside my iPhone. Other, more organized runners, will probably disagree with this point, however.
Apple Watch vs Garmin: The one thing I missed
So what’s the one thing I did miss? The recovery data. I’m a sucker for Garmin’s training data — things like the morning report, and the recovery countdown forces me to take things easy on days where I really need more rest.
Like most runners, I have a tendency to overtrain, and not take my easy days all that easy, and while I’m pretty good at listening to my body, I’ll often get swept up in a Cody Rigsby Peloton ride, forgetting it’s meant to be active recovery.
I’m also not sure I’d trust the Apple Watch Ultra for my next marathon. I wonder whether 12 hours, or even 15/16 hours in low-power mode, would be enough to get to the start, keep the watch connected to GPS for 20 minutes or so on the start line, then track my run for four hours, and still leave me with enough juice to have a working watch for the post-run celebrations in the pub. I'll be testing this soon though, so watch this space.
Overall, I’ve been surprised by how little I’ve missed my beloved Fenix 7. I’m sure it's not been relegated to my bedside cabinet forever, but kudos to Apple for creating an Apple Watch that feels like it’s designed for me.