I review running watches for a living — here’s the one I’ve picked for the London Marathon

a photo of a woman looking at her running watch, holding a bottle of water
(Image credit: Getty/Carrastock)

As a fitness editor, I sweat-test some of the best running watches for a living, so know what I’m looking for when it comes to gadgets designed to be worn on the go. From the best Garmins, to the new, huge, Apple Watch Ultra, I’ve tested some of the most popular watches on the market, making it tricky to choose what to wear on my wrist for my fifth marathon — the TCS London Marathon, this weekend. 

My watch of choice? The new Garmin Forerunner 965 — despite only having the watch on my wrist for a few weeks, this bright, beautiful Forerunner has become my go-to and the watch I trust to pace me around 26.2 miles this weekend. Read on to find out why I picked this over Apple or any of the other running watches on the market. 

Keen to learn more about the watch? Read my Garmin Forerunner 965 review here, and check out the differences between the newer and older Forerunner in my Forerunner 955 vs Forerunner 965 face-off. 

Garmin Forerunner 965:

Garmin Forerunner 965: $599 @ Garmin
The Garmin Forerunner 965 is Garmin's top-tier Forerunner, which has a bright, beautiful 1.4-inch AMOLED  touchscreen, and a new titanium bezel to give it a premium feel both on and off the run.

Here’s why I’ve picked Garmin over Apple for my next marathon 

When it comes to race day, I want to have complete confidence in my running watch — sure, it’s going to tell me I’ve reached the mile markers sooner than I actually have, and it’s going to struggle in the city around the skyscrapers, but I want to be sure it’s as accurate as possible as I try and pace myself to a PR. Underneath, the Garmin Forerunner 965 is the same as the Forerunner 955, but both watches have one huge advantage over the Apple Watch, and that’s how easy it is to physically lap the watch. 

The lap button

Like most of the best Garmin watches, the Forerunner 965 has five buttons — three on the left, and two on the right, which allow you to navigate around the watch. It also has a touchscreen, but in my experience, touchscreens and sweaty fingers don’t mix, so I’ve disabled it for all sports modes. 

If you press the bottom right back button on a Garmin while in running mode, it automatically creates a lap. During a race, I lap my watch at every mile mark, so I can be sure of my pace for the last mile. Unless you follow the racing line, which is usually impossible at most major marathons, you’re likely to run further than the marathon distance, so your watch is likely to buzz before you actually hit the mark, making it tricky to work out your actual pace. 

While you can use the Action Button to lap on the Apple Watch Ultra, it’s harder to do so on the likes of the Apple Watch Series 8 or Apple Watch SE.  

home screen on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

The battery life

Another absolute must for my running watch on race day is decent battery life. I need to leave my house at 6 am to make it to the start line, so I need a watch that’ll last the entire day, with (hopefully) the better part of four hours in GPS mode. 

The Forerunner 965 lasts 31 hours in GPS mode without music and 8.5 hours in GPS mode with music. I don’t plan on listening to music from my watch, but even if I did, the battery on the Garmin should last longer than I need on the day. 

The clear, bright screen

So why the Forerunner 965 over other Garmin watches? The real reason is the beautiful, bright screen. The Forerunner 965 has an AMOLED screen, the same as that seen in the Epix 2 and the Forerunner 265. The AMOLED screen has a resolution of 454 x 454 pixels; it's extremely bright and easy to see in all weather conditions. The screen is also bigger than that on the Forerunner 265, Forerunner 955, and Fenix 7S — at 1.4 inches, I’m not going to struggle to see it on my wrist, no matter how tired I may be! 

heart rate chart on the Garmin Forerunner 965

(Image credit: Future)

The LiveTrack functionality

Last, but not least, another reason I’ve opted for the Forerunner 965 is Garmin’s LiveTrack feature. On marathon day, my race bib will have a chip in that will alert friends and family members when I cross the 5K, 10K, 15K marks, and so on. That said, the corresponding app nearly always crashes on the day, as thousands of people from all over the world log on (here’s how to track runners at the London Marathon). 

LiveTrack allows me to send my real-time location to my friends and family members via a text message, meaning they’ll have another way of seeing exactly where I am on the course and being in the right spot in time to cheer me on. There’s no limit to how many people can view a LiveTrack map, and you can send the link to up to 50 people!

Here’s hoping my trusty Forerunner gets me to the finish line with a shiny new PR — I’ll be writing a follow-up on Monday. Wish me luck!

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Jane McGuire
Fitness editor

Jane McGuire is Tom's Guide's Fitness editor, which means she looks after everything fitness related - from running gear to yoga mats. An avid runner, Jane has tested and reviewed fitness products for the past five years, so knows what to look for when finding a good running watch or a pair of shorts with pockets big enough for your smartphone. When she's not pounding the pavements, you'll find Jane striding round the Surrey Hills, taking far too many photos of her puppy.