Do Elite Runners Use Running Watches? (What Do They Use?)

If you want to improve on something, do what the best in the world do. So that’s exactly what I did. I wanted to know if elite runners rely on running watches to help their training and performance. Here’s what I found:

Most elite long-distance runners use watches in races and training sessions to monitor important metrics such as pace, splits, and heart rate and implement their race strategies. Short-distance runners, on the other hand, usually don’t wear a running watch during races. 

Ahead, we will dive more into what kind of runners benefits most from running watches and the advantages and disadvantages of using running watches in your runs. We will also look at the actual watch that some of my favorite runners wear. If you’re interested in these topics, keep reading cause this article is packed with information.

Do Elite Athletes Wear GPS Watches?

Track athletes or short distance runners usually don’t use a GPS watch in competitions because they only run for a short amount of time and it’s usually a sprint (or close to a sprint) all throughout. They don’t need to watch their pace or their heart rate because they’ll just give it their all and try to be ahead of the guy next to them.

Some use them in training to measure splits and heart rate during repeats and intervals unless a coach is present to monitor that for them.

On the other hand, elite long-distance runners almost always wear a GPS watch during races and training. It allows them to maintain their pace, watch their heart rate, and follow a game plan that is important for endurance events.

Most of these races go on for at least 2-3 hours (marathon) and can last up to multiple days (like Moab 240). In which case, having a running watch that tells you a lot about how well you’re running is a huge advantage. In fact, I’d even consider it essential if you want to do good on those events.

By the way, if you’re looking for a running watch that’ll give you a great bang for your buck, check out the Coros Pace 2. It’s light and packed with the running essentials at an affordable price. You can check the price on Amazon.

Is It Allowed To Use GPS Watches On Marathons?

Wearing a GPS watch is important for the implementation of the strategy during a marathon race. Other than this, wearing a GPS watch doesn’t have any other advantages in terms of performance enhancement over someone who doesn’t wear a GPS watch. Therefore, wearing one during a marathon shouldn’t be a problem.

According to’s book of rules, heart rate trackers and speed monitors aren’t considered assistance and are, therefore, allowed as long as they’re not used to communicate with any other person.

My suggestion? Just wear one. Sure, it’s cool if you know yourself so much that you can give a rough estimate of your pace based on how you feel, but any serious athlete knows the “feel” and the actual pace aren’t always the same every day.

The Advantages Of Using A Running Watch

There are a lot of advantages to using a running watch both in training and in the actual race. But it’s more beneficial for long-distance runners than short-distance runners.

It Keeps Track of Your Overall Performance

All watches have ecosystems or apps that collect the data of your performance.

Having data allows you to see and compare your performance for all your runs. That way you can remove the guesswork when building the next block of training.

You Can Use It To Improve Your Running Gait

Running watches show important running dynamics such as cadence and stride length. By looking at those data together with your performance, you can make tweaks in your runs so you can find the perfect running dynamics for you.

Assists In The Implementation Of Your Gameplan

The best long-distance runners in the world usually know what time they’d finish the race before they even run it. They do that by implementing a race strategy that they develop in training.

Having a running watch will allow them to follow that strategy by maintaining a pace or a certain heart rate.

The Disadvantages Of Using A Running Watch

Although these are very minor disadvantages, it’s still worth looking at some of the reasons running watches affect performance.

Running Watches Could Lead You To Follow A Wrong Data

Though modern running watches are usually good at tracking distance and performance, they aren’t always perfect. Sometimes they can give you wrong data that could lead you to react and throw you off your game plan.

Examples of this are:

  • Wearing your watch too tight or too loose could affect the accuracy of the heart rate monitor
  • Running in the woods, tunnel, or high rise buildings could cause some inaccuracy in distance tracking

Running watches are getting better and better at providing accurate data, but if you notice something weird in your data, it could be one of these two things.

Anyway, I made an article about how tight you should wear your running watch. You can check it out here.

I also explained how the woods and buildings affect the accuracy of your watch in another article. If you’re interested in that, you can also check it out.

Being Too Focused On The ‘Metrics’ Rather Than The Run Can Throw You Off

Being relaxed, focused, and calm is very important in your running performance. But a lot of runners, especially the new ones, are too focused on the metrics that they get thrown off their flow.

I’ve experienced this when I was told to stick to a pace. I’d look at my watch every 1-2 mins to make sure I’m still on the same pace. And when I’m off my pace for just a few seconds I’d react immediately.

The result? I was too distracted from running and my heart rate was up all the time.

Later I learned that if I just look at my watch once every mile or two and focus more on the run and how I feel, I have better control of my heart rate and I enjoy running more.

What Watches Do Elite Runners Wear?

Not that the watch that these athletes wear could change from time to time, but at a point, they were seen using these watches in their training.

Eliud Kipchoge

Eliud Kipchoge is the first and only sub-2-hour marathoner. He is sponsored by Coros and wears only Coros watches.

In fact, there is an Eliud Kipchoge edition of the Coros Pace 2. It is the lightest GPS watch as of the moment and it’s one of the more affordable watches in the market. You can check the price on Amazon.

Courtney Dauwalter

Courtney Dauwalter is a trail runner. Not just a trail runner, she is arguably the best trail runner on the planet. In 2017, she finished a 240-mile race in 2 days and 9 hours and 59 mins, giving her more than a 10-hour lead over the second placer.

According to one interview, Courtney uses the Suunto 9—which is popular in the trail running community—in tracking all her runs.

Sir Mo Farah

Mo Farah is a 2012 and 2016 Olympic gold medalist and is considered the most successful British track athlete in modern Olympic games history.

In one of his pictures, he was seen wearing what looks like a Garmin Forerunner.

The Forerunners are one of Garmin’s best running watches. The latest right now is the Garmin Forerunner 945 which features a full-colored map, standalone music, and on-wrist payments. You can check the price on Amazon.

Should I Wear A Running Watch?

When looking at the photos of some elite runners, you may have noticed that some of them still aren’t wearing a GPS watch. You may be thinking that if they aren’t wearing one, maybe I shouldn’t wear one. But you’re missing out on something big here.

In this modern day and age, we are given tools to take the guesswork out of our performance and training. Using them will help you become a better athlete overall.

So if you’re still thinking about whether you should use a running watch or not, I highly recommend that you do. It brings lots of value to the table and shows you important performance metrics that used to be inaccessible to regular individuals.

Nicho Mauricio

Running wasn't always my favorite sport. I was a CrossFit athlete and I loved every bit of it. But since the pandemic began, I was forced to stay away from the gym and train at home instead. Things got boring. That's when I decided to trail run with my friends. I instantly got hooked. So I started training and researching all things running. As a beginner, I want to buy only the best running gear and do only the best practices. This blog is where I share what I've learned in my journey and my experiences as a runner.

Recent Posts