Crazy Garmin tall building freak-out weirdness

Yesterday evening I took part in the Great City Race 5k around the streets of the City of London. I finished in just over 30 minutes, somewhere in the middle of the 6,000 people taking part. It's a corporate challenge where the proceeds go to the visually impaired so I was wearing a shirt with the logo of my little services company proudly displayed on it alongside those of mega-corps, big banks and insurance companies. Lots of fun and a great opportunity to relax both during the race and afterwards in the pub with some really hard working colleagues.

That's the review over. The most interesting thing was the data collected by my Garmin. In fact, two Garmins. Now, I ran the whole distance alongside a work mate and fellow C25K graduate who also happens to have exactly the same model of Garmin watch, the 610. The tall buildings of The City make it really difficult to get a good signal and at one point the route takes in a road tunnel that results in signal loss for about 15 seconds or so.

The result? Crossing the line together, one Garmin showed 4.86km and the other 5.23! Totally unreliable and of course trying to pace the run 'by the watch' was impossible. Looking at my route data after the run it appears as if I'm The Hulk after a night on the beer, wandering all over the place and crashing through buildings!

So, it's clear. When running in The City, your investment in your GPS watch may go up or down and past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.......

15 Replies

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  • Great time and well done. I'm glad you mentioned this. We went for a a walk round there a couple of months ago. It was a loop walk taking in some of the cities architecture. My Garmin was dropping out all over the place, I calculated the walk out on a route planner afterwards and it was 10km, my Garmin had it at just over 6km, also it said I was walking at a 5.23km pace for a lot of the time. I don't think I have ever been that fast under my own steam in my life.

  • Rob, well done for doing the run and a nice time. Must be great running with 6000 people.

    I did a 7k trail run on sunday, which I'm told really was 7k. Either i missed a chunk or garmin got lost under all the trees. Garmin thought I'd done 6.5K.

    Problem is I've found Garmin to be very reliable so far. It clocks my lake runs very well. Parkrun is always spot on and even my 10k run finishes within a few metres every time. From the comments here it seems that Garmin might be badly affected by trees/buildings. I think it says something along those lines on the box, but it seems far worse that I expected. Anyone else?

  • Ha ha Rob !

    That bit made laugh about the Hulk :-)

    I have trouble sometimes in the woods, mine doesn't want to play.

    Well done on your run, they sound really good these City 5ks xxx

  • Actually they're pretty hard work. I always feel obliged to run as quick as I can over 5k, unlike longer distances where I relax and take in the scenery. There's also peer pressure from my colleagues. It's not intentional, but I feel like I have to go all out just because they're there.

  • Ah yes , I can totally understand that , very true xxx

  • One other thing, the run was my first "eventaversary". The same event 12 months ago was my very first appearance running with anyone other than myself and I remember being extremely nervous. Yesterday I just turned up, pulled on my running gear and hit the road. It's just another of those "look what C25K can do for you" moments.

    Have I just invented a new word?

  • D'ya know , I think you have !

    Hmm I like that - " Eventaversary " It will definitely catch on that one :-)

    I think I remember your report from last year on here . Was it the one Paula Radcliffe ran in ? xxx

  • Oh yes. Jonathan Edwards of triple jump,world record fame was there yesterday. I can't find his time on the results page......

  • Ah , he was at the Great Manchester Run n'all

    I left him for dust , Rob :-D xxx

  • I never doubted it for a second.

  • Oh Rob I wish I'd known you were running. I was stopping over last night & was going to come out & cheer folks on but I didn't know who to shout for!

    So as a retrospective boost & in positive shouty tones.

    "C'mon Rob, great job". "Yay, wooooo etc" ☺

  • Thank you! I can always use a good Wooooo!

  • So it was your fault that half the roads were blocked off on tube-strike day was it!? ;-)

    I saw the cordon and was about to be a bit cross about the timing of it all, but then I saw some people in running vests so I had to forgive you!

    My Garmin (410) is also quite suspect under tree-cover. I've not tried running around tall buildings but I expect that would be worse - buildings reflect radio signals as well as just absorbing them. I have found that the GPS on my phone is less affected by tree cover than my watch, so I sometimes run Garmin Fit app on my phone if I want to log a run where I think the watch will not be very good. Unfortunately I can't get my phone to talk to the HRM at the moment.

  • Yes, I confess, the carnage on the roads was down to me and nothing at all to do with any kind of dispute between TFL and the unions. Frankly, they should each have entered a team with the winner getting the spoils.....

  • Sounds great, well done. I can't imaging running with 6000 people :)

    I can confirm the only time I have had an issue with my Garmin was in London. It took nearly 20 minutes to latch onto the satellites. Once it had a signal it was fine but it was a real pain. The thing is, I wouldn't have said I was in an area with a high density of tall buildings. For the first 5 minutes I was around Victoria but then I was looping around St James Park. Odd!!!!