Couch to 5K
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Experience with the Garmin 610?

Hi all, I have a vivoactive watch and it is does many things well .... hardly any of which it turns out I actually use.

Looking around (after Amazon kindly let me return it after a few months and an unexpected cash birthday gift) and I have decided the features I would really like are really just around running. Ideally:

 - a virtual partner (two little stick figures, one running at the ideal pace, and one representing me either in front or behind)

 - a virtual racer (same two little stick figures but one is running a previous run)

 - (running) cadence

 - GPS

 - custom training plans

 - heart rate monitor

Now, looking around there are very nice watches like the fr630 that do this bot they are close to £300! I noticed the old fr610 which had all of these features was only £121 on Amazon + foot pod for ~£40 (

Sure, you don't get funky whizzy cool things like activity tracking, smart phone notifications or colour and it is 5 years old, but in terms of black and white, cold hard facts, it pretty much does everything I want. Needing a foot pod for cadence is a bit of a pain, but a bit of superglue, velcro and defacing my fantastic vibrams should sort that out.

I haven't found a single bad review of the fr610 other than hardware issues to do with corrosion etc. that have been manufactured away by now.

I am currently tossing up between the fr620+HRM (which only has virtual pacer), the fr610 and the fr235 (simply because it is the new kid on the block and my colleague highly recommended it).

I am all a-dither! 

On the one hand, it does what I want and is ~180 all in, on the other it is 5 years old....

So what do you think? (Yeah, I really can't make up my mind on this) - any experiences one way or the other?

Any and all (polite and constructive ;-)) comments welcome.

P.S. In a previous comment I said I wouldn't consider a HR chest strap - I would still prefer not to have one, rather use the rhythm scosche+ 

P.P.S. and yes, I have read DC Rain Maker _to death_ ( and still can't decide!

10 Replies

Rignold - are you still happy with your Suunto Ambit 3?


Yes very happy with the Suunto, mainly for the things that it does well that the Garmin did not. That said my requirements are somewhat different to yours and I daresay your watch will not be subjected to quite teh same mistreatment my Garmin had to put up with.

My thoughts on your purchase:

1.) the biggest drawback with older model Garmins is the tech support - updates on the website are obviously geared to the newer models and compatibility with older models often trails behind. I had this with my first Garmin, which was a 410. The watch itself worked a treat, but whenever they did website stuff it would be days/weeks or even once months that I could not upload stats, and the response from tech support was nada. This was very frustrating.

2.) Separate footpod is a right PITA. I don't mind the heart monitir strap as you just get in the routine of putting it on while dressing and then fuhgeddaboutit. Any other things that have to be strapped, clipped or otherwise attached to your person are a Chiz and a Swizz and a Swindle as any fule kno, and are guaranteed to get lost, drop off frequently requiring you to stop and reattach, fail to sync, require adjustment etc. Personally I am never too bothered about cadence and/or with a few months experience you get pretty good at gauging it by feel tbh. But chaqu'un a son gout.

3.) I have come to the conclusion with sport watches that they are not a once-in-a-lifetime purchase. I think that for a regular user, you should be thinking of a shelf life of a couple of years or so before replacing. They break, they develop weird problems, they stop uploading reliably etc. rather like mobile phones I wonder if this is built-in obsolescence. Eitehr way, I have come to just accept this as being the way of things rather than getting vexed by it, and use that to inform my budget for a new watch. I really hankered after the Suunto Kailash this time round, which has every bell and whistle known to runner and man and is also a very attractive watch in its own right. However it has a pricetag of £5-600 and Im not paying that for something that may get smashed or just wear out in a couple of years.

The flipside to this is that most of the "Serious" runners, cyclists etc tend to upgarde their watches to the newest model every year or two. Consequently you can always buy 'last year's model' pretty cheaply on Ebay. This is where I buy mine now and shall continue to do so. I would personally suggest buying the most recent model with the features you want secondhand.


Thanks - wise (and some utterly bewildering :-)) words as ever.

The one killer feature which I expect I would use more than any other is the virtual pacer and racer as each run loops round the exact same track so comparisons would be quite motivating.

And yes, to be blunt, I am looking at building up to 4 5Ks a week in a month or two which is a drop in the ocean for this hardware.

However, soon I shall consume that ocean :-).

Thanks Rignold.

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Just for posterity, I decided to trial the Garmin FR235.

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Ooh, let us know how you get on.  I have promised myself  the 230 as my reward if I run through this year and Christmas.   I chose 230 over 235 because I'm not sure about the wrist HR.  The rest of it looks so nice :-)! 


Apologies - replied in the wrong box - see my next reply please :-)


I went for a 5K run (still so chuffed I can say that :-)) with it, and it was ... interesting.

Sitting on the couch thinking about the requirements I had for a watch I decided I needed lots of things, particularly virtual runner, virtual pacer and heart beat.

On the run I went through the same process, thinking what do I need, and what would I actually use? The answers were very different ;-). I asked myself, 'what could I change if I had the information from virtual pacer etc.' and the answer was nothing - about the only thing I could realistically do would be the slow down a bit. In other words, the data I need _on the run_ is actually pretty simple and provided brilliantly by just about any watch: cadence, average lap pace, distance etc. 

However, _post run_, the more data the better!

So, what am I rambling on about? I think this watch is just about perfect for me. It doesn't have virtual pacer, virtual runner, number of fibres being broken in your leg muscle :-), but it does have all of the 'effective' data points during the run and a whole bunch more for post-run in Garmin Connect.

I don't have another source for heart beat but looking at the profile over the run it seems consistent with how I felt, cadence, elevation and speed. I can't confirm it is correct as I have no other comparison but I can say it doesn't look wrong.

Do I still lie in bed awake thinking, 'yeah, but the 610 is much cheaper and has X, the fenix 2 is cheaper and has A - Z(!), the Ambit 3 has ...' etc. but that is much more to do with my personality than the watch. 'Grass is always greener' doesn't apply to me because I jump the fence so often the grass doesn't get a chance to grow :-).

In summary, yes, I highly recommend this watch for running. The activity tracker, 24/7hr, smart phone notifications etc. are all nice but in reality I sit at my desk online  and nobody rings me on the phone preferring Skype. From what I see they work well.

If I wanted a pure running watch without the activity tracking etc. and oHRM, then maybe the 620 would be a great deal? 

Necessary features I actually use (which either the 620 for 23x provides):

 - GPS, cadence, lap pace, distance etc. etc.

 - training programs - creating workouts on GC and downloading to the watch to have the watch 'talk' me through them step by step

 - heart rate (zone) monitoring

 - 'Finish time' - you tell it the distance and it shows you your pace etc. _and_ the estimated time remaining

I can see that when I progress more I will start using many more of the features, and for what I do know it is absolutely great.

If the pricing isn't an issue then I would get the FR235 as I can see how the 24/7 HRM would be useful for monitoring recovery rates. You have the option of pairing with a heart rate strap if you need to as well.


P.S. is highly recommended


Wow, that is very helpful, thanks!  I may shift toward the 235.  I actually had settled on the 230 because DC Rainmaker had some reservations about Garmin's own wrist HR technology!

By the time I make my goal, I'm sure the kinks will be worked out.  In any case, it is many km away.  For now I'm plugging along with a 15 that I got on a super offer.  I thought I would miss the workouts I had been programming into an app in my phone, but I have found it to be enough.  The main gripe I've had is that I can only see two data points on a single screen. 

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I posted links to a couple of runs that I did with the fr235 further up this page - note Chrome has a weird rendering issue with my cadence on the long run(!) - it is fine in Safari.


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