Serious and casual sprinters gearing up to take advantage of the cooling weather should want one motivating device in their corner: a running-focused sports watch. Unlike flagship smartwatches and fitness trackers, running watches zero in on hardcore training metrics, from displaying the pace you're sprinting at to suggesting recovery periods.
Naturally, runners look for wearable tech that doesn't distract with phone notifications. The ideal watch will build endurance, instead, by pushing sprinters to one-up their personal best times, just as a coach would. That's how one of the fastest men in the UAE describes his running watch.
Musa Khalfan, a Dubai-based Emirati athlete and founder of MK Barber Shop, holds over 46 medals in competitive track and field 100-metre and 200-metre sprints. Khalfan has been training with sports watches for four years, tagging them as immensely helpful.
"My sports watch helps me a lot when I have endurance training, where I have to split my times. I've improved in my training, even if my coach isn't around. As long as I have my watch with me, I'm ready to give my best," he said.
Which running features should I look for?
With a running watch on the wrist, "you can track your progress and improvement" over a period of time. Khalfan personally finds pace markers to be a useful metric for tracking performance. This is why GPS watches are often synonymous with running gadgets, as they're able to accurately record the distance and speed.
Khalfan added: "But, having proper recovery to continue to be prepared for the next run is equally important." These watches offer one-on-one guidance, for when you're ready to take off, or take a much-needed break.
You're still getting heart-rate monitoring, sleep tracking and other standard metrics, as well. Most running watches are also suitable for triathletes who need reliable navigation to swim, bike and run, without the hassle of carrying a smartphone in their pocket.
Other features that warrant consideration are the battery life of your device and any built-in storage for music to keep you company on long runs. Khalfan has had great luck with Garmin running watches and the Apple Watch. "These two are always going to be top for me, because they're always up to date. So far, nothing beats them," he added.
We've picked out the best-rated GPS watches for running below, paying close attention to user reviews on Amazon that recount their performance breakthroughs and experience during runs.
1. Best Overall: Coros Pace 2 Premium GPS Sport Watch
- Lightweight sports watch at 29 grams
- Tracks average pace, time elapsed, distance, effort pace and more running metrics
- Records training indoors even without GPS
- Long 30-hour battery life
- Water resistance in a depth of 50 metres
- The dial control can be toggled accidentally
While we await Garmin restock on Amazon, check out your next-best alternative - the Coros Pace 2. Weighing only 29 grams, this GPS sports watch doesn't feel bulky on the wrist, allowing sprinters to cut through the wind without discomfort. The Pace 2 supports both outdoor and indoor sprint tracking, and gives you customisable options to prioritise the metrics you want to see, be it effort pace, lap count, activity time, heart rate or the distance cleared. View your running fitness breakdown in detail on the app, which recommends pace zones to improve endurance, sprint, speed and more. It even predicts how well you can run an upcoming 5km, 10km or marathon, based on environmental conditions. With the GPS up and running, the battery is still going to last for up to 30 hours per charge. Five-star reviews confirm its lightweight form and accuracy in tracking performance, all of which come at a great price.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh74.14 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh52 and two years for Dh85.
2. Best for iOS Users: Apple Watch Ultra 2 (GPS + Cellular, 49mm)
- Rugged smartwatch built for athletes
- Advanced running metrics, from ground contact time to vertical oscillation
- 36 hours of battery life on normal usage
- View race route maps
- Water resistance in up to 100 metres
Designed with athletes in mind, the Apple Watch Ultra 2 is leagues ahead of the flagship smartwatch range, which is more suited for casual users. The latest Ultra 2 is rugged to boot, for endurance athletes, from the 49mm corrosion-resistant titanium case to the light and thin Trail Loop band. Runners get access to advanced metrics and views in the Workout App, and with the dual-frequency GPS, the watch calculates exact distance, pace and race route maps, even in dense urban environments. See what your stride length is like, along with ground contact time and vertical oscillation. If you're buckling up for a 5km, let the watch help you train for specific time goals. It also carries Apple's brightest display yet lest the strong sun deter you from checking on your progress. The same watch is excellent for swimming and outdoor adventures, all you need to do is swap out the bands. With cellular connectivity on the Ultra 2, there's no need to bring your smartphone along on runs, either.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh249.08 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh171 and two years for Dh282.
3. Best for Outdoor Runs: Polar Pacer Pro Advanced GPS Running Watch
- Uses four satellite navigation systems
- Polar fitness test for running
- Running power zones to pace intensity
- Personalised guidance on training strain and heart rate
- 35 hours of battery life
- Not as useful for indoor running
Another device that's comparable to Garmin is the Polar Pacer Pro, an all-rounder watch specifically made to improve your running stats. Beginners can start by finding out their personal fitness level with Polar's running test. It offers turn-by-turn guidance to runners, alerting them when they've overdone a lap to prevent injury. The Pacer Pro supports four navigation systems, powerful enough to draw metrics from all the uphills and downhills you may encounter on your outdoor run. Once you sleep it off, the watch shows how well your body has recovered. Happy reviewers also point out helpful running power zones, a clever feature that tells you the right intensity that's best for each segment of the run, as per your heart rate. Train on and off for up to 35 hours with full GPS and heart rate tracking enabled. Buyers also add that the Pacer Pro is far more accurate outdoors than on the treadmill. Others were able to successfully set up training plans for marathons with detailed start and stop times, and warnings for heart rate overload. It's also worth noting that Polar is well-known for its wearable heart rate monitors.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh71.38 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh52 and two years for Dh85.
4. Best Battery Life: Coros Apex 2 GPS Outdoor Watch
- Access free global offline maps at any time
- Same running metrics as the Coros Pace 2
- Build training programmes on the app
- 45 hours of battery life with GPS
- Easy to use
- Slightly heavier than Coros Pace 2
Meet Coros Apex 2, an outdoor sports watch that sits a cut above our best overall pick in terms of advanced features. For instance, the Apex 2 has an even more durable casing that bears temperatures as high as 50 degrees Celsius, and the GPS works offline when you find yourself in remote locations. The free global offline landscape and topographical maps can help you pinpoint exact coordinates, distance to destination, elevation profile and more. You're getting similar running metrics as the Coros Pace 2, from the effort pace to the race predictor. Build your own training plan on the app or the website, which will then sync with the watch. The Apex 2 also brings a battery boost of 45 hours of use with GPS turned on. Reviewers get up to 15 days of battery life per charge and love that the offline maps show topography in detail instead of a navigation line. Although it appears heavy, the watch only weighs 42 grams on the wrist.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh141.66 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh97 and two years for Dh160.
5. Best Budget: Polar Vantage M GPS Advanced Running and Multisport Watch
- Running index score for oxygen consumption
- Build running programmes
- 30-hour battery life
- Monitors training load
- Easy to set up
- GPS can take a while to initiate, per reviews
One of Polar's more affordable multisports and running watches, the Polar Vantage M offerings are basic and simple for the casual runner. It still comes with the training load pro for session-by-session monitoring of physical strain. The dedicated running programme is the best way to track your progress over time, and the running index score calculates the maximal oxygen consumption after every run. Reviewers recommend the Vantage M for amateur runners who want to get used to more complex tracking metrics in the future. They also like that they can customise the metrics to focus on, say, the heart rate zones to adjust their intensity at a glance. The watch is light and thin on the wrist, others add.
Bonus: Buy with 0% instalments and pay Dh51.25 for 12 months with select banks.
Warranty: Amazon offers a one-year extended warranty for Dh40 and two years for Dh66.
Our recommendations are independently chosen by Gulf News editors. If you decide to shop through links on our website, we may earn an affiliate commission, as we are part of Amazon Services LLC Associates Program.