Garmin settings and tips for race day!

A GPS watch is a useful tool for many runners in both training and on race day. This is not another post about the merits of running by feel, or running “naked” as some people call it. For the duration let’s just all raise our hands and say “My name is “insert your name”, and I am addicted to knowing my instantaneous and mile average pace at all times!” 😉 AKA get on the garmin train!

I wanted to write a quick post about some settings that you may want to think about for race day, based on my personal experience. I’d love to hear how you set up your watch for races and if you have any good tips or gps race stories of your own.

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On Garmin watches this is a feature which stops the watch when it detects that the user has stopped or gone below a set speed. This is super useful when you don’t want to worry about stopping and restarting your watch when you have to stop at a light for example….not so useful when you are in the middle of a marathon and loose signal and see the words “autopaused” “autoresumed””autopaused”….well you get the idea…accompanied by a persistent bleeping noise. True story. This very thing happened to me last year at the Chicago Marathon. I think partially due to the tall buildings and partially because of the number of people I was signal jammed! (maybe some tech person can tell me if this is a good theory). Anyhoo….it was kinda annoying and distressing and led to me covering my watch with an armwarmer because I couldn’t bear to look at the traitor of a device! What I should have done leads me to the next tip…


This one is a little bit of personal preference, I personally like to leave autolap set to one mile. That means that the lap pace is also your current mile pace. You should be aware here that your mileage may not be totally lined up to the mile markers on the course (especially if you’ve been ducking and weaving around people). Some people prefer to hit the lap key manually at the mile markers, this works too….as long as you remember to do it each mile.  So remember….the lap key is your friend….if the above kind of tragedy or similar befalls you. Don’t panic. Just hit the lap key, and you have basically erased the craziness and started your averaging over. If you want to get back to the autolapping that lines up with the mile markers just hit it again at the next mile marker. I have used this technique to make sure my pace is dialled in after the speedy first half of the first mile or after a significant hill on a hilly course. Don’t be afraid to break a mile up into segments.

Erase your data:

At some point your garmin will be full of runs… don’t want this memory jam to happen half way through a race….I read this race report where exactly that happened. I now regularly clear the data from my watch.

Charge your watch:

This one might sound silly…but make sure you are fully charged…no one wants to see that “Low Battery” message….



Have a back up plan. I personally like to have a pace tattoo like this one, to give me an easy reference check to both the total time on my watch (another reason to turn off that silly Autopause!) or the course clocks to make sure I know where I am at relative to that all important finish line clock….especially when you usually end up running a little further than 26.2 miles in a marathon.

So what did I miss? Any different settings you like for race day? Or funny GPS related stories – I personally always smile when all the bleeping and beeping starts around the mile markers 😉



4 thoughts on “Garmin settings and tips for race day!

  1. Great tips! I am running Chicago for the first time this year and was wondering if I should shut the autolap off or just manually push the button when needed. Thank you for helping me solve that issue! Would love to read a post about any tips for Chicago first-timers in terms of logistics (transportation, family meet ups, course, etc.). This is my first 26.2, so that on top of being involved in such a huge race is a little intimidating.

  2. This was actually on my mind last Sunday on my 16 mi run.

    I see no reason for autopause other than delusion.The race clock doesn’t stop when you pause to retie your shoe or to grab a drink of water, so neither should your Garmin. This way when you look back at your race pace times, you see a true time, not one assuming perfection.

    As for course markers vs Garmin: we need to always remember that course races are measured using the shortest point-to-point possible. Nearly everyone will run at least a few ft more than the race distance.

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