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by Jiří {x2} Činčura

Charging Garmin Forerunner while on a long (ultra) run/race

14 Sep 2013 GPS, Garmin, Running

I like running and I found myself gradually transitioning into running longer pieces and mainly on trails. I’m not fast nor is my endurance spectacular. But I still like moving through nature and mountains using just my legs. I don’t care how fast (or in my case slow). I enjoy the movement. But I’m also developer and I like data.

Because I did lately some races and because on training runs I’m using Garmin Forerunner (410 currently) to get some data I wanted to use it also during a race. I had zero experience with ultras so it was not about freak out about my pace or anything like that. It was simply to have my race recorded.

I first tried charging Garmin while it was running (recording). That was easy. I did it while driving charging it from my laptop. :) Garmin is happily running while charging. Check. Only problem is that the “charging screen” is engaged and you cannot dismiss it (at least I don’t a way to do it) so you don’t have your data on screen - only battery level and clock. For me - and I think also for ultras in general - the clock is enough to know how you are doing. Mostly.

Next step was to find a way how to perform the charging while running. I bought myself a $2 “Emerency USB Charger” on eBay. It’s basically casing for two AA batteries with USB port. You can plug whatever you want and charge it. It has enough juice to start charging my iPhone 5, by the way. It looks like this:

USB AA Charger

So I had the juice in a compact packaging. Now I needed to somehow put it into work while running.

When the SJ Ultra Vest from Ultimate Direction came out I knew I want it. I cannot run with bottles in hands (really, it’s not in my blood) and though reservoirs with hoses are fine, the idea of bottles in front was no brainer for me. The west has small pockets on both sides of bottle pockets (check the images on the Ultimate Direction site). Good for a gel in a tube or some trash papers or … yes the charger. It fits there nicely and stays there.

When racing I put the cable to the other small pocket on same side. When the Garmin is starting to complain about juice I plug it in, turn the charger on and clip it on watch. The then watch stays strapped on the vest and charges, while the rest of the cable is stashed into the same pocket. My Forerunner 410 lasts about 8 hours and chargers in under 3 using this charger. That gives me about 18-19 hours with one charge (I suppose you start fully charged ;)). Normal (not extra cheap, not extra expensive) batteries are able to charge it about 1,5 times.

Some numbers from real world experience. I charged once on a ~16 hours finish and there was about 10% left at the end. I charged twice (or actually once and then up to the point when Garmin beeped (as if you unplug the charger) because there’s was not enough juice coming) in ~26 hours finish. I don’t know how much there was left, but I was not even complaining about low battery.

Run long.