Garmin has a feature that predicts your finish times for various race distances. How does this work? Can you trust Race Predictor’s accuracy? We try to explain all this and more.
What is the Garmin Race Predictor feature?
Race Predictor is a running feature that appears on some Garmin watches. It attempts to quantify your ideal race times based on your fitness level. In this way, it provides you with a goal to aim for. Predictions include 5k, 10k, half and full marathon race times.
This information can be displayed on the watch itself. For example, on the Forerunner 955, you can find it by navigating to the performance overview. The default screen here is Vo2Max. Press the down button twice to see the predicted times. Each of the four removal times is shown on a separate screen, along with a graph of how that has changed over the past four weeks.
The information can also be viewed in Garmin Connect. Just go to perfomance > race prediction. Here you can also see statistics for the last six months and one year. The procedure is identical on the web dashboard.
The obvious question is how did Garmin come up with these numbers?
The company doesn’t reveal too much information about the actual calculations. According to their documentation, they use personal information (like your age and gender) along with your Vo2Max estimate and recent exercise history to provide target times. The watch needs several weeks of training data to achieve these goals. The more exercise history data, the better. This is not a static number and will change over time.
Recent watches have what Garmin calls “enhanced race prediction.” Previously it was a simplified version of the function which is not as accurate as it only takes Vo2Max into account. With Vo2Max only, the watch will typically estimate much faster long-distance race times (unless you’re running high volume on some quick long runs). Now your training history is taken into account.
Which devices are compatible with Garmin Race Predictor?
Garmin does not publish a comprehensive list of watches that support the Race Predictor feature. But we checked out the individual specs on the Garmin website.
For the current Forerunner line (Forerunner 45 and later), all watches except the base Forerunner 45 have this feature. The latest generations of Fenix have this, as does the Epix and Enduro lines.
However, you won’t find Race Predictor on the Venu range, Vivomove, Vivoactive or Lily. The same applies to the fitness bands from Garmin. So you could say that the feature is reserved for Garmin’s higher-end sports watches and outdoor watches, rather than general wellness devices and fitness bands.
Can you trust the accuracy of Garmin’s predicted times?
The more you exercise, the more accurate these Garmin-predicted times will be. At least that’s the theory.
In reality, Garmin Race Predictor accuracy can vary quite a bit. For some people this is pretty close to the mark, for others it isn’t.
There are those who find that the numbers are very generous and that they cannot finish a race that quickly. Then there are those who find the characters underestimate their actual abilities. They belong more to the super-fast category.
Looking at the comments on the forums, it seems that there are more people who belong in the camp of overly optimistic race times. So don’t get discouraged by unachievable goals as you may need to be very well trained to achieve them.
Heat and altitude acclimatization may also have an impact. Unless you are fully adjusted to your environment and rested, you probably won’t be able to get anywhere near these ideal times. Diet, clothing, and even your playlist can affect your actual finish time on any given day!
Essential reading: Top Fitness Trackers and Health Gadgets
There are several things you can do to maximize Garmin Race Predictor accuracy. One of them is to go to your user profile and make sure your maximum heart rate value setting is correct. That’s because this information is used to determine your heart rate zones and estimate your Vo2max. It’s also a good idea to run with a chest heart rate strap so your heart rate zones are updated as your fitness improves.
If you have more than one Garmin watch or fitness tracker, make sure you have the Physio TrueUp feature enabled. This allows your device to sync your workout history across multiple devices. As mentioned above, newer watches also use a history of your exercise to come up with your predicted race times.
It’s important to remember that this isn’t hard science. Rather, it’s just an estimate that the device is trying to make on your wrist. While your running speed is directly proportional to your VO2 max, these times do not take into account variables such as the weather of the day, course difficulty, or training schedule. So take it all with a ladle of salt.
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