I don’t run with a watch. But when Garmin invited me and six other writers to Whitefish Bike Retreat in Montana, I was curious. I was the only parasite in attendance, as most were cyclists or road runners. The setting was ideal for trail lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and introverted endurance writers alike. As someone who has avoided mixing technology and training for many years, I was cautious, but also keen to learn how Garmin technology can help trail runners in training and on adventures.

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Call it minimalism, wanting to be in tune with my body, being cheap, or sheer laziness, but I had not run with a watch in over a decade. I have devoted myself to keeping it simple and minimal in the trails and mountains in order to rediscover the simplicity of running with nothing on my wrist. I consider the trails and mountains a place where we can remove ourselves from societal expectations as well as the complexities of everyday life. But as the most tech-illiterate human at the lodge, (re)discovering the benefits of combining technology and the trails made me feel like a born-again runner.

First steps

The first few steps with the watch felt awkward and full of uncertainty. After a few seconds of questioning my moral identity, I found myself shrieking at the latest relevant features in the Forerunner 945 for even a minimalist trail adventurer. The sleek and lightweight device (50g) was comfortable and minimal.

What’s new

From the Forerunner 245 and 935, the 945 has additions to suit the needs of adventurers of all kinds. Unlike previous Garmin Forerunners, the 945 includes:

1. Pulse Ox–measuring blood oxygen saturation while you’re sleeping or during the day.
2. Training–tracks VO2 max and adjusts training based on heat and altitude
3. Music – stores up to 1,000 songs from your Spotify or Deezer accounts, played via Bluetooth headsets
4. Garmin Pay – upload credit card and never forget wallet when you are hangry mid- or post-run
5. Navigation–full colour, onboard TOPO maps
6. Safety–Incident detection and assistance–for emergencies on the trails

Custom everything

Trail runners can be quirky. Luckily, the Forerunner 945 can customize each face on the watch to accommodate even the weirdest trail running language. Options to show two, three, or four data features on one of the run screens. Anything is possible on this watch, even showing a run in miles and elevation in metres. If or when you become injured, the Forerunner 945 makes it easy to try training as a cyclist, swimmer (indoor and outdoor options), hiker, or full triathlete–perhaps a friendly reminder that there is a world outside of trail running.

Exploring Glacier National Park in Montana with the Garmin team. Photo: Michael Sawh

Safe exploration

The Forerunner 945 is a helpful reminder that minimalism in the trails and backcountry is not a safe approach. The watch goes beyond tracking training, distance, time, elevation gain, weather, heat acclimation, etc. It helps keep adventurers safe with full-colour onboard TOPO maps and Incident Detection and Assistance (perhaps the most relevant upgrade from the Forerunner 245). The watch allows you to put in emergency contacts and hold a button if there is an issue on the trails. The more I understood how pertinent the Forerunner 945 is for the avid trail and mountain adventurer, the more quickly I became converted.

The battery lasts up to two weeks in smartwatch mode, 10 hours with all functions, and 36 hours on GPS mode with no music. (So yes, once you get into Hardrock 100, you can run without charging or changing watches).

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Connect to disconnect

As a believer in running by feel, I have long neglected fixating on numbers and data. However, anecdotal evidence can only go so far. The Forerunner 945 helps us stay in tune with our bodies and prevent fatigue by monitoring heart rate (wrist-based with the option of chest strap), sleep cycles, menstruation, heat adaptability, and training load in order to avoid overtraining. For avid trail runners, additional information on our bodies can be the key to knowing when to push through that workout, or take an extra rest day.

The watch also connects to wifi, so if you want, it can be like having your phone on your wrist. It will even tell you when mom is calling or Katie is texting (phone notifications can be turned off).

Compatibility

As I continue to develop my relationship with technology in the trails and enter the 21st century, the Forerunner 945 has been nothing but supportive and understanding. The Forerunner 945 and I share the same love for safe exploration, practicality, and authenticity. Perhaps a love for the trails means long-term compatibility.

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