What Is The Best Running Watch For Cross Country Or Track Athletes?

updated: 10-30-2021

As a coach, I am often asked what is the best running watch for my child who is participating in cross country or track.

First and foremost, please understand that most organized cross country and track meets do not allow athletes to wear running watches during competition. Wearing one during competition could get you disqualified. Please make sure you fully understand the rules going in to competition.


Using a running watch as a training tool during your pre-competition season, or during training runs (if your coach allows it) can be highly beneficial.

What Is A Running Watch?

A running watch is a specialized watch that can track a runner's pace, level of intensity, distance run, as well as a whole lot of other useful metrics for analyzing one's training. While it may seem like a luxury item or toy, a good GPS running watch can help your child improve their running if they know how to use it. 

All running watches keep track of pace and mileage which can:

(a) help them track improvements in their running speed and distance, but 

(b) more importantly, make sure they are running their training runs at the right level of training intensity.

Some types of runs, we want the to run fast (to build speed and stamina) and other runs we want to run slow (to build endurance).

A GPS running watch can help your child maintain a steady pace, at the right level of intensity, in order to get in a good quality workout without fizzling out towards the end because they started their run too fast. 

We have a saying among the athletes I coach. Anyone can go for a run. We want to train so we get the appropriate training outcome. A GPS running watch can help.

My Running Watch Recommendations

Garmin 45

A GPS running watch, like the Garmin 45, or Garmin 55, (#amazon links) uses GPS technology to track how far your child has run. These are the current two watches I recommend, but any watch in the Garmin product line will work. Garmin IS the industry standard when it comes to running watches.

The Garmin 45 has the basic features most kids (and adults) need, while the 55 has a few more intermediate features, like more advanced activity tracking (like HIIT - High Intensity training, sleep tracking, etc).

When it comes to kids I prefer to keep the features simple and the ease of use simple. The last thing we want is the watch to be a distraction. Either of these watches will work.

Garmin 55

If you like data, then some of the more advanced metrics and data points can be interesting to look at.

However, if I was purchasing one for my own child, I would probably just go with the Garmin 45 or 55. They are cheaper than their more expensive, top end counterparts.

In fact, the watch I own and use right now, myself is the Garmin 55. I also own the 45.

If you want to see more detailed watch comparisons in the Garmin line, you can check out my comparison charts and guide over on my RunBuzz.com website

Final Thoughts

While a running watch can be expensive and there are a lot of options on the market, I have found that when used appropriately, it can help your child.

I don't require the kids or adults I coach to use a running watch. But if one is available, it can be very helpful to verify that workouts are done correctly.

I have also found that runners who record their runs using a running watch tend to have better accountability because they like to see workout data loaded on their training calendar and love to see trends of improvement.

If you have questions about running watches, or which running watch is best for your cross country or track athlete (or for yourself), let me know. I am familiar with just about every watch in the Garmin line though the athletes I coach and by using running watches as a training tool. 

For those athletes that train with us and own a watch. We help them learn how to use their watch to best record their workouts and learn from the feedback the watch gives them.