Review: TomTom Spark Cardio +music


I did it!

I did it!

One thing is for sure, this year I’ll have covered more miles on foot than in any other year in my life, thanks to all this running. I must admit, now the Race for Life has happened, I didn’t do nearly as much training as I would have liked to have done in the past few months. Partly this is because I’ve got a new job to keep me busy!

There is nothing like a new bit of kit though to encourage you to get out there and this past couple of weeks I’ve been trying out the new TomTom Spark Cardio + music.

The watch itself was easy to set up and the app seems easy enough to use. I  like using sports apps purely because they really incentivise me. However, it isn’t immediately clear how to connect it with Runkeeper which is my favourite way of monitoring what I’m doing and I have to admit I did have to ask tech support (my husband) for help

In terms of the look and feel of the watch, does sit on the wrist a bit better than my Fitbit Blaze. However, again, like the Blaze I don’t think it looks quite as nice as a conventional watch. I think as I have a black strap it just doesn’t look all that great with workwear, which for me is quite a big thing as I find tracking my activity through the day quite useful now I’m in a desk based job.

Unlike the Fitbit Blaze, the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music is a full on GPS watch. That means it doesn’t just act like an activity tracker but it can also be used for sports tracking because the GPS accurately logs your run and all the split times. Yes, something like Runkeeper on your phone can do this but it does mean you have to carry your phone on you when you are running. This is where the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music plays its trump card- it can do the full run tracking but also has a built in music player and storage, which means as long as you have a pair of compatible bluetooth headphones (I used a pair of Creative Hitz WP-380s) , you can listen to music and track your run without having to carry your phone with you!

It’s been a few years (6 in fact) since I had a GPS running watch; my husband bought me a Garmin Forerunner just before I got pregnant with Ned. I never really got to use it as I had really bad SPD but the one thing I do remember from using it was how long the darn thing took to lock on to a satellite signal. The first time you use the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music, it takes a while to get a lock but every other time you use it, satellites were found much more quickly. This is because the Spark has a smart find function that remembers where you start off from so the app can download three days worth of satellite locations in advance. That’s clever.

The Spark is a compact unit that slips out of its strap to to enable charging. It’s no more bulky than a lot of the fitness trackers that don’t have GPS but if you do use the GPS, it will obviously need charging a lot more frequently.

Rather than relying on a number of different buttons, the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music has a four way rocker button at the bottom that lets you navigate the various menus. It’s not the easiest thing to use initially as there isn’t a way to click the middle, just up, down, left and right but after a while it becomes easier to use.

The app tracks all the sort of things that you would expect:


And you can drill down in to the actual activities too:


Overall I was impressed with the Tomtom Spark Cardio +music. It deals with the issue that if you’re taking your phone with you to listen to music, you might as well just use your phone to track your run by being a pretty cool music player into the bargain. It’s also good to be able to monitor your heart rate while running, since this gives a more objective measure of how you’re pushing yourself.

The Tomtom Spark Cardio +music retails for an RRP of £189.99.


St Albans Race for Life 2016

Race for Life Start

This morning I completed my 10k for the St Albans Race for Life! It took me nearly 6 months of regular running, with I must admit, the past month off following an injury and a new time consuming job. But, I did it! It was quite a scary prospect and it has been worrying me the past week quite a lot, not least because of the high temperatures we are experiencing here in the UK. I knew that there would be an uphill part of the course and i’m very used to running on the flat and so I wasn’t all that sure if I could manage it. I was also a bit worried that it might become a bit of a personal Race for Life, given my high anxiety levels, the heat and everything combined.

In the end when I finally dragged myself down to the park I was greeted with a sea of pink and lots of enthusiastic people. I realised very quickly that I didn’t need to worry about it being a really competitive event as everyone was just there to have fun.

Queuing up to start running I saw someone I knew and had a bit of a chat. This helped take my mind off things and I’d suggest that if you were considering doing the race its a good idea to get someone to do it with you. Once we set off, I forgot about being on my own and put my headphones on. I quickly released that this isn’t a competitive event at all, everyone seemed to be running quite slowly. In fact considerably slower than I normally run. The sheer volume of people also made it very difficult to overtake people until about 6K into the race. This was quite a good thing as it meant that I didn’t push myself too much in the heat. I even managed to run uphill (the pace was a good 3 seconds slower than I normally run though!).

By about 7K I actually began overtaking some of the people who were walking. I have to admit this was a great thing for me and really spurred me on. I also decided to take my headphones off and to listen to everyone around me. It was great to hear all the shouts of support! I managed to do the Race for Life 10K in just over an hour, I was pleased with this time because it was such a hot day and an unusual time for me to go running.

The marshals were brilliant, they were so supportive and encouraging and for me, flagging a little bit in the heat that really helped. So, thanks so much to all of them.

Race for Life Medal

Race for Life Medal

Would I do it again?

Yes! I’ve enjoyed all the training I’ve done for the race and this is something which I intend to keep up. although I’m not sure if I will run at a competitive race. My seven year old daughter was inspired by the day and we intend to do some mother- daughter runs and i’ve promised her that we will do a race together (more likely a 5 k).

I’m proud that I managed to raise a decent sum of money for Cancer Research UK, this is such an important charity which does really important work.

The Race for Life was an empowering experience, it was genuinely humbling seeing everyone pulling together and running in support of their loved ones. I spent quite a long time reading the notes on everyones backs to see who they were running for, some messages were upsetting and some up-lifting. It highlighted just how many people are affected by Cancer and how many people really care enough to try to make a difference.

Top Tips

Go along to the warm up- this is great fun and gets you in the mood

Find a friend- I think I would have found the experience much easier with someone to go along with (although I managed)

Drink plenty of water before the race. There are toilets so no need to worry!

Don’t worry! This is a supportive event, its not in the least competitive which is fantastic.

Practice the route- It just so happened that a lot of the route was on my usual running route. The familiarity really helped me.

Have fun! This is about raising awareness, money and having a good time.

I did it!

I did it!

There are plenty more Race for Life Events happening if you’d like to have a go then you can sign up here. If you’d like to sponsor me you can still do so here.



Running Away

Trainers or work?

Trainers or work?

Its been quiet here on the blog over the past four weeks. Thats because I have a new job, its a big responsible job and as i’m just at the start of my journey into it- very challenging. Unfortunately this has also coincided with the imminent arrival of the culmination of a years work on the St Albans Literary festival, a busy time at the museum where I lead workshops and an imminent formal assessment for one of my children. I don’t have a cleaner, a cook or general house-keeper (unlike many of my peers) and so I’ve had to squeeze in the odd bit of housework in order to stave off the rats and mice. There’s also been the wardrobe issue- jeans and tatty t-shirt not being all that acceptable in boardroom type meetings.

The result has been a virtual standstill on my running. In many ways a literal standstill as i don’t have the time or energy to fit it in. Cake at break time is a sort of right of passage in my new job as well and the occasional glass of wine (especially needed after the mental trauma of it all and possible self medicating given I haven’t included my 3 children in the list above or the 6 I have on the morning school run). This is a health disaster. I can see why people don’t achieve 10,000 steps now- they don’t have the time!

Its only four weeks to the St Albans Race for Life. I fear i’m going to let myself down and the past 6 months of running nearly every day will not be reflected in my efforts and time. This weekend I have managed to drag my exhausted bones out early both mornings, for a 5 km and a 7 km run. The times have been rubbish around 6:30- 6:50 per km average). At times I have felt near death. Its amazing what a difference a month of poor living makes! However, I’m keen and determined to pull myself out of this, mainly by looking to the future August looks promising with many of my work related challenges settling down. So, I can get through July and I can do everything well or at least to the best of my abilities.

How does one approach running after a month? I’ve done it by trying to regain the levels I was at before, making sure that I warm up well and stretch well afterwards. Music seems to help. I think I need some help on this one. Taking ones mind off the challenge whilst doing the challenge is also good. I’ve been pondering the EU Referendum (which could have consequences for our family in terms of finances) and a mixture of rage and despair has had a strange effect on my time. Rage is a good emotion for speed in running!

One of the other thing I have done is to treat myself to some long compression socks. These look quite cool as they are bright and also seem to help with my toe numbness. I think its always good to buy new kit to spur oneself on (if you can afford it).

I’m running 10km in the St Albans Race for Life, i’m currently doing it all alone. If you’d like to join me then sign up here and let me know. Its a very worthy cause and if you haven’t sponsored anyone yet and would like I’d love to  see your support here.

Running Without Technology

runThe past week or so has been a bit of a running write off. This is in part due to a wild camping trip which required a fair amount of preparation. I was intending to run around the fens as part of the trip, until I realised that if I did that I’d need to buy a solar shower or i’d get very smelly. A solar shower would have been great, if there had been any sunshine predicted instead of grey drizzle. The thought of getting hot and then freezing cold and wet was too much even for someone as dedicated as myself (ahem). The thought of getting all hot and smelly and remaining pretty much that was was also enough to bring me to my senses!

Then it was my birthday, which involved the children getting up early and myself being a bit worried about being too tired to go out in the evening if I got up early for a run. Normally this wouldn’t bother me but we tend to only go out in the evenings twice a year, so I didn’t want to risk anything jeopardising this.

Anyway, one thing has lead to another and i’m very behind on my (in my head) training plan. I’ve also come across another psychological block/ excuse; technology that isn’t charged.

I realise i’ve become really dependent on my phone app or Garmin watch to tell me how fast I have run, how far and then compare my run to previous runs. It is highly motivating, it is also incredibly addictive.

In my mind I haven’t actually run, or cant run unless its recorded somewhere. In the past, before technology I just used to write it down in a notebook to enable me to see my progress and work it all out manually. This was actually quite an enjoyable thing to do, although it was a little bit more time consuming than simply logging into an app!

This morning I thought I’d go for a nice long sunday morning run but the phone and the Garmin were flat. Disaster! Then I came to my senses and thought that actually i’m not in any sort of competition with others or with myself. I forced myself to go out and run, simply for the act of running itself. You know what? It was great, I didn’t feel constrained by trying to monitor my distance or speed, I just ran where I fancied going and listened to my body. I couldn’t hide behind my phone or watch (and pretend to look at that) when I saw people, I simply had to acknowledge them and say good morning.

I’m really surprised, I think this morning was one of the best runs i’ve had so far this year. I don’t mean in terms of accomplishments, I mean in terms of fun. Granted, the sun in shining and its a beautiful day. However, I think life in general can be vastly improved without the daily reliance on tech and I think i’m going to try to live without it all a little bit more!

I’m currently training for the Cancer Research Race for Life 10k in St Albans why not join me?


When running becomes a bit, well, shallow

claire walshI must admit I’m starting to quite enjoy this fitness thing. I don’t enjoy it before, during or immediately after at the moment. But I do enjoy it quite a bit after, when I think that I’ve gone out and done something essentially for myself. I still hate all the warm ups though!

The past couple of days i’ve been unable to run, having run a few epic sessions; a 10k, a couple of 5/6k, I think I over did it. My wonky knee just said ‘no’ and I found myself limping a bit on the school run. Like a wally. Thank goodness the super fit school mums in their gym gear don’t really know about my new found sportiness or they’d probably laugh at my naivety. I’m hoping a few swimming sessions will sort me out.

Prior to this I had some sort of revelation. You see, I’d bought myself some new flowery leggings. I bought them because I quite liked them and I thought they’d be good for holiday’s if nothing else. Anyway, despite them being completely unpractical for running as they keep falling down, I realised that I quite liked them for running. Purely on the basis that they look quite nice and I’ve received a lot of compliments.

Its true, wearing nice running kit does in fact spur you onwards and upwards. It makes a massive difference in the morning, when all you want to do is to lie in bed, to put on something nice rather than the boring old grey and black slightly knackered running kit. When you’re running along, you’re spurred on by not looking like a mess. If in your mind you’re running along looking like Cameron Diaz, you’ll mentally feel like her and do better, really, its true. It doesn’t matter if you really look like a slightly plump middle aged mother who cant really see through her glasses thanks to the incessant British rain.

The downside; I need to buy new fitness gear. I want bright colourful, trendy nice stuff. It has to be a reasonable price which doesn’t break the bank, it needs to wash easily and well. If I can wear it on other occasions without looking stupid that would also be good. Any recommendations will be welcomed.

I’ve never really been all that bothered by what I wear, despite having a serious interest in fashion and costume history (I even curated a costume collection). I don’t know if this is an age thing, but it does seem true that how you present yourself to the world can make a major difference to your life. Its not so much about what you know as what you wear. This is related to personal psychology as much as how others relate to you. How funny that it took me a pair of flowery leggings and training for the Race for Life 10k in St Albans to make me realise this!

If you’d like to sponsor my efforts for Cancer Research I’d be more than grateful. You can find my page here.