View Full Version : GPS watches

09-13-2016, 06:48 AM
Are the athletes allowed to run with GPS watches during races?

Doug Soles
09-13-2016, 08:26 AM
Are the athletes allowed to run with GPS watches during races?

Hi Phil,

We were wondering the same thing. My understanding was that they are illegal. Has that changed? My athletes ask me why a lot of the athletes in their races are wearing them but we won't allow our athletes to wear them. Any clarification would be much appreciated.

Thank you,


09-13-2016, 12:55 PM
Unless the rule changed, an I never saw a change, GPS watches are not allowed in XC or Track races.

Keith Chann
09-13-2016, 01:12 PM
After looking (not exhaustively though) through the rule books for a specific mention of GPS watches, I found none. However, I found 2 things that might be useful:
From the 2016 NFHS Track and Field and Cross Country Rules book,

Rule 4 sec 6 “ART. 5 . . .It is an unfair act when a competitor receives any assistance.”
“Assistance Includes:”
“d. competitor using an aid during the race or trial”
Note 2: The use of a watch worn around the wrist is not considered an aid for racing.

Then in the 2016 Track and Field and Cross Country Case Book:
Page 37
“Instructing is not unfair”
“4.6.5 situation C: “Comment: A watch is permitted to be worn. The rules do not prohibit a beep from a watch that may be both distracting to other runners and/or also serve as a pacing aid.”

It was my understanding that the rule against a GPS watch was because it served as a pacing guide to the athlete. It seems from the comment in the case book that pacing aids might not be illegal. The case in question referred to a watch that made an audible beep but that would serve as a pacing aid just as the GPS would. I would contend, and defend if necessary, that the use of a GPS should be legal just as the watch with a beep for pacing would be.

That being said, I have no idea why an athlete would need a GPS watch during the race anyway. The pace function on those are not nearly reliable enough to give an accurate enough pace for a racing athlete in a 3 mile race.

Hal Harkness
09-13-2016, 02:11 PM
A GPS enabled watch worn in a race would subject the runner to disqualification under Rule 4-6-5-d (Use of an Electronic Aid during a race).

Keith Chann
09-14-2016, 12:46 PM

I am not disputing your interpretation of the rules at all, especially since I am a retired coach and don't have any kids to be effected by this but . . .

Just on a purely personal interest level, what is the rationale of a watch beeping to help set pace versus a GPS watch aiding in setting a pace? Both are electronic aids at setting pace but one is deemed to be clearly acceptable while the other is interpreted to be an illegal aid. I am sure that this has been discussed at many levels of rules interpretation across the nation and it would be interesting to see the reasoning behind the difference. I personally don't think that athletes should use them but not being allowed is a different story.

Coaches, please be sure to let your kids know not to wear GPS watches since they can potentially get disqualified. We all know there are some quite particular coaches out there, maybe even in your league, who may point out the infraction if the officials don't catch it before the start of the race.

09-14-2016, 06:24 PM
to me, the obvious difficulty is in enforcement since gps watches are the same size as watches now. also, since wearing a watch IS allowed, what if the athlete is not using the gps function? if we were to witness a potential infraction (i.e. an athlete looking suspiciously at their watch/garmin), would someone have the right to confiscate the watch to see if they were using the gps function?

i just returned from a league cluster meet, and the coaches agreed this was a non-issue before the meet since no one wants to enforce it. at invitationals/cif prelims etc., we obviously can't bank on this kind of agreement, but are we expected to have our athletes discard their garmins at the start?

Keith Chann
09-19-2016, 01:21 PM
LOTS of GPS watches used in races at Woodbridge Inv.

Rich Gonzalez
09-21-2016, 09:11 AM
Same situation also occurred at the Mt. Carmel Invitational, where DQs were considered but not issued. By the way, the situation was noticed and brought to light by runners from opposing teams.

Coaches are still responsible for educating their runners on this rule. Runners remain subject to DQ for violating the rule.

09-24-2016, 12:11 AM
Maybe I'm ignorant, but how does a GPS watch create an advantage? I wear one when I race to verify the distance and time, but I don't recall ever looking at my watch during a race.