How to run a marathon: Step 1: You start running. There is no Step 2
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The best purchase I ever made was a Garmin Forerunner 305, not only a great timekeeper, but heart rate monitor and more importantly GPS! The ability to keep track easily online (on Garmin Connect) and even plot my various runs onto Google Earth. They tell you how far, how much you climbed and your average and fastest pace. You can plot courses you run regularly and even run against previous efforts.
It can be programmed for interval training and even to stop timing if you stop to cross the road.
I think I would long since have lost my enthusiasm for running were it not for my Garmin.
Even down to being upset that I had worn out another pair of Salomons, only to check and see that I had done just shy of 500km (about 300 miles) in them.
It may be a touch more expensive than an ironman, but it delivers much more and there are some pretty good deals around at the moment.
if you are looking for something a little bit different then you could always try the new Motorola Motoactv. It is a 8gb or 16gb smart mp3 player as well as a running/cycling GPS watch. it seems a little pricey at the moment but you should check it out.