An alternative that I have found to work is to plot the route out on Google Earth, and add it onto my Garmin watch so that I have it available for a quick look while running. This post is just a quick "How To" in case you want to try something similar. Here I focus on Garmins, so if you use anything else you will need to work out how to get the file onto your device on your own I'm afraid!
Step 1: Create the route on Google EarthGoogle Earth is a pretty great tool and allows you to view the terrain overhead from Google's secret military satellites. It's fantastic for making out paths and things, especially when used in conjunction with OS Maps and things like that. Once you've used it a few times, you get used to working out where the field boundaries are and which routes are tracks that you can run across. Working out which is the path you are looking for is half the fun!
|This is Google Earth. They are watching you...|
On the left you can just make out the map that I am using. This is one of the maps for the Norfolk Ultra and has the route marked on with a blue line. On the right, I have aligned the Google Earth viewer to roughly the same location. I won't go too much into how to use Google Earth (see here for a tutorial). I will be using two of the tools from the top bar: the Add Placemark tool (looks like a push pin) and the Add Path tool (looks like three points connected by lines).
First of all, create a new folder in the My Places section on the left of the screen. This is where all of the paths and things that I put together will go.
Next I create placemarks to mark the start, end, and checkpoint locations. It's pretty simple. Just click on the button and a marker will appear. Move it to where you want, and play around with the format (if you can be bothered).
|Here you can see a placemarker for the start, and the path that I have created matching the route on the map to the left|
Obviously, it is not always possible to judge where the path goes and you might get it wrong, but typically I have found that this procedure works really well and gives great results when you actually get out there.
|The complete route|
Step 2: Convert into Garmin format
|gpsies.com/convert.do for converting from .kml to .tcx file|
Step 3: Add to your Garmin
|Importing data to the Garmin Training Center|
|What the course looks like in the Garmin Training Center|
|Sending the data to the watch|
Step 4: Go out and run!Et voila! The course is now available on your watch. Just go to Training > Courses then select the course that you want to run. Select Do Course and you're off. It will tell you how far you have to go to the end of the route, and you will see an arrow (you) on a line (the route). All you need to do is make sure that the arrow points in the right direction and that you roughly follow the line. Bear in mind that you may have gotten the exact position of the paths wrong, but overall the line will show you the direction that you should be heading. If you start heading off course it will soon become clear. You may need to zoom into the map for optimum performance, but the more you zoom in the less in advance you will see the turns. Play around with it to see what works for you. I normally use about a 200ft radius, which I find gives enough resolution to see the twists in the course, but also provides enough forewarning of upcoming turns.
|Just follow the line!|
Edit: Another option is to use the website bikehike.co.uk which allows you to create GPS tracks from OS maps of the UK directly. I haven't used it yet, but it looks very useful! Thanks to Bryan who put me on to this website.