Navigating with the Garmin Forerunner 920XT

I recently had the opportunity to run on the South Downs, at dawn on a foggy morning. Though I had a headtorch, I needed a way to navigate some difficult trails.

Fortunately my Garmin Forerunner 920XT running watch can do turn-by-turn directions. It bleeps as you approach a turn, and at the turn, and shows you which way to go. That’s sometimes exactly what you need to find a new route.

But it isn’t straightforward to get your intended course onto the watch.  The problem is that the Forerunner 920XT cannot directly use a .TCX file (unlike, for example, an Edge 1000 cycling computer).  So by default you don’t get turn-by-turn directions: just a breadcrumb trail which you have to follow manually.

But there is a way to get turn-by-turn directions onto the watch:

  • use your favourite route plotting website to draw your route. I use RideWithGPS but you could use Strava, or any other site on which you can plot a route to create a .TCX file.
  • Download the .TCX of your route, setting it to give you a warning some distance before each turn (if this is available from your mapping website)
  • Download this free tool (for Windows, Mac or Linux) to convert TCX to FIT. This is the key to making this work.
  • Plug your Forerunner 920XT into your computer using the USB cable and cradle
  • Copy the FIT file to /Garmin/Newfiles on the 920XT

Then when you want to run the route, put the watch in “Run” mode, then from the main menu pick Navigation > Courses.

(If you don’t want to download the tool, but you do have an Edge cycling computer to hand, you can instead copy the TCX file to the Edge into the /Garmin/Newfiles directory, disconnect and switch on the Edge, which causes it to create a FIT file in /Garmin/Courses, then reconnect the Edge and copy the FIT file from there to your Forerunner 920XT.)

 

 

 

 

 

Note you used to be able to do this with Garmin Training Center, but Garmin no longer updates or supports this programme.

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Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and