Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...

I ran my first marathon wearing an Apple Watch SE and AirPods – here’s how it went

Published May 11th, 2024 2:06PM EDT
Apple Watch SE Main
Image: Christian de Looper for BGR

If you buy through a BGR link, we may earn an affiliate commission, helping support our expert product labs.

I finally did it: I ran my first marathon, and it went much better than I expected. However, in the final quarter of the race, it was also more painful than I would have wanted, and I only have myself to blame for that. I skipped strength training sessions while training over the winter, and I paid the price.

This isn’t about that story though, at least not entirely. What I will tell you, however, is that I used an Apple Watch SE and AirPods as part of my tech setup to get me through the race. The good news is that you don’t need the most expensive wearables from Apple to help you with a marathon race while monitoring your health and listening to your favorite music or podcasts.

The bad news is that there is a pretty big problem with using these gadgets for a marathon, and it involves battery life. The AirPods will probably die while you’re running, and the Apple Watch SE might not last too long after you’re done with your race.

My running setup

I’ve long said you don’t need Apple’s most expensive gadgets to get a great experience. And I mean it. I’ve been training using this exact setup for months. It’s how I ran my half-marathons in preparation for my first race running a full marathon.

The Apple Watch SE is small and light, and it offers me everything I need. It tracks the health parameters I want it to track, whether my heart rate or running performance. Like most Apple Watches, you have to recharge it every day. But, unlike the more expensive models, it doesn’t come with fast charging support. I’ll add that I have a Wi-Fi version, and music streams from my iPhone 14 Pro.

AirPods Pro 2 with USB-C
AirPods Pro 2 while running? Not for me. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The AirPods are also your basic AirPods model at this point. I don’t need AirPods Pro 2 when I train. Active noise cancelation is great, of course. But I want to pay attention to my surroundings. For music or podcasts, the AirPods are great when running, even if you don’t get support for spatial audio. Put differently, I can confirm that AirPods are a better option than the AirPods Pro for this particular scenario.

Apple’s AirPods should last 5 hours before you have to put them back in the charging case. A 15-minute recharge session should give you another 3 hours of battery life for music playback.

I’ll point out that most marathon races will take up to 6 hours to finish the race.

The AirPods were first to go

Before the marathon, I charged all my devices. But they obviously started consuming battery life as soon as I unplugged them. This is where I’ll give you one of the downsides of choosing Apple’s cheaper devices: they don’t have components that are as efficient as the newer, higher-end models. That means they use more energy than more expensive versions of the Apple Watch and AirPods.

The second downside, which I hadn’t considered until running the race, was the age of these devices. Battery health is an aspect you should keep in mind if you want to run marathons and ensure your gadgets do not run out of juice.

My Apple Watch SE is about 18 months old, and battery health is 83%. The Airpods are slightly younger, at about 13 months old, but they were the first to die while I was running.

on-device Siri request on Apple Watch Ultra 2
The Apple Watch Ultra could be a good alternative, but that’s a different story. Image source: José Adorno for BGR

Around the 21-mile mark (34 km), the right earpod gave out. It played the sad chime that Apple users know all too well, warning me that battery life was depleted. So now, I was listening to Taylor Swift’s 1989 on my left bud only. I was annoyed at this point that the music was going to run out before I’d finish the race.

The reason I was upset was my left knee, which was suddenly acting up. This will teach me to stick to the training plan, especially when it comes to strength sessions. I wasn’t tired, but the knee pain slowed me down and compromised my concentration.

I stopped the music playback right there and put the AirPods back in their Lightning case. After a few minutes of charging, they would be good for a few more hours of music, but I was dealing with pain and decided to run the rest of the race without any music.

Would I do it again?

Moving on to the Apple Watch SE, I was checking it routinely to see my pace and the elapsed time. I never thought the battery would run out, and it actually didn’t. But the Apple Watch pinged me around mile 25 (41 km) to say it had 10% battery life left. Did I want to go into low-power mode? Of course not.

Unlike the AirPods, the Apple Watch did not run out of juice. It recorded all the data I wanted to have saved. Not only that, it lasted more than 6 hours required to finish the marathon. However, it would have died if it had taken much longer to run the race.

Would I do it again? Would I run a marathon using the cheapest Apple wearables? Absolutely, but with some caveats.

I will have to pay attention to the age of the wearables I’m using when running long races. I might have to replace the Apple Watch battery since it has lost so much capacity. For the AirPods, I’d have to get a different pair. Also, I will have to ensure that I run pain-free in future races. This will prevent me from slowing down and extending my run. That way, neither gadget will run out of battery life.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.