Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Digital Running: Pick Your App

After education, my two biggest passions in life are technology and running. Therefore, it makes sense that I tend to obsess a bit over any and all pieces of technology that can track, calculate, or otherwise influence my running. As an Apple iOS and iPhone fan, it then stands to reason that I would always be on the lookout for the most elegant, sophisticated, and technically exact application to track my running. However, if you did indeed guess that to be the case, you’d be wrong. Up until a month ago, I rarely used my iPhone for running. In fact, it was probably one of the only aspects of my life where my iPhone didn’t factor.

Then the GU 100,000 mile Challenge began. This competition, organized by Strava, provided the added internal competitive incentive I needed to check out what the field of running apps had to offer. The goal was to reach 50, 100, 150, 0r 200 miles in total running distance between March 9th and April 9th. Various GU prizes are then awarded, with the top prize for reaching 200 miles being a 24-pack of GU and GU Roctane. This was all the incentive I needed to test my mileage and try out the Strave iPhone app along the way.

I had always avoided using my iPhone in favor of my Garmin Forerunner 405. I like the small, compact size of my Garmin, and love being able to walk in the door and have it wireless sync via bluetooth with my computer and upload my data to the Garmin website. The thought of wearing my iPhone around my arm seemed like a hassle. However, after doing so for a month, I didn’t end up minding it nearly as much as I thought I would. I still wore my Garmin to check time, distance, and pace while running, because I didn’t need to stop. However, the Strava app proved just as accurate, and the interface and website design proved to be quite efficient and well-organized. I have enjoyed being able to connect with other friends through Strava and compare runs, and it has given me a little extra boost in terms of my own motivation over the past month.

Prior to using the Strava app, I had downloaded and played around with several other iPhone apps, including iMapMyRun and RunKeeper. Both offer similar advantages and do a nice job of tracking your progress. The iMapMyRun app has the added bonus of connecting with the MapMyRun website, which allows you to map out routes ahead of time and then send them wirelessly to your iPhone. This is certainly a nice touch and that level of connectivity gives it a slight advantage in my book.

The reality is that running and exercise apps are a large and growing category of iOS applications, with each one looking to be the “next big thing” (much like every other category of applications, I suppose). Folks have their own preferences, and there is no shortage of reviews online to give you a myriad of feedback. At the end of the day, you really just need to select a few and find one that works best for you, depending on what you want out of the application.

Are you interested in simple tracking or are you a statistics junkie?

Do you want to link your data with social networking sites or external websites?

Does the application back up your data somewhere in case your phone crashes?

Are you looking for additional features such as calorie-counting, training plans, etc.?

Do you want to pay for the app or is it not worth the $$$ to you?

Is it going to be your primary tracking device or a secondary tracking device?

These are all important questions to ask yourself. However, don’t spend more time than you need to looking for the perfect app. You aren’t going to find it. You can, however, find one that fits in well with your running routine, without causing you any additional hassle. Here are some additional review websites that you may find useful:

Mashable: 10 Essential iPhone Running Apps

RN Central: 50 Awesome iPhone Apps for Runners

Lifehacker: Roll Your Own Nike+ iPhone App

About.com: Readers Choice Best iPhone Running Apps

Oh, and in case you are wondering- I hit 264 miles this month. My GU is in the mail…in 4-6 weeks!

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