When I first started running, I used the Bluefin Ease Into 5k app. When I finished the program I needed an app on my phone to keep track of my runs. There are countless apps available, and I tried many of them. I asked friends what they used, researched online, etc.
The first few I tried were Runtastic, iSmoothRun, Strava, and MapMyRun. All of these apps use GPS and cell phone technology. They all do basically the same thing, they track your distance, speed, calories, pace, and elevation.
My favorite was MapMyRun. It was easy to setup and easy to use. You can set voice prompts to periodically tell you how far you have gone and what your pace is. That is very helpful if you have your phone in a belt or armband. It gives a lot of good data about your run and shows you where you are fastest and slowest on your route. It also lets you set it up so you can see your friends who also use the app. When they workout, you get a notification when they finish and you can “cheer” for them. My friends Debbie and Sara Beth used it too and it was a good way to encourage each other.
Strava was also good, but it seemed to be more for hard core runners. It has a feature that let’s you set up a web page and your friends, family, and complete strangers can see your workouts and other workout information. There is this guy I follow on InstaGram, Joshua Holmes, who is a Strava user. He is an ultramarathoner from the LA area. He is a young family man. His story is pretty unique. While most of his posts are running centered, he will post about his wife and his children. He uses the website feature and it is pretty interesting as well.
iSmoothRun was also good, but any app I tried just wasn’t very accurate. They were anywhere from a .10 to half mile off. What I discovered rather quickly was cell phone GPS is not reliable out in the sticks. The distance I thought I was running was dependent on several factors other than just how far I was going. My distance was different when there were leaves on the trees. Cloud coverage and rain threw the apps off, as did strong winds. And if you want to never finish a run, head out when it’s cloudy, foggy, and misting rain. I guarantee you will run a good 2 miles more than what you planned, but your app won’t show it.
I would try not to obsess about the differences and would think something like, “ok, if I start at my front door, I know it is 1 mile to the gate at Dan and Beth’s. If I run there and back 2x, that’s 4 miles.” Sometimes it would be and sometimes it wouldn’t be. Looking down at that app and it not saying 4 miles, would drive me crazy, so I would run until the app said I was done. Which isn’t a bad thing, but I guess I’m a little OCD or neurotic or both.
Finally, I ditched the apps and bought a Garmin fenix watch. It uses satellite technology instead of cell phone towers. The way I understand it, the watch is constanting pinging a satellite to determine your location. The app on your phone pings a tower, which then pings a satellite. If you have weak cell service, which I do, your app may not be that reliable. The watch records every aspect of a run there is to record. The first time I ran with it, I was one let down puppy. Not only was I not as fast as I thought, I wasn’t going as far or burning as many calories as the app said. Another neat and annoying feature with the fenix is that if I’m not as active as normal, it will shoot me a text message saying “You’re a little off today, get moving.” I shudder to think what else it is keeping up with that I have no clue about!
On the upside, my fenix is more reliable than any of the apps I used. However, if you live or run in a more populated area, the apps work just great. If you aren’t as obsessive as I am, the apps are great. But for me, the Garmin is more consistent than the apps were and I really like the data it collects.
However, I have found one weather condition that causes it to be very unreliable. In lightning it loses its mind. I am deathly afraid of lighting. A few weeks ago, I was determined to run come hell or high water and that is exactly what I got. I got caught in a lightning show. With every flash my Garmin would start flashing and all my stats would change. One minute I was running a 3:12 mile, the next it was 59:02. I really didn’t stick around to see if it would clear up or not, I scooted back to the house as fast as I could.
The Charity Miles app I love, has to run from my phone. It’s off as well. It always shows my runs to be a 1/2 mile more than they actually are. But I can live with that since that is 12.5 cents more for my charity.
Another app I use on my runs is Road ID. This app tracks where you are and sends the person(s) you choose a text message when you start your activity. From the text your recipient can click a link and go to a map that shows exactly where you are. If you are still for more than a few minutes, they will receive another text telling them you have stopped moving. When you finish, they are sent a text telling them you are safe and sound. I highly recommend this especially, if you run by yourself.
The days are beginning to cool off, if you are still on the fence about starting a program, today is a good day to start.
Run happy and safe!