Photo: jonny_w, Flickr Creative Commons
One of the people I follow on Twitter posted a link to the Android RunKeeper app last week. The app, normally $9.99, is being offered for free until the end of January so I decided to download it and give it a try. The app works with my phone's GPS to track my pace, elevation, distance, route and calories consumed to give me a better idea of just exactly what I'm doing on my runs. I gave it a try earlier this week by just running with my phone in my hand and the app worked great. I was really impressed. The audio prompts are surprisingly motivating. On my first run I had it announce my distance, pace, and time at every 10 minutes and every mile. On that first run I thought I had been making good time until I hit my first mile and the lady's voice on my phone told me I was just doing a nine and a half minute a mile pace. Without even thinking, I quickened my steps and dropped almost a 30 seconds off of my pace for the entire run in just a half mile.
I wasn't going to run on Wednesday, but the arm band I'd ordered from REI with my Christmas gift card arrived earlier than expected. Wanting to see how the phone dealt with riding on my arm, I went for a second run, this time the audio prompts sounding at every half mile and I may have put up my fastest ever pace for 1.5 miles (although I actually ran a bit farther than that). I also have come to realize that I may never break the eight minute mile for any distance longer than an actual mile. That pace kind of hurt by the end. Then again, with the feedback I can get from this thing, maybe my training will be more effective. I honestly tend to forget to push myself and run at a comfortable pace most of the time. This may keep me thinking about pushing myself when that's my goal. I'm excited about it.
Of course, the company doesn't operate as a charity. Since I haven't paid for anything I don't have access to some of the features of the site, but honestly, most of the features I would actually use are free. I can create and store my running paths using their route creator. The maps are based on Google maps meaning I can see both street names and the images of the landscape to build incredibly accurate maps of even my off-road runs. This feature actually makes RunKeeper useful even if you don't have a GPS-enabled phone because you can enter in your runs/hikes/walks/cycling manually if you just keep track of your times.
I only wish the site had some sort of widget to put up on my blog so I could use the public announcements of my run as motivation. Instead, I'll just give you a link to my profile. My maps are set to private, but all of the other information about my runs are public. I really recommend this site if you do any sort of travel-based exercise. Just don't expect to see any of my backpacking trips. There's no way my phone's battery would survive that long.
If you do sign up for RunKeeper, let me know. There are some friend sharing features to the site I'd like to be able to play around with.
Also, I'm on Twitter. I actually have a low opinion of the site and fully expect it to fail or evolve into an unrecognizable state before too long, but I have friends who don't do Facebook. Feel free to follow me. If I recognize you as a commenter here, I'll even follow back.