This year, I’m really starting to do some longer races. I’ve already run Broad Street (10 miles), and have 2 more half-marathons and then a full marathon in November. Since I’ve started running back in 2010, I’ve been using Runkeeper on my phone to track my runs to give myself an idea how far and how fast I’m running. It’s a pretty nice little app and service using your phone’s GPS to track how you’re doing and overlaying your path over Google Maps. But as I’ve been running more and participating in some longer races, I’ve noticed that its accuracy was starting to become questionable.
When I ran the Philadelphia Half-Marathon in 2013, I used Runkeeper and found that it had me running around 14.5 miles. Given that a half-marathon is 13.1, I couldn’t imagine the officials at the Philly Marathon measured the course so far off from the official distance. Looking at the map, I found that the GPS had me sort of all over the course of the run. Rather than being in a relatively straight line across the course, it had me zigging and zagging across the course. Over the course of a 13.1 mile race, that zigging and zagging added up. I ended up having to go in and edit the map and the GPS points to make it closer to what I actually ran. I was disappointed in it, but it gave me a mostly-decent idea how I’ve been doing, and since it’s a free app and service (with a paid premium option), I can’t really complain. Plus I didn’t know how much of it was the app and how much was the phone’s GPS antenna.
Fast forward to the Broad Street Run and I used my phone and Runkeeper again to track my run. After finishing the race, I happened to look at the map on Runkeeper and it was pretty far off from the actual run. At one point it had me 2-3 blocks away from where I actually was. For anyone who is not familiar with Philadelphia, Broad Street is a major north-south road in Philadelphia. It is around 13 miles and it is pretty much completely straight. The fact that Runkeeper put me 2-3 blocks away, even in areas outside of Center City where there are no skyscrapers to interfere with GPS satellite reception was disappointing. Again though, I can’t say that the problem is Runkeeper or the GPS antenna in my phone.
After Broad Street and with several big races coming up, I decided I wanted to find something that was a little better at tracking my runs. My friend Brian recommended a Garmin GPS watch and I ended up getting the Garmin Forerunner 110 with a Heart Rate monitor. I’ve used it for 4 runs so far and am actually pretty happy with the results. None of the runs have been incredibly far, but looking at the maps, it seems that the watch is pretty accurate GPS-wise. The only thing I miss is the automatic uploading to the cloud. Runkeeper automatically uploads your activities to the cloud for you to review and see how you did, the model I have requires me to plug the watch into my computer to upload the activities to Garmin Connect to review. All in all it’s minor and doesn’t bother me as it really only takes 5 minutes to complete, but it’s still something I miss.
Garmin Connect actually does a pretty good job at displaying the information to you as well. It gives you a map showing your run as well as graphs showing the elevation, pace, and if you wore your heart rate monitor, your heart rate as well. You can click below for an example of what a run looks like through the Garmin interface.
You can see that it gives you a pretty good idea of how I did based on elevation, how I was able to maintain or lose my pace as well as where my heart rate was. I’m looking forward to using this as I ramp up my runs over the next 2 weeks as I prepare for the ODDyssey Half-Marathon June 8th.