Chris Fralic started the twitter account @runningtech to “discover and share the best and worst of running technologies, whether it’s Nike+iPod, Powerbars, GPS systems or your favorite running playlist.” Chris manages it with CoTweet, one of our portfolio companies, so multiple people can each post to the @runningtech twitter account. I have been remiss in my contributions and so yesterday I enlisted the help of a friend to test some running tech.
He is training for the Pike’s Peak Ascent and today was a long run day in the hills for him so I decided to tag along and test my RunKeeper iPhone app vs. his Garmin Running watch. The results reported by the RunKeeper can be seen here and the Garmin results are here. I have to say that I cramped up at mile 14 and walked the final mile but this is the only place we were more than 5 yards apart.
The experience provided by the Garmin is utilitarian — speed, distance, time mixed to provide pace data in real time or averages and a PC upload requiring a USB connection. The online experience allows you to name the activity and see the route on a map as well as providing the summary details of the run. Garmin also makes it possible to see the pace over time and the elevation profile of the run. In all, garmin gives you all the info you need to inform your training and see your progress over time.
The RunKeeper, I splurged on the Pro Version, provides an audio cue with milage, time and pace that can be set to announce your stats every 5 minutes, every mile or on demand. The pace that is announced is the current pace, and I wish I had the option to hear the average over the designated time or distance. The audio cues are a nice solution to the battery drain problem on the iPhone as it allows you to darken the screen while running, but I think a simple timer and pace display designed in gray on a mostly black screen would be another nice feature to add. I started teh run with a full battery and was down to the 20% battery warning by the 2 hour mark of the run even with the screen off, so RunKeeper may not be the best solution for marathon training unless you are world class. The software also allows you to build training programs — intervals etc — but I will write about those as I use them.
While the two devices reported slightly different distances, +/- 5%, the only major discrepancy was in the elevation profile and total elevation gain. I am not sure why the actual elevation readings would be different, but it does seem that the RunKeeper may look at net elevation gain over each mile resulting in a total of 993 ft vs. the Garmin report of 7,711 ft. From being on the run, it did feel like we climbed a lot more than 1,000 feet.
For me, the magic in the RunKeeper comes in the analysis of the runs and the UI of the map. The data is uploaded to the web as you run and I was able to look at my results while stretching even though I had left my phone in the car. The overlays of speed and elevation are very nice and the interactive maps help bring the data layers of time, speed, and place together in the review.
I am looking forward to tracking my runs and rides again, as I have not done this activly since 2003 while training for the Ironman. If anyone has suggestions for other solutions I would love to hear about them here, or on Twitter, just tag them with #runningtech and I will be sure to find them.