Running Tech

Back when I was in high school, I ran cross county and track. Outside of the shoes and some of the “power bar” type food we had, the most tech we had for our runs was a a simple watch with a stopwatch on it. You could check your start and stop time, that was it. I kept a log on paper of all the miles I ran. My coach was pretty serious about our progress, so he invested in a large stop watch that had a tiny receipt printer attached to it. It could track splits so he could send us around the track for workouts and keep all of our times.

When I moved on to college and continued running, the tech had gotten better. I now was the proud owner of an “IronMan” stopwatch (they had been around for a while and I just didn’t know) that had the stopwatch feature and would store about 100 splits in it. In addition, a few of us would use a heart rate monitor on the run to track how we handled some hills or extended runs. By now I was logging my runs in my own spreadsheet, with a bunch of extra macros built in to aggregate weeks, give me averages, and some other nice stuff.

After taking a running hiatus, I’m getting back into running and the tech is light years ahead. I was given one of the Nike+ running kits a little while back as a gift. Sadly I never got a chance to try it out, but it would track your time and your distance onto your iPod Nano and then automatically synchronize the splits and the stats back to your online account to track. In addition, you could program some “power music” in so that if you were feeling the burn, you could pump up the tunes to get you through that last mile. I pulled out the device recently and it won’t work with my 1st generation iPod Touch. I need the 2nd or 3rd generation device for it.

I couldn’t find any hardware or software hacks, so I figured detailed stats were out for the moment. I still wanted to start logging all of my runs, and didn’t want to go the spreadsheet route, so I thought I’d don my Googlian Monk robes and look around a bit more. I soon found Run Keeper and fell in love and amazement.  I think I’ll do a full review in the next day or so, but I was amazed by the fact that I could track my routes using Google maps, which would then give me the distance and elevation change for the run I did. I now have a bunch of routes pre-programmed in, and I know the distance I’m running. Now that I live where there are a lot of trails and small roads, this saved me a TON of guesswork and “pre-driving” routes so I could have some mileages to work with.

I’ll readily admit I’m just getting back into the game, so I’m bound to have missed a lot of stuff, but it is really amazing at how far the “personal running tech” has come. What am I missing? What are you using? Oh, and if you’re curious, you can check out my running log by going here.

What are your 10 bits on the matter? I want to know!

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