The Running App Swap

Published May 24, 2016 (8 years ago)
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The last modifications of this post were around 8 years ago, some information may be outdated!

Running tech has come a LOOOONG way from when I first started. I used to be a "log the runs on a sheet of paper (or spreadsheet) and time them with my basic "athletic watch" type of runner. Nowadays you can get a full gamut of details (and logging) all in a single app and track it with a wide assortment of devices. This also leads to decisions (and changes) to make.


For a long time I've been a Runtastic Pro user. The ability to map out my routes online and have them available on my phone for the run was quite nice. Additionally, I could track how many times I've run each route for some good comparative analytics on my pace and progress over time. By adding details about how I felt after each run, combined with the weather and time of the run, I could get a good idea about when to train and how various factors would affect things. There is even a "live tracking" feature that I can use while I'm out on my runs and my kids can see right were I am at, and click a button to "cheer me on". With my next RAGNAR approaching, this is a fun way to do long distance cheering.

I was particularly excited when I was gifted an Apple Watch since there was direct integration with Apple Watch and Runtastic Pro. With the watch, I can start up a run quickly, pause/finish, and see how far I have gone (and my pace) without pulling out the phone mid-run.

However, my Runtastic experience has been far from fabulous now. There are continuous glitches with the watch connecting to the phone, which makes it difficult (and frustrating) to get the run started. I get it to synchronize once, but then a subsequent run fails (for no reason) and then I have to reinstall things, or just stick to the phone, which I wound up doing. I've submitted a help ticket to Runtastic, but it has been a week or so with no response. As I've worked through this, I've found that there seems to be a lot more nagging on the website to upgrade your plan to premium. Banners get in the way of the map sometimes, and I get a weekly e-mail with a link to track my progress, but that just leads me to a page to sign up for premium. Frustrating.

So I've started searching for a new app. Currently I've done a few runs with the Nike+ Running app. It's free, it allows me to build routes, and gives me a breakdown of my mile splits for my run. It uses a "heat map" to show where my pace was slower and faster, which coincidentally lines up to the plethora of hills that surround me. 8^D The Apple Watch integration has had no problems, and while on the run I can easily toggle the "large" part of my display to be pace, mileage, or overall time, which is quite handy. I can track all of this online too. There are no ads to upgrade or distractions, though there are a couple of links to purchase some Nike running gear. That's understandable, and it isn't obtrusive, so I don't mind this.

However, I'm a little limited in the details that I get when viewing things online. My run details don't link to overall routes (apparently this is just a curated feature Nike tracks) so I would have to dig through all of my runs if I wanted to start comparing results. Similarly, there is no "live tracking" feature in the Nike app. It isn't the end of the world, but it was a cool feature I was looking into trying out. The overall layout of the web site seems more "immediate activity" oriented without a way to do a deep dive into my statistics, but I still don't really have enough logged into there to truly dig that deep. Things are functional though, so that goes a long way.

That said, I've also heard some good things about Strava, another running/cycling program that is starting to make waves, and show up on the status updates of several of my Facebook friends. I've heard it is a little more "Spartan" in nature, but a quick perusal through the app shows potential for the core needs, and there's a data import tool, so I might be able to pull over all my older Runtastic records, which would make me VERY happy (data junkie here).

Expect a report in a week or so...