Keeping track of my runs

After having been running for 4 months, I decided that it was time to start sharing some of my experiences.

But first a bit of background…

For a long time, I’ve thought that it would be a massive achievement to run a marathon but never actually got any further to achieving the goal than thinking about it!


In reality, I’ve never been that good at running. At school, I was one of the least athletic in the class and apart from showing a brief glimpse of promise at high jump (that turned out to be a bit of unrepeatable fluke,) I didn’t take to any land-based activities.


Fast forward approximately 20 years… This year I hit 40! It wasn’t a milestone I was particularly dreading and I certainly didn’t feel my life had ended. But I felt I had to have a challenge to focus on rather than simply exist til retirement!


As a director of an Internet company, I have the great fortune to work from home and rarely venture very far from the house. However, this leads to a fairly sedentary lifestyle. With two boys under 3, I knew that I’d have my work cut out for me if I didn’t get fitter. Although I wasn’t at my heaviest on my 40th birthday, I was on the wrong side of 14 stone and that meant I was about 2 stones overweight.


Fortunately, on the way back from a board meeting, I spotted a poster for the Cancer Research UK 10K run events which take place around the UK in October this year. Having consumed one glass of expensive wine more than I should, I decided that my goal was to participate in one of the events and not kill myself in the process.


Having not mentioned any of this to my wife, I signed up, paid my enrolment fee and started looking for training programmes. Many talked about their applicability for beginners but expected them to be able to comfortably run 2 miles. In reality, running 0.2 miles was going to be a challenge. Luckily, I, like many, discovered the Couch To 5K programme (C25K). With 17 weeks to train, I could follow C25K for the first 9 weeks then use one of the other training programmes to fill up the remaining weeks.


Without a running partner, I needed some ‘tech’ to help me get through each workout. My trust iPhone 3G came up trumps with an impressive looking app called C25K. It was easy to use and did exactly what I wanted; talking me through each interval of the workout.


I have to admit even with the app the first few workouts were tough and (between you and me), running for 60 seconds at a time (even with a 90 second walk to follow) was a real struggle. I’d found the flattest field I could to run around and every length of it seemed to develop more of an incline. I even tried running in the opposite direction and found inclines too! How could that be?!


Using the C25K app, I progressed through the first 3 or 4 weeks. At the end of each workout, I felt as hot, sweaty and exhausted as the previous workout but each week as I was running more and further in each session, this must have meant I must have been getting fitter.


But I was missing something… It wasn’t an armband (I’d bought a ‘tuneband’), shock-absorbing insoles to reduce the risk of injury (a pair of Sorbathane full-strike insoles meant that sore knees and shins weren’t going to be a problem, even if staining my running socks pink was!) or a Polar Heart Rate Monitor (is it only me that sometimes remembers to put the chest strap on but forgets the watch?!)


What I was missing was a pat on the back during and after each workout and someone to tell me how well I’d done through each part of the workout. I desperately needed to know what my pace had been and how those dreaded inclines I was always running up were hampering my progress. The C25K app couldn’t give me this information and although it was great at bossily telling me when to walk or run, it just wasn’t going to give me the incentive to carry on. After scouring the App Store, I found RunKeeper. Unfortunately, at the time, although it gave all the stats I could need, it didn’t have the ability to talk me through the intervals. Was I destined to not find the app of my dreams?


I couldn’t believe my luck on the 1st July when I received the email from Runkeeper to tell me that ‘You can do time-based, distance-based, or even interval workouts through your headphones, you can program them before you set out, and the audio cues will coach you through your workout.’

My prayers had been answered.

The following day, I set off with iPhone on arm with Runkeeper, er, running to attack my latest workout. I have to say that Runkeeper did everything I wanted and more. Being guided through the workout as well as being given on-demand stats of my current speed, pace, time and distance travelled was really helpful. I’m not sure how much it hampered my run tapping the screen as often as I did to get the on-demand stats, but I desperately needed to know just how much more torture I needed to endure. Runkeeper gave me just the information I needed, but in that case, didn’t want to hear!

Having reached the end of the C25K programme, I decided to leave the field and find other routes in the local area. Having been accustomed to grass underfoot, pavements and roads were much less comfortable but the new scenery was a welcome distraction from the same four edges of the field. As RunKeeper doesn’t support mapping out routes at the moment, I used (I briefly tried their app but never got it to work!) to work out routes that met my criteria in terms of distance and hilliness (or lack thereof). After each run, I’d log into the RunKeeper website to see how well I’d done. Not only that but I could show my wife (who’d been less than enthusiastic about my new passion) where I’d been and how far I’d travelled. She was impressed to say the least.

A few weeks into using RunKeeper, I started to get involved in the forum, sharing ideas for improvements to the app as well as trying to help out other users experiencing problems. It soon became apparent that RunKeeper wasn’t being developed by a faceless organisation but by a group of really passionate individuals who were actively involved with their user community and whose involvement was encouraging users to offer some excellent ideas on how to make the app/website better and better. As a user, I personally feel that my ideas are being listened to by Jason, Michael and his team and it’s that feeling that’s made me more determined to help out make RunKeeper better and better either by dreaming up the next killer feature or by making it easier for fellow users to vote for popular feature requests.

My journey to 10K hasn’t ended yet. I’ve still got several weeks of training to go and have to build up from 3.5 miles to the 6.2 miles but I’m confident of achieving that as well as being able to make a good donation to the Cancer Research UK charity at the same time. Without RunKeeper (both the app and the community), the journey so far wouldn’t have been as much fun) and I can confidently say that I will continue to run for as long as I can with RunKeeper keeping track of my progress. I’m looking forward to our future together!

And that should really be the end of my story so far… But, I’ve just let my wife go out with my iPhone on her arm with RunKeeper tracking her first workout of the C25K programme. If only live tracking were available and I could see how she was doing. I’ll have to wait for an update or two for that! 😉

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