I’ve posted on the blog a few times before about my running. At my peak – probably the summer & fall of 2014 – I was hammering out several 5k’s every week and my average pace was somewhere around a 9:30 mile. My best mile was a 7:55 I blasted last March, that’s probably the beginning of the end.
Along came our new baby, and stress at work, and winter 15-16 kept my running paths covered up for a while, so by the time spring came around I was running several times a week but not at my previous pace. My goal for 2016 was to run 200 miles and I was on pace up until October when my life became insanely busy and the sun started setting earlier and for the first time since March of 2014 I didn’t log a single run.
Now I’m trying to get my feet back under me. I’ve put in about seven miles this month and between now and the end of November I’m hoping to log at least three more runs. That will leave somewhere around 30 miles for me to log in December in order to reach my goal.
A big part of running, for me anyway, is analytics. I log every run. It was great at first, seeing my mile pace go from almost 15 minutes all the way down to 10, and then nine, and sometimes even faster than that. And my distance increased dramatically as well – I went from one-milers to two, then three, and in my heyday I managed to get through an entire 10k (with some breaks to let my feet wake up) in just over an hour. It’s hugely motivational for me to be able to see where I was and how much I have improved. And, of course, now I’ve got some more improving to do.
Runkeeper was always my app of choice for running. At the time I started using it, Runkeeper seemed to be the best app out there. Over time, however, I’ve started seeing a lot of athletes making the transition over to Strava. So I thought it was high time for a new blog post, and my subject today will be a comparison of the two apps. Although there are some ways to sync your tracking apps (I’ll get into that later) I’d like to just use one.
Like I said, Runkeeper has been my app of choice this entire time. And it has improved a lot over time.
The first thing you see after logging in to the app is the home screen. On the home screen you have the ability to select what type of workout you’ll be undertaking (run, walk, bike, etc.) and then you can see where you are on a map and what your GPS signal is. GPS signal is critical when tracking runs – if you don’t have a good GPS signal, it’s likely that you won’t get an accurate log of your run. Your location will bounce around too much which can significantly alter your total mileage and, as a result, your pace. A new addition to Runkeeper within the past year or two is the ability to play music through the app itself – you can select to hear no music, or music from your device, or streaming music through a connected app like Spotify. For a Spotify user like me, it’s awesome to have access to playlists during runs.
Once you’re on your way, Runkeeper offers periodic audio updates at specific time or distance intervals. In the past I preferred to get my updates every half mile, but recently I’ve switched the settings so that I get my updates every five minutes because I’m often working against the clock more than trying to hit a particular distance. I don’t often look at the screen during a run, but when I do I can see my average pace, total time, total distance, etc.
After a run you have the ability to add notes, pictures, etc. about your workout. You can also set which shoes you wore during the run, and Runkeeper will keep a lifetime distance for each pair of shoes you run with. Just yesterday it told me that I had *finally* broken in my 880v5’s. Somehow it knows about how far you can run on a pair of shoes and it’ll warn you when it’s time to get some new ones. You can also share details of you run via connected social apps like Twitter and Facebook if you’re into publicizing your sweat-fests.
On the analytics side, Runkeeper has an easy-to-use interface for both mobile and desktop. To be honest, the mobile app doesn’t give you quite as much in the way of drilling down into your data. You can see how this month stacks up against last month, and you can see details on individual runs. You can also compare runs, but I believe that is only a premium feature (which I do subscribe to). But if you want more detailed analytics, log into the Runkeeper site via your desktop or laptop.
This is just a snapshot of what you can see…for me, tracking my pace and distance over various time periods helps me to see whether I’m improving or declining. A better view of individual runs is offered through the Activities menu. If you’re competitive, you can also compare your own performance against your friends’ performance. It’s a clean and easy-to-use interface and that’s what I like about it the most.
If I had to give Runkeeper a grade, it’d be an 8/10.
To be fair, I’ve only been using Strava for a few days. I haven’t used it during a run so I can’t really speak to its performance during a workout. So for this review, I’ll mainly be speaking to its analytical abilities.
The first thing that hits me is the amount of white space on Strava’s home page. Minimalist is good, but emptiness can be a hindrance for users. I think if I used Strava more often and subscribed to their premium features there would be less white space so I won’t hold it against them at this point.
Strava offers you a view of your runs by activity, along with a little map for each one. You can also see your goals, milestones, upcoming races, etc. right from the home page. And one thing Strava does that I haven’t found in Runkeeper yet is they allow you to set up a privacy zone. You can alter the maps of each run to keep your home address private so nobody sees where you live. That’s nice, but it does alter the way your runs are viewed when your home falls within a segment of a route.
Speaking of segments, this seems to be an area where Strava beats Runkeeper handily. It’s nice to see stats for an entire run, but what if you want to focus on one particular area – say, that hill that gets you every time. You know you ran it faster, but how much faster? With Runkeeper you’d have to manually check the time stamps on each GPS hit as you went up the hill to figure out how long it took you to get to the top. Which Strava, it sounds like you can create a segment just for that hill and then track your performance there over time. That’s nice. There is also a social element to segments where you can see how other Strava users have performed on those same segments.
Now let’s look at Strava’s user profile page.
Like I said…white space. But what’s on the page isn’t bad. You’ve got an area for achievements, activities charted over a period of time, and then some of your most recent individual activies. On the sidebar you have additional stats about this week, the last four weeks, and the your all-time best performances. Even though I’ve imported all of my runs from Runkeeper, I feel like I’m missing some data that would make this screen more relevant. If I ran every day, this screen would probably be full of usefulness.
I’ve got to give it a bit more time, but so far…I feel like Strava comes in around a 7/10. The interface itself is probably a 5 or 6, but the fact that Strava is more widely used across the running community bumps it up a bit more. I’ll try to get a good run in with Strava this week and see how it performs…rumor has it that it tracks distance more accurately than Runkeeper, so we’ll see if that is true.
Do you use a running tracker? What is it? What do you like? What don’t you like? Share your feedback in the comments!