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Some Experiments in Running and Technology

Okay, technically it was one experiment testing several hypotheses, but anyway.

Background for the experiment:

I used to run.  I had a Garmin Forerunner for a very long time that I loved very much and then I had a Garmin 220, which I also loved very much.  These both served me well before there were phones with GPS and apps and watches, oh my.  I also used to upload the data from these watches to the very awesome RunningAhead website.  I love the site, and especially the training log.   All my running data is on that site.

I now have an iPhone and an Apple Watch.  I haven’t been running, but I have become addicted to the “Activity/Move/Stand” stats on my watch and also some of the health stats like steps per day.

I also like to take walks and play Pokemon Go.

What I wanted to have happen:

I wanted to go for a run and NOT wear two watches (aka my Apple Watch AND my Garmin).  I wanted a way of tracking my steps taken during the run and have my run and steps count toward the Apple Watch activity/move stats.  I wanted a way to record all the great running stats that my Garmin normally tracks AND be able to upload it to RunningAhead.  AND, I wanted to play Pokemon Go during my run (gotta hatch those eggs!).  Oh!  And I also wanted training programs on the watch, like Couch to 5k or similar so I have cues to start/stop running.  No big deal, right?

Pre-experiment trial and research:

I tried a few apps with the watch to see what I could get out of the above requirements and had a really difficult time getting in all of my objectives.  If you open too many apps on the watch, they cancel each other out.  If I started Runkeeper and then the Workout app, Runkeeper stopped.  I tried different apps, same problem.  Then I found this awesome reddit thread, where someone experimented with several variations on recording a run and realized I needed to do.  Further research showed I could upload Runkeeper’s export to RunningAhead.  AND Runkeeper has several free training programs on the app.  Runtastic was in the running (pun intended) for a while, but their training programs all cost quite a bit of money.

Final experiment:

I loaded Runkeeper on my phone, which automatically loads it on my watch.  I made sure both were fully charged.  I started Runkeeper on my watch (but didn’t start a run).  I started Runkeeper on my phone in order to cue up today’s run per the training plan.  I tapped start.  I checked my watch to see that my watch was running Runkeeper, it was.  I went back to the phone and started up Pokemon Go.  I walked/ran for 34 minutes.  I ended the run on my watch.  Saved the run on my watch.  Sat down at my laptop, opened up Runkeeper.com, exported my run.  Went to RunningAhead.com and uploaded the file.

Experiment results:

Phone battery went from 94% to 55$ on a 34 minute run with Runkeeper running and Pokemon Go.  Obviously, this isn’t something I’ll want to do on long runs, but it worked and I’m happy.  My training run worked perfectly from the training plan on Runkeeper.  It “counted” on the Apple Health/Activity apps (and I’ll incidentally get two new badges this week since my run was included!).  Everything exported and imported beautifully to RunningAhead.  ALL OBJECTIVES ACHIEVED.

All in all, I’m very pleased with the results.  On longer runs, I’ll have to ditch Pokemon Go just for battery reasons, but I’m okay with that.  Extra super bonus that I’d love would be if Runkeeper could figure out how to get the running cues to use the haptic on the watch.  In a separate experiment I tried several apps to see if any of them would do that and none did.

Anyway, I’m back to running and hoping that all this technology keeps me motivated to stick with it.  Happy running!