Running Bolder with Tech

Do you love running? Do you love technology? Today I’m going to talk about how you can bring technology into your running routines. You don’t have to be an uber geek. 1)An uber geek is someone that works with technology for their job and then goes home and builds and reads about technology in their free time. Yes, I do this nearly every night! If you have a smart phone (98.9452% of you reading this already do) there are plenty of ways to improve or enhance your running. Before we get into the specifics, Vizzini, let’s go back to the beginning! 2)A somewhat distorted Princess Bride movie quote, I couldn’t help myself

I discovered the joy of running on an early Monday morning in 1983 in the city of Boulder. That was the day that my Dad and I completed the Fifth Annual Bolder Boulder 10K Classic in 58 minutes and 7.9 seconds. What a rush! We had met our goal of finishing in less than an hour, it felt great, and I was hooked. I was 14 years old and we had completed our 2nd Bolder Boulder together, shaving nearly 6 minutes off our time from the previous year. My sister also ran it for the first time in 1983, finishing in 1:10:28 at the age of 11.

bolderBOULDER 1983
My certificate of completion from the 1983 BolderBOULDER.


I thought I had saved every race certificate from my BolderBOULDER events. Turns out I was missing that first certificate from 1982. Thanks to I can see my results from 1982 and nearly every other BolderBOULDER I’ve ever run. They are missing the years of 1989 and 1990, but I have those certificates. This Memorial Day, in May of 2016 will be my 31st running of the BolderBOULDER. I’m very proud of that accomplishment, but I really haven’t stopped to think about it until recently. I’ll be turning 47 a few weeks before this year’s race, so the BolderBOULDER has clearly been a huge part of my life over the past 3 decades. The last year I missed the event was in 2000 – not sure why, but I’ll see if any of my family remembers. I would have just gotten married a few years before in April of 1998, maybe I hadn’t quite sold my wife Carrie on the “tradition” of running the 10K on Memorial Day weekend just yet.3)Honey, have I thanked you recently for letting my passion for running in the BolderBOULDER dominate the Memorial Day holiday? Thank you! Before that, the only other races I missed were in 1984-1985, when my family moved to New Jersey for two brief years.

Other than saving a whole bunch of race certificates, what helped me take this trip down the BolderBoulder memory lane? Technology! OnlineRaceResults is a website that anyone can search, and thanks to their extensive database, one can find any running event that used their service, including the BolderBOULDER 10K since its inception in 1979.

For many years, the only technology I utilized was a sports watch on the day of the race, or on a few of my last training runs. If the sports watch had a stopwatch with laps, I was truly styling because I could track my pace on the course – especially on those first few miles where the adrenaline is flowing and the pace of the wave/crowd is just too fast. I had some great BolderBoulder events over the years, clocking in my fastest times on the course at 43:40 and 44:01 in 1986 and 1987. For the next 10+ years I consistently would run the race in the high 40’s or low 50 minute range. Then I noticed that father time was creeping in as my times start creeping up into the mid 50 minute range and I was sore after the race for more than a day or two.

sportwatch_sensor._V147027908_In 2007, I discovered a way to track my runs and statistics. The BolderBoulder always provides a great break-down of my pace and mile times on each years certificate of completion, but I was craving more info about my training runs. Nike introduced the Nike+ activity tracker kit. Nike+ was a collaboration between Nike and Apple that gave users the capability to track their runs while listening to music on an iPod with a wireless chip that you could store in special Nike shoes. Fortunately I quickly realized that you could weave that sensor between your laces on your favorite pair of running shoes and avoid a costly or un-wanted running shoe upgrade. Along the way, Nike has continued to update their Nike+ website, introduced an iOS app in 2010 (and Android in 2012) – removing the dependency on the separate shoe sensor. The mobile apps take advantage of the accelerometer and GPS capabilities of more recent mobile phones – making it possible to track not only outdoor runs but treadmill runs as well, all without anything extra but your phone and a free Nike+ account. Brilliant! Since the end of 2007 when I setup a Nike+ account – I’ve tracked 1126 miles over the course of 433 runs. That’s a mountain of data and statistics. I can see where I’ve run outdoors (thanks to GPS), what time of day I’ve run the most, my pace at any point in my run, and many other things that help me run better every time I go out. I can even see when its time to go replace my running shoes, thanks to the ability to pick your shoes each run and see a total number of miles each pair has been worn. Nike+ has also made it even easier to access your music during your runs – it easily lets your favorite service like Spotify or Apple Music provide the tunes that drive you during your run and stays out of their way so you can get motivated over the miles.

Since Nike+ came onto the scene, there have been a multitude of other running tracking solutions from a variety of companies. Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Runkeeper – tracks more than just runs, social aspects are fun
  • MapMyFitness – lots of contests to enter – meet goals to qualify for prizes, owned by UnderArmour, can import Nike+ runs
  • Pebble Smart Watch – apps that can show your live running starts so you can put away your fun, tracks steps
  • Fitbit – my favorite step tracker for walking, stairs, and running
  • Withings – make a great wireless scale, and their fitness app tracks both running and steps automatically via most modern iOS and Android phones

Each of these run tracking solutions has small advantages and differences over the others. I knew I had a problem when my running partners would chastise me about how long it took to start running as I started all my trackers (Nike+, Runkeeper, MapMyFitness) on my iPhone before a run one day. Since then I’ve gone back to just starting up Nike+ and researching solutions on syncing the data to Runkeeper and MapMyFitness. Nike+ has the data for every single run I’ve done since 2007 and I have hope for the future in that I recently discovered they provide an API to access that data. It’s always great when you discover the service you’ve been using for years doesn’t just lock away your non-personal data in a vault for their own marketing purposes. Unlike the personal data (believe me, we do all want that in vaults) I really do want to be able to share and import my running data into other services both now and in the future. Who knows what other company might come along and be able to diagnose the perfect training program for your next 10K based on your previous races? Right!? 🙂

pebble-time-vu-pulse-1453979450-ASFK-column-width-inlineAlong with run tracking solutions, another important aspect for a runner to manage is their heart-rate. As I get older, I want to make sure I’m being good to that all important blood pumper and not overly stressing it. I invested in the Armour 39 chest strap from Under Armour a few years ago and have been happy with it. Yet another app that needs to be started up but it does do a good job of gathering data during your run once its all up and running. The chest strap is easy to wear and comfortable enough, but I often pass on the extra effort it takes to bring it with me and put it on. I believe the future of hear-rate monitoring is on your wrist. The expensive but powerful Apple Watch is one solution but even though I’m an Apple guy (my phone, home computer, laptop and music all are provided by Apple hardware or services) the Watch feels too pricy and too needy (another device that needs to be charged daily!?) to be the right solution at the moment. I’m looking to my favorite smartwatch – my Pebble Time to possibly provide this ability in the near future with their smart strap feature. They kept the price of the Pebble reasonable, the battery life is great, and they created the ability for 3rd party companies to create smart straps that can provide additional features while holding the watch on your wrist. I have hope for the future that Pebble will be able to provide the ability to more simply monitor my heart-rate during runs in the near future.

Another way that technology can help a runner is thru training programs. If you don’t have time to seek out and meet with a personal trainer at your gym, the answers you seek might be already available to you on your phone. I’ve started to look at mobile apps like FitStar (backed by some high profile athletes like former NFL player Tony Gonzalez) and Nike Training. They both offer some easy to follow routines or programs when you are training for an upcoming 5k, 10k or marathon. Some of the run tracking apps that I’ve previouslyzombierun mentioned (Runkeeper and MayMyFitness) also provide training programs thru their apps. There are also apps out there that may not provide the traditional training program, but provide other fun ways to motivate you to run further, faster and more often. One app that I’ve enjoyed is “Zombies, Run!” The app provides a storyline that you play over your headphones while you run that inspires you to run and keep running. It’s available for both iOS and Android phones. Worth checking out, especially if you like Zombies. 🙂

When it comes to your race day, I feel its important that the technology take a back seat. When I run this years BolderBoulder 10K on Memorial Day with my son this May, I will start up my Nike+ app as the gun fires to start our wave and keep the headphones and music off. The BolderBOULDER event has amazing bands and crowd support over the entire course, they are not to be missed. Enjoy your race and soak up the atmosphere where ever you are!

I hope that this post has provided you with a few ideas on how to add technology to your running to make it more productive, fun, healthy, and motivate you to keep going. If you have a question about any of the products, services, or concepts I’ve discussed – please ask in the comments and we can discuss further! Now, go run!

References   [ + ]

1. An uber geek is someone that works with technology for their job and then goes home and builds and reads about technology in their free time. Yes, I do this nearly every night!
2. A somewhat distorted Princess Bride movie quote, I couldn’t help myself
3. Honey, have I thanked you recently for letting my passion for running in the BolderBOULDER dominate the Memorial Day holiday? Thank you!

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