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Next to my iPhone, my favorite gadget is my Garmin Forerunner 305. I've had this device, in various editions, on my wrist when I run andride for nearly 7 years.
It'sa GPS trainig watch that instantly helps me stay on track with my paceand lets me improvise my routes in the neighborhood by tracking myaccumulated distance. When you're training for marathons (I run themfor Team Diabetes), knowing your pace and distance are vital. Intervaltraining will have you running and varied speeds and each week you addabout 10% distance to your long runs. Planning ahead using the web ishandy, but when you want to freestyle a new route, or you start bonkingon a run, knowing where you are and how far you've gone is handy.
I'veseen some Twitter chatter about a similar app for the iPhone anddecided to test it out. RunKeeper is a free app (a premium version isavailable for $9.99) that lets you perform similar tricks using the GPSabilities of your iPhone.
I took the RunKeeper and Garmin Forerunner outfor some runs this week and matched up the data. They both came backwith comparable results, so the time and distance aren't a separatorbetween the two, but the functionality of using an iPhone app to trackdistance vs having it all on your wrist is where the battle is won andlost with these gadgets.
If you strap your iPhone toyour bicep you can't see the screen while in full stride. Same thingif you tuck the phone into your pocket - it's tough to get out whileyou're running and your sweaty fingers make a mess of the screen. Andthis is crucial when it comes to monitoring your performance on a run. (The premium version does offer audio cues through your headphones tohelp you with pre-programmed interval training).
Theapp is also a battery hog since it's constantly pulling and pushing GPSdata, it's working your location services overtime. Just a 1 hour rundrained nearly half my battery supply.
That said, the interfaceof RunKeeper is very slick. There's no syncing needed between yourcomputer and the app since the iPhone is always online. Just save theworkout when you're done and it's automatically saved to yourRunKeeper.com profile
I actually love the RunKeeper results onthe web, the automatic splits are handy, the graphics are elegant andthe interface is clean. I wish this was how my Garmin looked (to befair I'm using an older Forerunner 305 model and the new Forerunner 405does have some fancy features I can't access).
In the end,RunKeeper is a great introduction to the sort of wonderful things youcan add to your training with a GPS guide, but it's just too bulky touse every single day. It will have you dipping your toe into the pooland dreaming about how much more convenient all this data would be ifyou could quickly glance at it on your wrist. If you're not sure aboutcommitting to a GPS running watch, and already have the iPhone, stickRunkeeper on it and take it out for a couple of runs - you'll become adata junkie after just a couple laps.
catch the buzz ... pass it on.