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  • A Marathon Journey

Technology…great when it works

In 30 meters, turn left. Continue straight for 5km. If you drive and use any kind of sat nav these phrases will sound familiar.

Oonagh O'Mahony,
Deputy editor of Irish Runner

If you drive and use any kind of sat nav these phrases will sound familiar. And, if you’re anything like me, they will mean nothing to you. If I’m told I’m turning left in 30/40/50/80m I will be in a constant state of preparation for the moment it says: ‘turn left’. I’ve no gauge on distance and no sense of how far things are. This is tricky when it comes to plotting a course to run.


When I began running, I used Strava to track my time and distance. I was often surprised and disappointed as I crawled through the door to realise that I hadn’t even run 5km. It certainly felt like I had gone the distance. I gave up on Strava at the end of last year because it kept losing me, mid run. Large chunks of my route were missing like I had stepped into a portal and come out further up the road (if only!). I switched to MapMyRun, which has been doing well for the most part, but in the past few weeks, since I’ve gotten serious about this running lark, it’s started doing the same thing. It doesn’t stop the clock though, so one day it tells me I have run four miles and the next, on the same route, it’s three miles, but it’s taken longer!
And, when I compare the MapMyRun miles to my phone’s automatic step monitor, it’s way off. I’d rather believe the phone, if I’m honest. For a three-mile run, it says I’ve done at least twice that. So, I figured it must be somewhere in the middle.
Then, I had the brainwave to check Google maps, and that seems to be pretty accurate, tallying with what I thought I was running, which is great, but not much use when you’re on the move.
When I was looking over my performances for each run, I also noticed that my first morning mile was always a good bit slower than the others. I was putting it down to waking up and warming up but as the training plan is beginning to introduce fast and slow miles I figured I would need to know where and when to slow down and, as I said, I can’t be relied on to judge this for myself. MapMyRun has an audio prompt every mile to tell you how you’re getting on. It’s great, when it’s working but every so often, I have my doubts about its accuracy. During the last few runs my guide has popped up at different points.
Part of me thinks all this tracking and measuring and monitoring is bonkers. Humans have been running and competing in races for years, without any of this. The other part of me – the part that is going to win this argument – says it’s time to invest in some new technology.
Last weekend, I invested in a new pair of runners. Proper running runners as I would call them. Now my focus is turned firmly on a nice piece of technology. I was intrigued to see what impact good shoes would have on my run and, it must be said, I feel I’ve put in some good performances since I’ve switched. I can’t imagine a good watch will have quite the same impact but here’s hoping!
Now, off to do some research…

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