I have been on the hunt for a running app that tracks my workouts more accurately. I started running with a Fitbit Charge HR in October 2016. I found the GPS woefully inaccurate, and I had to have the phone with me, of course, when I ran. I was having trouble at the time with a bad iPhone 6 that liked to shut down in the cold, and I lost more than one workout because of it. Fitbit also breaks heartrate data down into only three zones, and I didn’t find that very helpful when an entire workout was all in the uppermost zone, but may not have really been that hard. So in January of 2017, I broke down and bought the new AppleWatch Series 2.
I bought the Nike+ edition of the Series 2 and used it on the Miler Series 3-Miler in February of 2017. I used it without the phone (since that was a major attraction of the Series 2, and my phone was still shutting down randomly in the cold). The watch tracked my 3-mile run as 2.8 miles. I was not happy. I was using the Nike+ app until then. I went back to MapMyRun instead, which did require the phone, and instead of 6 miles on the 6-Miler, I tracked more like 6.2. And then the Half-Marathon in May was 13.7, and I did not start the workout until closer to the start line.
So, it’s been a bit of a headache. I did a lot of reading and it seemed the opinion was that it was the device, not the chosen app, that was the problem with the GPS accuracy. I don’t know how true that may be, I only know my experience, but different apps do track differently on the phone. I have used the phone rather than the watch since then, only using the watch as a display rather than the actual tracker. MapMyRun still doesn’t have a watch-only mode, and I’ve used MMR for so long that I like to keep my data there anyway. I also like the way it tracks heart rate data (and splits it into the more-normal 5 zones). However, MMR consistently tracks my distance high, and therefore my pace low. And I’m at a point in training where I really need more accuracy.
I run with a partner now in training, and she uses Runkeeper. When we ran in Avon a couple of weeks ago, she tracked our run at 2.8 miles when I was at 3. I went around another loop, then went home and measured the same distance on a new course on MapMyRun.com. Lo and behold, Runkeeper had tracked it right. I didn’t know at the time that we had the same phone. Instead what I did is when I ran 5.1 miles the following Saturday, I used Runkeeper. I then went home and again measured the route using a new course on MapMyRun.com. It matched to the 1/10th mile. It’s the app, not the device.
Problem is, I don’t entirely care for the Runkeeper app. It doesn’t play very nice with the AppleWatch, it doesn’t even track heart rate unless you start the workout with the Apple watch. And then when I try to end the workout on the watch (as I need to in order to get the heart rate data), I end up with two workouts saved in my history instead of one–one with heart rate data, one without. Also, while using that app and getting my heart rate data, my heart rate is reading much higher than I think is normal. I don’t 100% trust the accuracy of the AppleWatch heart rate data, to begin with, but this seems even more skewed than it was when I was using MapMyRun.
What I DO like about Runkeeper (besides its incredibly accurate GPS tracking) is how it breaks down splits, especially since I run with intervals. It tells me my pace for each interval, so I know just how fast I’m running when I am running. It’s nice data to know. I also much prefer to know my real pace and real distance, rather than wondering just how accurate anything is.
Another major issue with running apps is whether a person can download/export her data in order to work with it somewhere else, and in what format that download is. Runkeeper only exports to GPX format. Much more preferable is TCX format. So even if I get heart rate data into Runkeeper, it will not export that data with the other workout data. That means I can import it into MMR, but I won’t get the heart rate data at all, not even average and max, not to mention time in the various zones.
I did more looking, and I found an app called iSmoothRun. I had some hopes for this one, but it proved during Saturday’s 3-miler to be as inaccurate with the GPS routing as MMR was. It also failed to read my heart rate at all, so I lost that data. It does save in TCX format, though, and it automatically uploads the data wherever you tell it to. But it tracked a 3 mile race at 3.3 miles, and Runkeeper (my running partner’s app) tracked it at 3.1-something, which turned out to be very close to accurate when I then went back to map the route on MapMyRun.com, especially counting the fact that she did not start or stop the app exactly at the start/finish lines. And it turns out she and I do have the same phone, an iPhone 6.
Back to researching. I don’t trust the mapping of the AppleWatch or the iPhone. I don’t entirely trust my phone battery to last through a 13.1-mile race, either, especially if I have to use a waterproof case rather than a battery case. I don’t like Runkeeper enough to use it exclusively, especially since it only exports the workout data in GPX (or CSV) format. (At least you don’t need a premium account to export your data to CSV with either Runkeeper or iSmoothRun, as you do with MapMyRun.)
I decided to shop for a Garmin. I really like the AppleWatch for a lot of other reasons (and I am Apple loyal), but it’s just not designed to be a running watch. There doesn’t seem to be an app that works on it well if it doesn’t have the phone nearby. Granted, I’m likely to have my phone with me regardless, but I don’t want to have to have the phone, nor do I want to worry about the phone battery dying mid-run, especially on a long run. More than once now I’ve had to call my husband for help when I’ve been two or more miles from home: once with what turned out to be a stress fracture in my foot, and once with a nerve issue in my foot. Not to mention the time I got hit by a car while bicycling to an organized bike ride that started four miles from home.
I’m going with a Garmin Fenix 5s. I’ve read some reviews of the 5 that weren’t so good, I can hope the 5s has improved with the GPS accuracy. I like the running metrics that it appears to keep, especially when paired with an HR monitor and a Running Dynamics Pod. This all may be overkill for someone at my level, but it should at least give me what I want. I’m a numbers-girl, love charts and graphs, so it should be interesting to see how this goes. The main things I want at this point are cadence tracking, HR tracking, and accurate-enough GPS tracking. If I’m running a 5-mile run at a 13:15 pace, I want to know that’s at least close, not a full minute (or more) off-pace. That’s important as I’m working up to the half-marathon in May.