Forget Watches—Try An App For Running

The App Hunter reviews two iPhone apps for runners that track distance, pace and time and load your stats to personal training logs online.

If you’re a runner—or know one well—you know it’s all about the numbers.

Lots and lots of numbers: miles run, pace per mile, mile time, 5K personal record, heart rate, miles per week, miles per month, miles per hour.   

Today, runners can track just about anything with a variety of personal devices—from expensive Garmin navigational devices to your basic iPhone app. This week, I tested two apps in particular, Fitnio ($4.99) and iMapMyRun (free), to see what they offer when it comes to running the numbers.


I picked Fitnio because it came highly recommended on various running blogs and websites. I liked the large display with easy-to-read time, pace and distance figures. The interface lets users access iTunes directly, so you don’t have to switch screens if you want to listen to music while you’re running. It also automatically uploads the data from each walk, run or bike to a website that you can use as a personal training log.

Typically, I just run with a cheap watch I bought from Target, so all I keep track of is time. But being able to see my pace in big flashing numbers definitely inspired me to run faster, and I shaved a good four or five minutes off my regular four-mile loop. My per-mile pace updated itself almost instantly, it seemed.  

When I logged into the Fitnio website, I could see a map of where I ran and statistics including elevation and my pace at various points during the run. It was fun sliding my cursor over a graph of how my pace varied--not surprisingly, I started out slower than I finished.

While I wasn't familiar with the Fitnio website, I chose the iMapMyRun app because I occasionally use the free site MapMyRun.com to see how far I’ve run or to plan a route when I’m in a different city. In contrast to Fitnio, I could see a map of where I was running while I was using the app, rather than having to wait until my run was uploaded the website.

Using the iMapMyRun app in map view, I got a kick out of seeing exactly where I was going recorded as a blue line on the map (good thing I didn’t trip over my feet or run into someone while I was staring down at the screen.) When I switched to stat view the app displayed pace, distance and time. It also offers the ability to track your heart rate if connected to a heart rate monitor.  

Unlike Fitnio, iMapMyRun’s app doesn’t let you access iTunes from the app—you have to switch screens. For someone who loves listening to music on a run, Fitnio is probably a better choice, since it integrates your favorite playlists more easily.

For me, however, the feature I was excited about was the ability to automatically log your mileage and your route. I loved being able to see the map in real time on iMapMyRun's app, and better yet, the app is free and does almost everything that Fitnio's does. 

Although I’ve never considered bringing my iPhone on a run with me, the ease with which iMapMyRun tracked my stats might just have me buying one of those nifty iPhone armbands. And despite the nuisance of two work calls interrupting one run, having my phone along did provide a completely unrelated benefit. When I ran through in Northbrook, I spotted a gorgeous hawk perched on a post in the middle of the drainage basin. I wished I could show my friends and family—so I pulled out my phone and took a picture (click on the media gallery at right to see the shot I took). I guess there are some unexpected benefits to bringing the phone on a run.

Joanna Schneider November 06, 2011 at 03:54 PM
Great column, Jenny! And, I love the photo you snapped at Techny Park.
Jennifer Fisher November 06, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Thanks, Joanna. I don't know if it was really a hawk--I have no idea about birds. Anyone know their birds and can ID the one I took a picture of?
Casey Cora November 07, 2011 at 03:53 PM
Very cool. I'm a fan of the $1.99 "Nike + GPS" app, which tracks your route, average pace, calories burned, etc. But it also offers some other extras, like built-in social media encouragement from friends (enable the feature and you'll hear "cheers" from your Facebook friends as you run), fitness challenges and a game of "tag" where you can outrun your friends and escape being "it." And the app seamlessly incorporates your iPod music. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/nike-gps/id387771637?mt=8
ESTHER CAGGIANO November 07, 2011 at 07:43 PM
thanks for the great ideas for the apps. the bird looks like a hawk to me. nice pic
Jennifer Fisher November 07, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Wow, cheers from your Facebook friends sounds like a cool feature! Thanks for weighing in, Casey.


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