I completed the Houston Half Marathon today after having completed the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run half marathon training program within the RunKeeper iPhone app. The target goal of the training program is 2 hours and 20 minutes for a half marathon. I finished in two hours two minutes and seven seconds (results / RunKeeper data). I was 121st place in my age group out of 224. Considering this was my first half marathon, I am happy with the results.
I am especially pleased when I think back to the New Year’s Resolution Run results. I ran that 5K race in 34:29 which is 11:06 per mile. Today, I ran the half marathon at 9:12 per mile. If I ran the half marathon at the same pace I ran the 5k, the half marathon would have taken me 2 hours 25 minutes and 24 seconds. Both my training and weight loss enabled that improvement.
I bought the RunKeeper application for the iPhone when it was originally $9.99 because it is one of the top run tracking apps available. (Now RunKeeper is free.) I used the app for a while, quit for a while, and then started using it again more consistently starting last Fall. You can find my RunKeeper profile here.
Things I like about RunKeeper:
- The application is exceptionally easy to use and has lots of options for tracking multiple types of activities and for reporting page, distance, etc during an activity.
- The live tracking with RunKeeper pro puts my wife at ease when I am out running long distances. That makes the $20 per year for the Pro subscription worth it without any of the other benefits that it includes.
- You can swipe the main part of the display to the side and see the map. I had to use this a few times on long runs to find my way. It was quick and easy to get oriented.
- Easy to set up interval training of various types.
- The website makes it easy to track friends’ accomplishments and activities to form accountability partnerships. This is important to achieving goals.
- It has good privacy controls around who can see the maps of your activities. This can also be changed on a per activity basis.
Needs Improvement in RunKeeper:
- RunKeeper should separate records for “Spinning” from cycling. Same goes for records on the treadmill versus street when running. Those are two different activities in both cases and they distort your record paces. You indicate that you are using equipment in the logging so separating the records should be simple.
- RunKeeper should add music controls rather than requiring switching over to the iPod player. Even better idea — allow me to flag a song to remove it from a play list.
- Sometimes the GPS does not feel accurate. You can see in the photo here that my half marathon was 13.34 miles. Maybe I just went wide on the turns, but I doubt it could add up to that much difference. Others reported similar differences today.
- If I do interval training by time and my announcements of pace and distance are scheduled by time, they can collide. (As a work around, I pause the workout upon starting for about 10 seconds.)
- Pausing when doing time based intervals should stop the time. Occasionally, you can get stuck at a stop light or have to make a pit stop.
- I seem to randomly lose and add back “street mates” (the term for “friends” within RunKeeper.)
- I’d like the ability to add “acquaintances” so we can keep track of each other’s running without committing to seeing the actual maps which often start at my house.
- RunKeeper does not work well for cycling which needs an automatic pause upon stopping.
- RunKeeper requires you to convert swimming measurements into running measurements. RunKeeper should know to allow you to switch measurement types on the manual entry screen.
Summary of RunKepper
It is an easy to use iPhone app to track running activities and for aggregating other activities such as cycling, but there are still some things that need improving in the app. On the whole though, I find it to be a great place to track my activities and have engoyed the half marathon training class that I found via the application (see next section.) I recommend RunKepper for tracking runs, but hope that they can address a few of the issues I mentioned.
Review of the Jeff Galloway Half Marathon Training via RunKeeper
Late in 2010, a friend told me of the Jeff Galloway Run-Walk-Run method of running training. I hear some running purists criticize it, but I can now vouch for the effectiveness of the training program based upon my personal experience. His training has been converted into a downloadable RunKeeper training program that you may purchase via the website. The training programs start on a specific date and end on a specific date — each activity can only be used time. Since I am a RunKeeper Pro member, I paid only $10 for the half-marathon training program. I have a friend who describes himself as cheap who is going to program each of the activities in manually rather than buy the program. It is possible to do that, but I think your time and the defined organization of the plan are worth the $10.
The Run-Walk-Run training program works. It only takes three days per week to train for a half marathon. And generally, except for a few weeks of the program, it can be completed in less than four hours per week. This is what Tim Ferriss was talking about when he referred to the minimum effective dose in the book The Four Hour Body. You can see from the same 45 minute run between June and October the effectiveness of this program. I completed nearly an additional mile in the same amount of time.
One thing that I did notice that was disappointing — there was almost zero interaction between people signed up for the same training program schedule. I expected a bit more mutual encouragement and conversation. I tried commenting on their activities and proving encouragement, but there was no reciprocation at all from anyone so I stopped after about a month.
Something to note… I did not follow the program exactly. In fact, it took me a few more weeks to complete than the schedule and I skipped one week and a few work outs. Regardless, I still smashed the training program goal time by nearly 18 minutes. I did that despite having trouble completing the first few work outs of the training program because I was not in sufficient shape.
I wish RunKeeper would offer a Jeff Galloway marathon training program as well.
Review of the Houston Half Marathon
I signed up for the Houston Half Marathon because the Fall timing was right, it is less expensive than some of the more prestigious longer running events in Houston, and there is no lottery to be accepted. The start was a bit crowded but it thinned out reasonably quickly. I liked the up and downs in the elevation on the course, but there is no way my running training out in the flat lands of Katy, Texas could have prepared me for nearly 1,000 feet in elevation change. Many of my training runs had elevation changes of 85-150 feet. The finish line also became crowded again especially for the photo section. Overall though it was a good race and I will likely run it again next year.
I would like to see the option to have the packet mailed to me. I know that they are trying to drive traffic to the sponsoring running store. However, I was off work Thursday and Friday so I had to spend nearly two hours of my Saturday before the race to pick up the race packet. I would have gladly paid $10 to have it sent to my home.