Kate Carter, lifestyle editor at The Guardian and elite runner, takes us through five of the best running apps.
Based in London, Kate Carter is an editor at The Guardian, where she frequently writes about running. In the last five years, Kate has watched as running apps exploded in popularity. “I think they’ve really encouraged the social side of running, which is hugely important,” she recently told us. “I also think they’ve given people more information and opportunity for more structured training, if that’s what they want.” We talked to Kate to find five apps to recommend to our readers, with the following results:
“I won’t deny I’m a Strava addict,” Kate said of the massively popular running app, which emphasizes social connection. “I am in a running club, and have lots of running friends, but I actually do about 95 percent of training on my own. That can feel slightly isolating. If I got to work and explained a session I’d just done, my colleagues would look blankly at me. Put it on Strava, and I know there’s a community of like-minded people who will instantly get it and congratulate or commiserate accordingly. I love the fact that I follow runners around the world, from Australia to Norway via Japan and Kenya.
We asked Kate to pick an app that downplays statistics in favor of a unique experience. “I confess I’ve never tried it,” she said, “but there’s the Zombies, Run! app, which adds an element of (not real) danger. Other than that, I suppose I'm a bit boring when it comes to imaginative app usage. I must try and branch out, in fact.” Zombies, Run! transforms a jog around the neighborhood into a mission to gather supplies and rescue fellow humans amid an all-out undead apocalypse. Via your headphones, you receive objectives for each stage of your mission. Along the way, audio prompts alert you to opportunities and danger. When the zombies come for your brains, you better get those legs moving.
London is notorious for inclement weather, although Kate considers the reputation unfair. “It’s really not that bad,” she says. “It’s temperate, and not nearly as rainy as everyone seems to think.” Kate runs in all weather, whether on a skiing vacation or in the Caribbean. However, if severe weather were to force her to run indoors on a treadmill - which Kate said she would only do if “absolutely no other choice” were available - RunSocial would help her survive the indoor workout. This app lets treadmill runners escape the gym via virtual-reality courses displayed on phones, tablets, or TV screens. Routes include Death Valley, the London Marathon (no rain), the Swiss Alps, and a snowy Banff, Canada.
Which app has the most buzz among Kate’s readers and social-media followers? “Definitely Strava would be the most mentioned,” she said. “Then, RunKeeper.” Running apps cover a lot of the same territory: miles logged, times, goals, etc., but RunKeeper takes data to another level. In addition to tracking every element of a run, including elevation, RunKeeper suggests workouts, integrates a Strava-esque community element, and even has a “goal coach” function. These features allow users to set performance targets and maintain the motivation needed to achieve them. Add it all up, and RunKeeper has earned 50,000,000 downloads to date.
On May 7, runners across the world will participate in the Wings for Life World Run, which takes place at multiple locations, from Florida, Germany to Australia. Despite the array of global venues, not everyone can make it to a course. For those runners, there are the App Runs. Organized or on there own, everybody can be part of the Wings for Life World Run. This app allows users to organize their own local race on May 7, and when the big day arrives, the app tracks distance and time. It even incorporates the Catcher Car, the moving finish lines that, along with the race’s emphasis on spinal-cord-injury research, sets apart the Wings for Life World Run. Your official distance also will be published in the Global Result List. Using the app might even give you the kind of inspiration that helped Kate win the overall women’s race in 2015.
“I was fully intending to run no further than about 10 miles,” Kate said of her 2015 run. “I’d run the London Marathon exactly a week before, so I was very much in recovery mode. Then, at about nine miles, my friend pointed out that I was about to overtake the lead lady. Twenty-two miles later, I’d won. Never been so astonished in my life. Last year I ran in Japan, as my prize. That was an amazing experience.”