Running is often viewed as a sport that has a low barrier of entry and, until recently, has been pretty low tech. Anyone can throw on a pair of sneakers and run around the block a few times to give running a try. Today, however, running—and the technology that goes with it—has entered the 21st century. There are multiple “Couch to 5K” training apps for people just starting out. Apps like “Map My Run” or “Runkeeper” help more experienced runners track their statistics. But running apps are being overtaken by a revolution in wearable technology. Years ago, only very serious runners would have invested in a GPS enabled running watch, but now, for around $100, anyone can get in the game.
I’m not an experienced distance runner, and I’ve never had a GPS enabled watch, but when I started training for the Boston Marathon® as a charity runner for the Boston Museum of Science, my husband gave me a Garmin Forerunner® 220 as an early birthday present. I’ve only scratched the surface of what this watch can do, but my user experience from day one has been amazing, especially when using my favorite feature within the Garmin Connect app called LiveTrack.
LiveTrack lets me connect my watch to my smartphone via Bluetooth. Once I start a session in the Connect app, it sends out a link via email or shares a link on Facebook or Twitter so that people can follow me during my race and up to 24 hours after my run has ended if I turn on the option to extend the session. The link lets people see where I am on a map in real time. It also records data, including my elapsed time, distance, speed and elevation, again all in real time. If I used a heart rate monitor while running, it would include those numbers as well.
Sharing my location in real time may seem like a risky idea to people who are concerned about privacy, but I like having the option to start a LiveTrack session for every run. It also gives me control over who receives a link and lets me turn social sharing on or off by platform (Facebook or Twitter).
Normally, I only share the LiveTrack link with my husband so that he’ll know when I’ll be home. As a woman who often runs by herself, LiveTrack gives me a little extra peace of mind that, if something were to happen to me during my run, it would be easy for someone to find my location quickly.
The real test will be when I use the LiveTrack feature during the Boston Marathon on April 18th. Many of my friends and family have been asking how they can track my progress during the race. While the Boston Athletic Association has partnered with AT&T to set up the AT&T Athlete Alerts system, it only gives updates when a runner runs over one of their tracking mats (5K, half marathon, 30K, 35K, 40K, and Finish) on the course. With my GPS watch, all I have to do is take 30 seconds to set up LiveTrack before I cross the starting line. Anyone with the link will be able to see real-time updates of my progress, no matter where I am on the course.
I don’t usually use the social sharing options that LiveTrack offers but, while I’m running the marathon, I’m planning on turning on social sharing. Once I hit “start” on my watch, a link will automatically be posted to my Facebook page and Twitter feed. I can focus on running 26.2 miles instead of updating people on my progress.
Another great benefit I discovered while using LiveTrack is that it doesn’t drain my phone’s battery. Since the watch is tracking my location using GPS and my phone is only using Bluetooth to sync with my watch, the phone’s battery isn’t greatly impacted. This is a huge plus when I’m planning on running for 4+ hours straight.
Although the LiveTrack feature has been available for a few years on other devices, it seems like Garmin has really perfected the user experience since its debut in 2012. I can’t wait to see what new and exciting ideas they come up with next.
What do you think about the LiveTrack feature? Would you or do you use it or something similar while out running?