I can still remember my excitement at having an early iPhone complete with built-in GPS chip. A running app that tracked mileage and rendered routes on a map was an enticing possibility. RunKeeper was one of the first apps of its kind and I became an eager devotee.
RunKeeper’s CEO Jason Jacobs pitched an inspiring vision of aggregating personal health data in thought pieces on TechCrunch. He told the story of founding RunKeeper in a brilliant Mixergy interview. Jason had worked in a number of jobs always knowing there was an entrepreneur within. As a fitness fanatic - and with the arrival of the iPhone - the stars aligned, and RunKeeper was born.
My first run with RunKeeper was in April 2010. Since then I have tracked over 1,113 miles in 225 runs with the app. A big contribution to this number was made by the many training miles for my first marathon. I have fond memories of night runs with just a head-torch and a dog for company on the fells of Northumberland. I ran the Las Vegas marathon in December 2011.
I’ve been in touch with the company a number of times over the years reporting bugs and suggesting features. In one case I even had a brief gmail chat with Jason himself.
The community that sprang up around RunKeeper was remarkable. Many of my friends use it and sometimes seeing that a friend has just finished a run is exactly the motivation one needs to go out oneself.
The wider RunKeeper community is evident on the company’s Facebook page. The company have a great habit of asking open questions relating to the sport and flicking through people’s answers always reveals interesting and amusing quirks of other runners. The most valuable example of this to me was the question: “How do you carry your iPhone when out running?” Every other answer mentioned the SPIbelt which I ordered immediately and has made running with an iPhone significantly more comfortable.
I have also linked RunKeeper with my friend’s Withings scales and pinged off occasional weight data.
All of the above describes a relationship with a brand. I feel a warm familiarity with, support from and loyalty to RunKeeper.
I have one running buddy who is also a cyclist. He never got into RunKeeper. He uses Strava instead. I assumed Strava was just for cycling.
So I thought it was time to try it out.
Somewhat to my dismay, Strava is brilliant. And it turns out it can be used for both cycling and running. The UI feels crisp and sophisticated. It feels smart in the same way Hunch did and it makes RunKeeper feel rather dated and plain.
Strava has a couple of features that help it leapfrog RunKeeper. The concept of ‘segments’ makes it easier to achieve something with each run. On completing an activity, you are rewarded with medals and/or crowns depending on how you measure up to previous activities and other users. There are also regular challenges to participate in.
Strava have even managed something that RunKeeper never did. After a flurry of early activity I received an email offering me a free month trial of Strava Premium. This required entering my credit card details which RunKeeper have never managed to wrest from me. I was planning on cancelling my Premium membership before my card gets charged however I’m not averse to paying for great software…
If you’re still using RunKeeper and haven’t yet checked out Strava yet then I strongly suggest you do so. If you’re reluctant to switch completely then there are services that sync data between the two.
Thank you to RunKeeper for your pioneering attitude to fitness tracking and for keeping me company over many lonely miles. I have fond memories. But the time has come to move on.
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Vestigia Nulla Retrorsum
by William Gay
O steep and rugged Life, whose harsh ascent
Slopes blindly upward through the bitter night!
They say that on thy summit, high in light,
Sweet rest awaits the climber, travel-spent;
But I, alas, with dusty garments rent,
With fainting heart and failing limbs and sight,
Can see no glimmer of the shining height,
And vainly list, with body forward bent,
To catch athwart the gloom one wandering note
Of those glad anthems which (they say) are sung
When one emerges from the mists below:
But though, O Life, thy summit be remote
And all thy stony path with darkness hung,
Yet ever upward through the night I go.