“I always loved running… it was something you could do by yourself and under your own power. You could go in any direction, fast or slow as you wanted, fighting the wind if you felt like it, seeking out new sights just on the strength of your feet and the courage of your lungs.” ~ Jesse Owens, Olympic gold medalist
Jesse Owens sums up in that quote the resolve, perseverance and joy many runners feel. As with many parts of life in the digital age, however, you don’t have to go running with just you and the wind anymore. Smartphones have opened up a wide world to anyone looking to add a little more fun or focus to their runs. Whether you’ve been running for years or you have decided to hop from the couch to a 5K, there’s an app to help you beat the pavement. Here are five of the top choices.
1. Zombies, Run!
Zombies, Run! is not just an application available on iOS, Android and Windows Mobile — it’s an immersive story, game and mission generator that puts you in a zombie-ravaged world. As Runner 5, you pick up items, resources and run to survive the occasional roving band of zombies. You can use those resources to build your base and unlock new missions, of which there are more than 20 against a superb backstory. Just remember to look over your shoulder to remind yourself the zombies aren’t really there.
RunKeeper is one of the most popular apps out there. It’s free, loaded with features and includes ways to track runs, jogs and cycling. At the end of the day, you can broadcast your efforts directly to Facebook to share with all your friends. RunKeeper maintains stats so you can watch yourself improving over time. It even uploads the data to a website in case you don’t want to review it on your phone. The app is available on iOS and Android.
Endomondo is for the serious runner and takes social sharing a step further. It has all the features of RunKeeper but also allows you to create routes, challenge your times and compete with your friends who live nearby. It’s about as feature-rich as you can expect from an app, especially one that is free. Some of the features include an audio coach, hydration tracking and the ability to send encouragement to friends. If you desire a social experience and accountability, Endomondo is the app for you. It’s widely available on iOS, Android, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Nokia and Java.
4. Charity Miles
You’re going to run or walk anyway — why not do it for a good cause? Charity Miles is a great, free and easy app available on iOS and Android that tracks your mileage. Unlike the other apps, it converts those miles into dollars towards the charities they sponsor. There is currently $1,000,000 waiting to be donated.
It’s easy to track all of your runs with the redesigned Nike+ GPS app. It provides all the stats, history and sharing capabilities you could ask for. Nike+ has all the tracking and sharing of Endomondo but pairs that with some of the great features of Zombies, Run!, such as having a crowd cheer you on or activating an upbeat song near the end of your song to really push you forward. The free app comes with optional accessories that enhance your running experience
While these apps are great you need a few other things to really push your performance, whether you’re just starting out or wanting to improve on your already-solid foundation. A great pair of shoes with adequate support is a must for all runners. Don’t forget to take water with you and push yourself to new sights, stronger lungs and better health!