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10 bits of tech taking me to the London Marathon finishing line

Posted by Ian McKee on 27th February 2015

As my Facebook friends will be sick of hearing about by now, I’m running the London Marathon this year. I’ll be doing it for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust, a charity with a lot of personal meaning for me, and one that is addressing a terrible genetic disorder that affects over 10,000 people in the UK (oh and you can sponsor me here!).

I’m not a total running newbie, having completed a couple of half marathons last year. I’m actually running the Bath Half this weekend as a bit of a check in / tune up race ahead of the big day in April. So I’ve been training enough to hone my approach.

And being the tech PR type that I am, that doesn’t just mean I know when to run intervals, eat my porridge or take an ice bath. I’ve got a bunch of tech to help me cross the finish line in the target time I’m hoping for.

1. TomTom Runner GPS watch

I’ve written before about what I want from a smartwatch, and since writing that post I received one of these as a very welcome Christmas present. It’s not a smartwatch, as I have to keep explaining to people who enquire about what I’m wearing on my wrist (I’ve taken to wearing it as an actual watch, not just when running), but in its singularity of function it is quite brilliant.

As far as GPS watches go it’s pretty simple, but does all of the basics well. Connects to a GPS signal very quickly, gives you all the display options you could want, as well as numerous training options, and has Bluetooth to connect to your phone. That means as soon as I finish running, I can post an irritating humble brag about it on Twitter and Facebook to annoy all my friends, just as I did when I used my phone’s GPS to track runs!

2. RunKeeper

It also means I can continue to use my preferred run tracking app. TomTom does have its own app, MySports, which is powered by MapMyFitness, but I find the TomTom version is over-simple while MapMyFitness / MapMyRun is over-complex with a poor user interface. Fortunately I’ve found an option in the watch’s settings to spew out my runs to RunKeeper as well, an app that manages the balance between giving you all the necessary functionality without a confusing interface.

 3. iPhone

I’d be lost in most of my life pursuits without this one. It’s how I sync my runs, but technically I could use RunKeeper with just my watch and sync to a computer. I could not do the following without my iPhone though.

4. Moves / MyFitnessPal

MyFitnessPal is part of sports brand Under Armour’s growing app stable with MapMyFitness, but it’s a lot more useful. It tracks all your calories and makes tracking what your eat, with all the macros, simple. I’ve got mine synced with Moves, a simple app that uses the phone’s motion coprocessor chip to track your movement and output calories burnt. It’s a handy weight loss tool if that’s what you want to achieve, but for me it’s a way of making sure I eat back all those calories I expend running around like a lunatic.

 5. Audible, Podcasts, Spotify

I’ve grouped these three together as they all come under the category of ‘Boredom Staving’, and they all live on my iPhone’s home screen.

I like to mix it up with the in-run-entertainment, partially depending on what sort of workout I’m doing. Podcasts and audiobooks are great for long slow runs, or relaxed recovery runs. I’ve actually learnt a lot about tech history, having ploughed through Hatching Twitter, In the Plex, Digital Wars, The Everything Store and the Steve Jobs biography, all while out pounding the pavement.

I need my Spotify power playlist for anything faster, especially intervals, and I try to get one run a week with nothing but the sound of the wind and the occasional hilarious passer by shouting ‘run, Forrest!’

6. Pioneer SE-E721-K headphones

I have bizarrely small ears and sweat a lot (it’s OK ladies, I’m taken), so have long been on a mission to find a pair of headphones that actually stay in my ears when subjected to the smallest of movements.

Having been through innumerable pairs, I finally found these late last year. They make you look a bit like you’re pretending to be someone’s bodyguard and have forgotten your suit, but if you’ve put them on properly then good luck shaking them off. And the sound quality is even semi-decent; a bit bass-y, lacking midrange, but a hell of a lot better than a pair that falls out of your ears and swings round your neck.

Oh, and they won’t be coming with me on race day. Listening to anything other than the cheers of the crowd when racing is heresy.

7. Nike Free 5.0, Brooks Ravenna 5

The world of running shoes has started mimicking the world of tech in the last few years. This has been driven mostly by Nike, which seems to have adopted the Apple approach to big product announcements and lifecycles, with the other big brands all getting in on the act. Every year each brand seems to have invented some new material or other that’s lighter, or provides better cushioning than the last. As we see the worlds of tech and fitness merge I suppose that makes sense.

Anyway, I have two main pairs of running trainers at the moment. The Nike Free 5.0s I mostly like because they look cool, but they’re also incredibly light. They’re a step up from what’s called a ‘racing flat’ though – little support and cushioning, no good for high mileage – so I only wear them for short runs and races. My Brooks Ravenna 5s are the workaday shoes, built for people ‘what don’t run good’ (under-pronate, is the technical term) like me with loads of cushioning and support for longer runs.

8. Kindle

No, I don’t run along and read at the same time (well, as I mentioned I sort of do), but I did read Advanced Marathoning on my Kindle before I started this marathon training silliness. It’s how I learnt all I know about what kinds of training to do when, how and why, and I have a number of digital bookmarks set for bits I regularly refer back to.

9. Google Sheets

My training schedule is based on one from Advanced Marathoning and, liking a good old spreadsheet as I do, I laid it all out in a public Sheet in Google Docs. I refer back to it on a daily basis to know what I need to tackle that day, and try to keep it up to date with what I’ve actually done so I know how much less I’m running than I’m supposed to be (you’re not the boss of me, spreadsheet! Oh, you are, OK sorry).

10. WordPress, Facebook, Twitter

As any runner worth their salt knows, there’s no point putting in all of this effort unless you’re going to let everyone know about it. And that is what blogs and social networks are for. Let’s be honest, it’s what I’m doing in this post right now. But normally I stick to blogging my training updates on my personal blog.

In all seriousness, I wasn’t a running humblebragger until I took on this challenge, I am mostly banging on about my training on Facebook and Twitter for the benefit of the excellent cause I’m doing it for. Social media does give you great power to spread the message and raise those precious funds. Have I made my point yet? I do hope so, *cough*SPONSOR ME HERE*cough*.

Ian McKee

Ian started out his career working in travel PR, working for tourist boards, airlines and hotel groups. Whilst there he carved out a position as a digital communications expert, managing social media, SEO and email marketing campaigns for clients.