Normally it takes me half an hour to drive home from church on Sunday. Last weekend, I decided to try something new. Instead of driving, I decided to run home. Does that sound crazy to you? I would agree if I weren’t training for the Honolulu Marathon. As my race date of December 9th gets closer and closer, my training runs get longer and longer. Last weekend my training calendar called for a 20-mile run. Normally I run with my charity training buddies at the crack of dawn, but my handbell choir was playing that morning, so I was on my own… sort of. Because of 21st century technology, I’m never really running on my own.
When I was training for the Honolulu Marathon in 2001 with my my roommate and sorority sister, Crystal, the only technology we had available to us were cell phones and disposable cameras. We carried the phones when we ran so that if we got hurt or lost, we could call for help. We carried the cameras so we could document our marathon adventures. By the time I started training for the Vancouver Marathon in 2003, I had a handheld GPS receiver, which helped with the getting lost part. But I still needed the cell phone for calling for help. After I moved to Germany in late 2003, I discovered texting, which added one more technological piece to my marathon puzzle. During the Berlin Marathon in 2004, I was able to text “Halfway!” after realizing I had missed the halfway sign (written in German) and had made it to kilometer 22.
Fast forward to 2010, when I decided I had taken enough time off and was going to tackle another marathon. Only now I had an iPhone — a single piece of technology — that would allow me to find my way, call for help, text (and Twitter and Facebook!) my friends, and take photos. It didn’t take long to discover that there are a bunch of great fitness apps. I chose RunKeeper, but other popular apps include MapMyRun, Nike+, Endomondo, and others. At the time I was making my decision, RunKeeper was the only one that would let me take photos while the GPS tracker was operating, so that’s the one I chose. I also subscribe to their tracking service, which allows me to connect the app to my Facebook and Twitter account and let friends see a realtime map of my progress. It also keeps my running history (and photos!) in the cloud so I can go back and review my running adventures from any web browser.
As much as I love RunKeeper, adding it to my kit caused a new problem. Turns out you need a HUGE battery to power all that technology inside your iPhone. On July 18th, 2010, I went to California for the Napa-to-Sonoma Half Marathon. I turned off WiFi and 3G during the race, hoping to extend my battery life, but my phone still wasn’t able to last as long as the marathon. Luckily, somebody else had a working camera, so I was able to take photos with other Sigma Kappa alumnae after the race!
It took me longer to find a power source I could use while running than it did to find a running app. First I tried a cheap solar charger I found online. Massive fail. At Radio Shack, I found the Enercell Portable Power Bank. It had its issues — it wouldn’t work with the case on the phone and, when plugged in, it added to the length of the phone, making it harder to carry — but it kept the battery going strong for well over 12 miles. I chose it as my solution, but kept looking for something better.
Just before the Chicago Marathon in October 2011, I discovered the Mophie JuicePack Plus. It fits around the phone like a case, making it much easier to carry than the Enercell. I bought one and took it with me to Chicago. I was very impressed that it lasted the full 26.2 miles, plus a few hours after that.
The one drawback has been that it doesn’t protect the phone from impact; the charging port can be rendered useless if it’s dropped in just the right (wrong?) way. I recently discovered that Mophie now makes a ruggedized Juice Pack, so I have purchased one to use after my current one bites the dust. I will probably bring both of my Mophie Juice Packs to Honolulu.
If you’re interested in following my upcoming race, visit Twitter on December 9th and watch for the RunKeeper Live link!