Has your running plateaued? Do you have trouble keeping a good training pace? It happens to everybody - after a while, you just tend to drop into that "I could hold this pace for 100 miles" pace and just zone out. Well, you don't get faster that way. The first key will be for you to have a target race in mind, then you'll need to set a goal for your finishing time. When you've got that, you've got your average pace for mile, or your "race pace."
Lots of training programs will have runs at race pace, or tempo runs where you reach race pace for several minutes, and if you're training for a half-marathon or longer, there are the long runs where you're supposed to run 60-90 seconds slower than your race pace. How are you supposed to know if you're on target? Unless you're on a track (which can be dreadfully boring), it's very difficult to know. That's where our first app comes in, and it's a great one.
RunKeeper does a lot for you. It uses GPS, so after your run, you have a map of your route. It plays your music for you. Best of all, though, you can select from a group of workouts (or you can create your own - more on that in a moment), or you can set a target pace. Let's say you set the target pace for 8 minutes, 30 seconds per mile. Every three minutes, a woman's voice interrupts your music to tell you how far you've run, what your current pace is, and how many minutes and/or seconds you are ahead of or behind your target pace. So, you know if you need to pick it up, or if you can slow down. This is a big help in training, and it's a great help during races, too. Knowing the distance is quite helpful, as well, since you'll know where to turn around in an out-and-back run of a set distance.
Everything is customizable, too - you can get updates every five minutes if you want, or every minute; you can choose to be updated on time elapsed, distance, average pace, average speed, current pace, current speed, current split pace, current split speed, average heart rate, current heart rate, and heart rate zone (these last three can only be used if you purchase the heart rate monitor add on). You can also create custom workouts where you have audio cues to tell you to run five minutes slow, then three minutes at a steady pace, then ten minutes fast, for example - it's all up to you. At the end of your run, you get a nice summary of your activity with all the data included. Another great thing about RunKeeper is that it keeps a log of all your activities on your phone and on the website.
Before you continue, be warned that Strava can be addictive. Here's how it works: you start the Strava app when you start your run, and it tracks your activity. It's quite similar to RunKeeper in that it uses GPS to keep track of where you are, and at the end, you'll be able to see your distance and average pace, etc. The big difference in the tracking functionality between the two is that Strava does not give you audio cues to let you know how you're doing versus a target pace. So, while you're out there working out, whether you realize it or not, you may be running a segment or two.
A segment is something that any Strava user can define. Segments will often be on popular running routes between two landmarks, or a set one-mile distance on a popular street, or a really brutal climb. At the end of your run, when you've concluded the activity on the Strava app, you'll find out the segments you ran, and then, it'll put your name up on a leaderboard with all the other people who have run that segment in the past. After a while, you'll find yourself finding where the segments are before your run, planning your run to go through them, and going all out when you're on those segments. The term "stravacide" has become popular, meaning wrecking a workout by destroying yourself on a segment in order to try to get first place (and not performing up to expectation on the rest of the workout as a result). So, nearly every workout becomes a competition. This is lots of fun, and it's a great way to spice things up if you've gotten bored with your workouts.
Since both apps have so much to offer many people run them simultaneously on their runs. They're both great, and there's nothing wrong with introducing a little technology to help you get faster. So get out there, and have fun!