If you’re looking for an easy-to-use running app with lots of bells and whistles, consider Runtastic. Not only does it track pace, distance, route and heart rate (with a separate sensor), but it also connects with smart watches, offers training plans and a slew of statistics, and provides a feature called Story Running: 40-minute downloadable tales, all featuring running, of course, to help you get to the finish line.
The mobile app syncs with social media, so you can post your workout directly to Facebook. You can also have your friends cheer you on in real time, which might be fun during a race but could be creepy on a quiet trail run.
And despite the name, Runtastic, founded in 2009 in Austria, isn’t limited to running. You can use it for a long list of fitness activities, including skateboarding, skiing and surfing. I can’t attest to how the app works in the water, since I use it for running and walking, but the GPS is accurate on land.
When I started running almost 15 years ago, I relied on a Timex Ironman 100-lap watch and mile markers to track my pace and splits. I graduated to several clunky GPS watches. After tripping twice in the same run to check my watch — not graceful trips, but faceplants on concrete — I’ve moved away from wearing anything on my wrists, and have tried a couple of running apps on my iPhone that had varying degrees of GPS accuracy.
Using a mobile app makes sense for me. I often run by myself, so I’m already in the habit of carrying my phone. I prefer listening to a voice coach for mile markers, rather than looking for them. I also like that all of the information is available immediately without having to connect devices. Runtastic’s GPS is more accurate than those of other mobile apps I’ve tried, and it’s more intuitive. The only glitch I’ve come across is that the app has frozen a couple of times during a workout.
I initially downloaded the free version of Runtastic. It has all of the functions I need — pace, distance, route — but the voice coach, “William,” quits after the second mile. (Actually, the voices are less coach-like, more along the lines of somber announcers, but I’m getting used to the serious British tone.) I was on the fence about upgrading to the Pro version. The relentless nagging by voice and pop-up ads to upgrade was deterring rather than selling me on the product. I relented, though, and paid the $4.99. Now William is with me for the duration.