Running Apps. most runner types like me use them, because unless your some sort of rambling free spirit, runners LOVE to analyse every step of their runs in great detail, plus its great to be able to see how far you ran one week compared to the same week the year before (for me right now it’s not looking pretty, what I did in a week then I do in a month now) and obviously its just nice to be able to record your runs and see how you’re improving. But you could just use a watch for that right? Or the nearest clock? Do we really need to have segment achievement and QOM (that’s Queen of the Mountain) trophies and challenges that reward us with nothing but a virtual pat on the back? Is any of it REALLY necessary?
Today I want to put the two apps that I have used the most throughout my running life up against each other . I’ve never owned a Garmin so I can’t comment on Garmin connect or the watches and I’ve always just used my phone and an app to track how I’m doing. But which one really is the best? Lets take a look at both of the ones on my phone right now:
Tracking your run
So both of these apps have pretty good tracking abilities. For both, you need to have you location settings turned to high accuracy on your phone to work and they are pretty decent and accurate, in that I’ve never had one over the other map anything outrageous. It will drain your battery so if you plan to use it on anything over 4 hours take a spare battery bank. This accuracy is more down to the phone you use than anything else, when MMR stopped being supported by my old HTC 1 I just swapped over to strava instead. Both have a pretty good dashboard for tracking showing total time, distance, split pace, and calories as well as a map to show where you have been/where you are going. You can pick an auto pause function on both, audio cues to tell you how far you have run (on both these are customisable too so you can pick what you want to hear).
The main difference is what you can see on the map. Strava has a beacon function which shows other strava users where you are, which is great if you are running a trail race in unknown territory, so anyone who is a premium member can see where you are. Strava also has a live segments function so you can target specific segments on runs.
Map my run has some really handy map icons that show you where you can get water, toilets, emergency aid etc,which is pretty good. they also have a life tracking (Which works the same as beacon) and coaching add-on, and a count down timer.
They say the best things in life are free, but on both of these apps, to get the full works you have to pay a subscription fee. I’ve pulled the information on these from the respective websites. Strava is here, and MapMyRun is here.
Now, I’ve had map my run MVP which is their premium subscription service for a while, and the added extras are definitely worth it. You get coaching, training plans, route genius (which picks a route for you based on how many miles you want to do) and a bunch of others. Strava offers a similar service, but it all comes down to price. MMR is £3.56, where as Strava is £5.99 a month.
Its worth noting you really do get a great service without paying the extra, but if you want all the bells and whistles its worth going premium.
I’ve used both for training features and I think both of these apps are pretty darn good when it comes to training. With MMR, you only get these as a paid member, and they do have some pretty good training plans, so if you’re training for a 1/2 or a marathon these will serve as a good tool to keep you on track. You can also set weekly mileage goals: after a weekend of training with 5 mile runs on both days the app is inviting me to “take it up a notch” and aim for a total of 20 miles next week. You can also set goals based on time or number of workouts. With Strava, you can utilise the training calendar in Beta mode, but where they really do well is with monthly challenges and segments, which are awesome and tie in perfectly with the next subject:
This is probably for me the best thing about Strava – the social community they have curated is awesome.
Challenges? Got it. Every month there is a 5km, 10km, HM and climb challenge for both runners and cyclists, and there is normally another challenge thrown in for fun too. You can see not only the global leader board, but the people you follow as well. Then there are the clubs. There are tonnes of running clubs on Strava, from Park run to your local running club to groups of friends to clubs like Tribe, and Facebook running groups like Did you Run Today? In contrast, the friends and social aspect on MMR is rather lacklustre, people can follow one another and give likes, and there are challenges that you can enter with real prizes, but its nothing on Strava really.
Strava also has Segments. Segments are one of Strava’s coolest features. They are member-created and edited portions of road or trail where athletes can compete for time glory.
There are a few types of segments found on Strava:
- Climbs: climbing segments (for cyclists) are automatically categorised HC, 1, 2, 3 or 4, like you see in the Tour de France. For more information on how we categorise climbs, see this page.
- Descents: Any segment that descents on negative grade for some distance.
- Time Trials: Any segment that goes over varied terrain and that is greater than a mile.
- Loops/Laps: Segments that have similar start and endpoints.
If you want to be the King of the Mountain (KOM), Queen of the Mountain (QOM), or Course Record (CR) holder, you must have the fastest time on a segment. It’s just another way Strava win the social aspect of running apps.
Now, where MMR lacks in social, it makes up for in mapping, I mean, it is literally called MAP MY RUN. So you’d expect it to be pretty awesome at mapping!
The website is really where this comes alive with route map editor, where you can custom make your own routes of any length on any terrain, and Route Genius which is a premium feature, which lets you put in the distance you want to do and it will make you a route. The mapping features are also pretty good, while you can certainly just start running wherever you are, you can also select from nearby routes other people have run, routes you’ve run before, or routes you’ve bookmarked. For more flexibility, you can find or create a route from the MapMyRun website, and click “Send to phone” and its right there, on your app, ready to go! MapMyRun provides charts showing how your speed changed over the course of the run, and where you were going up and down hills. Heart rate data is also available with subscription. MapMyRun also has courses, which are like routes except…different. Routes can have their own leader boards showing who has run them the fastest, but the leader boards on courses involve a point system, with badges for the people who have run them the fastest or the most times.
Strava has a very basic mapping feature called route builder, where you can make your own route, but it really is more geared towards cyclists than runners. Some nifty features such as “Route Popularity” are pretty cool when you are running somewhere new, so you don’t end up going off course and into a dead-end field for instance (true story) but it still is in its infancy and doesn’t have anything on MMR.
Strava: It is a little different to some of the more running dedicated apps. It can track runs, but it’s really about competing with yourself and others on segments, and it offers more to cyclists than to runners. Playing second fiddle to cyclists is a little weird if you only run, but this double identity makes Strava awesome if you do both and want to be able to use the same app.
MapMyRun: If you want to skip the ads or if you want to hear the voice updates on your pace, you’ll have to get an MVP subscription.
Who is the winner?
Honestly, I still don’t think I could pick one over the other here. Where I use MMR for mainly run recording because it’s so darn accurate and easy to use in that respect, I cant tear myself away from the challenges and social aspect of Strava. I love seeing how many achievements I’ve got on a run, how many segments I’ve smashed through and getting kudos is a great feeling. I guess if I could take the best parts of both of these apps I would combine the mapping expertise of MMR with the social and challenges on Strava, we would have a perfect app! I think I’ll have to say MMR based on the fact that the premium features are so much more useful for runners, whereas Strava is very heavily aimed towards cyclists who run, not runners in general. But Kudos…. I need Kudos! (And great running views like these)
Which running apps do you use? Do you have a personal favourite to record your stats and why?
I hope you enjoyed this post! I’m currently training for Southampton 1/2 which will be my 10th half marathon in 4 years, not bad I don’t think?! Let me know what races you are competing in and if you find the training plans on MMR or Strava useful to get to your running goals!