How Do I Know How Far I'm Running?

Runner Outdoors
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"I just started running outside, but I'm never sure how far I'm running. How can I figure out the distance?"

Runners have lots of tools at their disposal for measuring their runs. You may find that you prefer one method all the time. Or, you may choose a particular measuring method, depending on where you're running. Here are some options for measuring your runs:

Websites:  When running on roads, you can use route measuring programs such as MapMyRun to plot your route and measure it.

The MapMyRun site also has saved routes from other runners in your area, so you can browse through them and find some new routes.

Apps: If you have a smartphone, MapMyRun has a good distance tracking app that's fairly accurate. Strava Running and Cycling and Runkeeper are two other running apps that gets high marks from runners for measuring runs. You can use these running apps purely for measuring your runs, or also take advantage of some of their other features, such as calorie counting, audio updates, and training programs. If you're worried about how you'll carry your phone, check out these recommendations for products to carry your phone on the run.

GPS watches:  If you continue to run outside a lot, you may decide you want to invest in a wristwatch with GPS, such as the Garmin Forerunner (Buy on Amazon.com). You'll also be able to keep track of your pace, as well as other helpful running data.

I've measured a lot of my local running routes with my Garmin, so now I just know the mileage of my usual loops even if I'm not wearing it.

Races:  If you're running a certified race course, you know that you're running the exact distance of the race. Some race courses are marked with mile markers, so you can take mile splits throughout the race.

If it's a local race, you can run the course in the future on your own and be certain of the distance.

Running Track: If you sometimes run on a track (at your local high school, for instance), it's easy to measure your distance there. Most tracks are 400 meters (about 1/4 mile), so four laps would be about a mile.

Car: Although it seems "old-school" now (with all the GPS technologies available), you can always drive a route in your car and measure the mileage using your car's odometer.

Run By Time, Too

Although it's helpful to know how far you're running -- especially when you're following a training schedule -- don't get too obsessed with the exact distances that you're running.  If you're using a GPS app or watch, sometimes the weather or tall building can interfere with it, so you may not get the exact measurement. But that's OK because it can be beneficial to do some of your runs based on overall time, not distance. You're less likely to focus on your pace if you're going by time, so you won't force running a certain speed if you're not feeling it or the weather conditions are less than ideal.


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