What do You Want in a Running App?

img_7439Like my new glasses?

If you’re trying to figure out a polite way of telling me that I look dorky, don’t worry, I already know. And it’s also not mine.

A few weeks ago I was selected to participate in a study that was conducted by a marketing firm for “a major athletic brand.” They weren’t allowed to tell us which brand it was, but we kinda figured it out anyway. I heard about this opportunity because they targeted various running clubs all over the city looking for runners of various ages who engaged in social media.

I was picked for the first part of the study (there was no guarantee that I would get picked for the second half). I was sent those glasses that you see on my face. For three consecutive days, I had to film myself with my smart phone answering questions about running and nutrition. For the last day, I wore those plastic glasses, which fit rather awkwardly on my face. Being Asian, I have no bridge on my nose, so the glasses slid right off even when I was standing still. It was impossible to wear while running. The glasses have a tiny camera that films right in the middle of the glasses, so it films exactly what I’m seeing. I was asked to run for a few minutes and to speak aloud and record my thoughts. I found this to be an exercise of patting yourself on the head while simultaneously rubbing your tummy. I had to try to keep the glasses from sliding off my face, while talking about what I was thinking (mostly “ARGH!!! THE GLASSES!!!!! ARGH!!!!) while running. From prior posts, you know that I HATE talking while running. Fortunately I only had to do it for a few minutes. As soon as I was done, I stopped recording and continued with a leisurely run.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to get picked for the second half of the study because I thought they were looking for people who were more savvy with technical gear. I was quite honest about my lack of knowledge of technical gear and my lack of interest in becoming more savvy. Many years ago when I first indicated that I wanted a Garmin Forerunner 10, Ben was mystified that I wanted a GPS watch with basically no features. Still to this day, I am a Garmin Forerunner 10 Girl. I love my featureless GPS watch. I guess my answer appealed to them because a few days later I got an email invite for the second part of the study.

Late one night, after work, I went to an event space in Times Square. (Pro-tip: Parking in Times Square is super easy after 7 pm because all the truck loading spaces turn into parking spaces). I was there with 6 other women. The market research people asked us a bunch of questions about different topics, such as healthy lifestyle choices, what we like about different running apps, what do we look for in running apps, what are the apps missing, etc. This focus group session took over three hours! We were finished quite late.

I gave two of ladies a ride home because they live close to me. On the drive we speculated which company they were doing research for (we noticed that they were all wearing the same brand of shoes) and what the company was looking to do for the future (develop a new running app, like a Strava meets Facebook).

As a scientist, I kinda get annoyed by marketing research because “studies” in marketing research and standards for evidence are less rigorous. This is much the same way I grouse whenever I read about journalists using anecdotes to make statements about societal trends. Still I found it interesting to be a participant of this world and certainly the $500 I earned for both parts of the study helped. So if one day, I hear about a major athletic wear company coming out with a running app, I’ll be able say, hey, I was a part of that development.

What kind of running apps and social media do you use? Is there a feature that’s missing that you would like to see?Β I’m on Strava and I love the fly-by feature. I love seeing where other people are out on the course as I’m running.

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14 thoughts on “What do You Want in a Running App?

  1. $500 sounds so enticing. Pretty cool! I don’t use a social media app with my running. I love the Forerunner 10 too. I started out super techy with mine and realized quickly that I really prefer the dumbed down version. This was fun to read. Had no idea Times Square was easy to park after 7pm. Always good to know, although I avoid that area like the plague!

  2. I use Garmin Connect app first and foremost. My focus is on the runs, not on the sharing with friends. I do have a few friends on Garmin and we check each other’s times.

    I also check Strava, but that’s on a weekly basis πŸ™‚

  3. Ha, nice glasses! J/k. I have the exact same problem with glasses and sunglasses, too. 3D glasses? I miss half the movie because I’m pushing them up my nose. Athletic sunglasses? Fall off my face. The best pair of sunglasses I’ve ever run in was a $10 pair of aviators from H&M.
    For me the draw of an app wouldn’t be social (I feel like I have enough of that on general social meda) – it’d be the data.

    • I stayed off Strava for a long time because I didn’t want another social media thing, but the fly-by feature was too cool. As a result I stopped using a different site that I was using to log miles.

    • I imagine if I still wore glasses that I would get one of those eyeglass holders to hold my glasses in place. That’s what I had when I rode horses. I was a lot happier when I switched to contacts.

      • I alternate between contacts and glasses. I have a pair of glasses I’ll only wear for running… and they are light weight and stuff, but they still slide down while running, and I’ll always have to push them up. Funny thing is, I sometimes push up my invisible glasses when I wear contacts, too. πŸ™‚

  4. I have the same issue with glasses. Asian noses FTW. I’m on Strava and I like certain features – like fly-bys and segments, but I miss the narrative nature of Dailymile, where you could share more about how the run went. DM was also more conducive to conversation and creating new friendships. It made tracking mileage easier too.

    • I was never on DM, so I can’t comment on it. But can’t you write a narrative in the description section? Or is it different because people don’t see that part directly? Or do what my friends do and write a long sentence describing their run for the title of the run? πŸ™‚

      • Yeah, I find that some people don’t even read the description and just look at the map and stats on Strava. DM was more conducive to “conversations”. I don’t think I’ve ever checked people’s descriptions on Strava. On the Strava app, long titles get cut off and it’s hard (impossible?) to read the whole thing.

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