Measure Running Distance

One of the biggest challenges with spontaneous running trips is how to best measure running distance once you’re done. And while there’s nothing wrong with not knowing how far or long you ran…most of us like to know!

On business trips, I used to finish my morning or evening run at the hotel and then go right back out and clock the mileage with my rental car’s odometer. This was fairly accurate unless I found an off-road trail or path that I wanted to explore…which happens more often than not…who wants to run around cars all the time ;-). That being said, many runners still use the car-odometer-method to measure running distance. This can be time-consuming, gas-consuming, and is only accurate for the part of the run along or on the road. You can pick up a simple pedometer for less than $10, or look into a running watch with built-in pedometer as an even better training tool.

In today’s high-tech world, there are some really great ways to measure running distance. And one of these is 100% free! If you haven’t had a chance to play around with Google Earth, you’re missing out a terrific software package. You start with a satellite view of earth, and when you click the mouse on a location or enter a destination, you get a great aerial view along with roads and other terrain features (be sure to put check-marks next to the terrain features that you want shown on the satellite view). After you have fun zooming around from the Statue of Liberty to the Golden Gate bridge, Google Earth can also be used to measure your running distance for almost anywhere in the world! And the good news….Google Earth is a free download – see link below. If you already have Google earth, here’s how to measure your run:

  1. Choose the “Tools” drop-down menu and select “Measure”
  2. A small box will appear on the screen, click on the “Path” tab.
  3. Move the cross-hair icon with your mouse to the start of your run.
  4. Click locations along your route, tracing the path that you ran.
  5. This feature will measure running distance and display your total run length in the box
  6. See the example below (nice out & back 3-miler along the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia, PA.)
  7. Google Earth is a great FREE tool as part of their Google Pack. Try it out, if you haven’t already!

    Fortunately for us, there are other ways to measure running distance in addition to a car odometer. From a $2 pedometer to computer mapping tools to a GPS wristwatch, there are now many more appealing options to track our runs and figure out the running distance.

    If you typically run a consistent stride length, a pedometer may be an acceptable tool to measure running distance. A pedometer counts your steps. After you enter in your stride length, it will convert each step to a fraction of miles or kilometers for each run or walk. I used to use a pedometer for my trail runs and had moderate success with it. Pedometers can be a very inexpensive means to track your daily run. You can get one for less than $5, or some models even have calorie calculators and other neat features.

    Schuylkill River Run

    And finally, the best way to accurately measure running distance is with a GPS. These tools are so much fun and are wonderful gadgets runners of all ages. I wear my FitBit Surge on training runs and races and have been thrilled with all of its features. It instantly updates position and gives you distance, time and pace information. It has features for intervals, pace alerts, and even automatic lap storage. It records my heart rate, distance, mile splits and more and quickly transfers them to my phone / iPad via bluetooth…very cool. There have been a few rare occasions when I got poor GPS reception (around tall buildings or in a wooded valley), but these have been far and few between. If you’re looking for a great way to measure running distance and track your pace statistics, check out the Running Watch Buyers Guide, the FitBit Surge Review, or the Garmin Forerunner 405 watch review for more information.

    With all of the above options out there, it doesn’t have to be a hassle to measure your running distance anymore. There are many tools out there from low-tech to high-tech…and some of them are even cheaper than the gas it would take to drive the route in your car! I hope this helps you find the right measuring tool for you. Happy Trails!!

    Return from Measure Running Distance to the Start Running page

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