Reader To Reader: Measuring Distances

What's the best way to find out how far you've run? Here's what you said...


Posted: 12 November 2006
by Jane Hoskyn


This week, one reader emailed us with a very practical problem. Just how do you work out how far you've run?

"What is the easiest and most effective way to measure the distances you're running? I've tried pedometers, bike computers and route-finder websites, but don't feel they have given me reliable info. What's the best way?"
No11

Your best answers...

  • Measure the distance on a map of your route. Preferably fairly short and straight to increase accuracy. Run the route at your normal comfortable plodding pace, a couple of times just to compare results. Average out the pace and then calculate your distance by time. – Muttley
  • I use a map measuring device. It’s a bit like a pencil, but with a small wheel on the end. You run the wheel along your route on a map. The digital reading on the side is easily read, so you can calculate the length of the course using the scale on the map. Very simple and very accurate! – Gareth Shallcross
  • I walked my favourite route using one of those wheel-on-the-end-of-a-stick things, borrowed from a friend in the council. – Adrian Green
  • Simple ways are the best. A piece of string and a map is my usual! – Matt Hopkins
  • I use Google's Gmap Pedometer. You choose your country (click More Options and select UK... or USA or China), put in your area for that country and then use the arrows and zoom buttons to take you to where you want to be. It's quite easy to use, and you can do measurements in kilometres or miles. You can save the routes to your computer. – Mellow Plodder; also recommended by Arthur Rabbit
  • I like to use my Garmin as I find it quite reliable, but I have played with Map My Run just for some variety. Failing that, tie one end of string to your doorhandle and carry the other with you. On your return you can measure the string... – Meldy
  • Started with a pedometer – rubbish – then used map24.com, now use a Garmin. – Plodding Hippo
  • I use Accuroute software to plan routes, but also to measure wherever I've just been on those "gone for a wander" type runs. You can measure over any terrain, road, hills, XC, anything. It's very accurate; within about two yards in a mile. Any maps can be scanned in, or read in from websites. It's PC based and you can save, print, email your routes. Version 2 also allows for gradient, height variations etc. There is also some calorie counting feature, but I've never bothered with it. – Man In Black
  • I don't see the need for all these hi-tech solutions. Since men take about 10 seconds to run 100m and women take about 11 seconds, then all you have to do is divide the length of time you run for by the number of 10 (or 11) second intervals to work out the distance. – Hollywood
  • I use a surveyor's tape measure. Two of us go running – I run until the 30m tape is all used up, then my partner runs past me 30m, running 60m in total, until he's at the end of the tape. We then radio back to base where my coach counts up the totals on a whiteboard. – Welsh Alex
  • Best way I've found is to get a map measure. You find them in outdoor pursuits sections. They measure your route in Km or miles. Great if you deviate off a normal run, because you can then work out how far you've been. It is basic but works. – Summer
  • String and a large-scale map for footpath routes, Gmap Pedometer for roads. I don't like measuring distance at all these days, too depressing. I don't need confirmation of how slowly I run. – Stickless
  • As I'm based in London, I started off using the Run London routeplanner, which was pretty accurate but didn't always take account of the distance added by winding roads. I now use Nike+ on my iPod, which is extremely accurate, more so if you calibrate it properly. I also have a Fitbug pedometer, which is extremely accurate. – Zoe Fiander
  • The Magic GIS website has an excellent distance measuring facility. – Mike S
  • The Garmin 101 isn't the most sleek of GPS units, but the little baby is only £70 on Amazon. For only £10 you can get a bike mount too. The joy now is I can go off road, on road or basically anywhere I want and know my distance, speed and calorie count, and no running to a boring day-in-day-out regime. I started running a year ago and this has made the world of difference. – roofus
  • Found a route planner on the London Marathon site. It allows you to save your routes and also access other routes submitted by users, using your postcode. Seems to be very accurate from my experience. It's free, but you do have to register. – dib
  • Pedometers rely on you being able to maintain constant stride length. That's not as easy as it sounds. I found that I was calibrating it after every run, and creating a calibration factor for each distance, but this didn't work. – Blisters
  • Use the car to measure your route. Not particularly environmentally friendly. – John Malcolm
  • I use Tracklogs, an Ordnance Survey digital mapping programme. You load it onto your computer and can then plan routes before you go, or measure where you have been after you get back. – Isobel Magee
  • I just run on the track and use the 100m marking. So: 100m this way, then turn round and repeat. I could run round the track, but dont want to risk getting dizzy. – coughie


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Discuss this article

This week's Reader to Reader question was emailed to me...

"What is the easiest and most effective way to measure the distances you're running? I've tried pedometers, bike computers and route-finder websites, but don't feel they have given me reliable info. What's the best way?"

Meself, I just tend to guess the distance based on how long I've been running for....

Please lend us your thoughts!
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 13:03

I like to use my Garmin as I find it quite reliable but I have played with www.mapmyrun.com just for some variety!!

Failing that tie one end of string to your doorhandle and carry the other with you, on your return you can measure the string.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 13:08

started with a pedometer-rubbish-and overstimates
then used map24.com
now use a garmin
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 13:09


I use a surveyors tape measure. Two of us go running and I run until the 30m tape is all used up, then my partner runs past me 30m, running 60m in total, until he is at the end of the tape. We then radio back to base where my coach counts up the totals on a whiteboard.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 13:24


You could also use a blackboard or even a pen and paper. I have heard of peeps' coaches using Microsoft Excel, but you have to watch out for the blue screen of death which can make a training session totally ineffective if all your data is lost.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 13:26

Best way I,ve found is to get a map measure. You find them in outdoor pursuits sections. They measure your route in km or miles. Great if you deviate off a normal run, you can then work out how far you have been. It is basic but works. I have been known to drive around routes before but not that effective!!
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 13:54

I have cross referenced my running routes with both my garmin and map24.com- they differed by only 1.5%, which equates to only 20 or 25 metres difference per mile.

I'm happy to accept that they are both really pretty accurate, and that margin of error is so negligible as to have no real effect on any training I will ever do.


Posted: 05/11/2006 at 14:07

I don't see the need for all these hi-tech solutions. Since men take about 10 seconds to run 100m and women take about 11 seconds, then all you have to do is divide the length of time you run for by the number of 10 (or 11) second intervals to work out the distance.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 14:13

you see. all you had to do was ask ? :-)
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 14:18

IF YOUR GOING ROAD RUNNING GO ROUND IN THE CAR BEFORE OR AFTER AND MEASURE FROM THE CAR MILEAGE.
OR DIVIDE THE TIME IT TAKES BY WHAT YOU ESTIMATE YOU RUN A MINUTE MILE AT THEN YOU GET THE MILES COVERED
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 14:58

I use the google pedometer (http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/) Click on "more options", select "UK" and enter your location. You can save routes as well. With the google zoom-in and map/satellite pics overlay you can get very precise measurements.

That's my Battersea park route:
Http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/?r=503812.

Posted: 05/11/2006 at 15:14

Garmin.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 15:30


Flr
I don't get on with Garmin (sacrilage I know) but I do get a pretty good guess at distance from gmap pedometer. Tbh I think Garmin can lead to spurious detail as accuracy: your heart and lungs don't care if that good run was 12.6 miles or 13.1 miles.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 15:35

used to have old street map with a bit of string with "mile markers" and trace me route that way. Now, being posh and on T'net I use the "map my run" site:O)
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 15:39

Alternatively: measure the distance on a map of a favourite route. Preferably fairly short and straight to increase accuracy. Run the route at your normal comfortable plodding pace, a couple of times just to compare results. Average out the pace and then calculate your distance by time.

I find that is accurate enough for common or garden plodding. 90 minutes is going to be 9 to 9.5 miles for me. When I bought my Garmin I found I was pretty much on the money for my estimated distances.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 15:58

String and a large scale map for footpath routes,

g-map pedometer for roads.

I don't like measuring distance at all these days, tooooo depressing. I don't need confirmation of how slowly I run.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 16:01

Nike+ does me. I'm happy with the accuracy and it is consistent for my runs, if I do the same route it comes out the same.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 17:30

Whether you use a car, garmin, gmaps, map my run it doesn't matter. I would just say that make sure you stick to the same one. If you change between them your distances will fluctuate. Stick to the same one and at least it will be proportionate.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 18:27

As I'm based in London, I started off using the Run London routeplanner (www.runlondon.com) which was pretty accurate but didn't always take account of the distance added by winding roads.

I now use Nike +iPod, which is extremely accurate, moreso if you calibrate it properly. I also have a Fitbug pedometer (www.fitbug.co.uk) which is extremely accurate - don't slate pedometers until you've tried this!) and also gives me discounts on my health insurance premiums through a special scheme with my provider, PruHealth.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 18:49

The MAGIC GIS website (www.magic.gov.uk) has an excellent distance measuring facility.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 20:19

Trying to judge your distance is easy I was looking for a good sports watch and after searching around I found the “Garmin 101” not the most sleek of GPS units but hey what the heck does it matter as the little baby is only £70 on Amazon. For only £10 you can get a bike mount to, so in reality it’s a bargain. The joy now is I can go off road on road or basically any where I want and know my distance, speed and calorie count and no running to a boring day in day out regime. I started running a year ago and this has made the world of difference and made my running more interesting......
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 20:31

I use Google Earth. You can select to show street names and it has a route measuring facility. I guess it is fine if the satellite pictures are in sufficient detail for your bit of the country but coverage is patchy.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 20:58

g-map pedometer for me
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 21:13

I can't use any of these on line maps to measure distance because of where I live, It's really annoying especially since I got rid of my garmin 205. I have hat to go back to a map and a peace of string for now.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 21:25

I use www.mapmyrun.com. I tried using a pedometer when I first started running but it was incredibly inaccurate and also kept falling off.
Posted: 05/11/2006 at 21:50

www.mapmyrun.com,I just tried it and it works. So now I'll have to think of something else to do with my Sunday evenings, instead of driving my car up alleyways, across fields and through peoples front gardens trying to calculate the distance of my afternoon run.... Why didn't I think of that?
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 08:33

www.runningahead.com

This site links in with google maps and if live in a major urban area the satellite view is incredible accurate - to the point you can plot at which point you crossed the road - or spot that wrong turn you took in the park.

Site also saves your favourite routes, lets you plot graphs, enter your cross training and gets you online with other community members.

I've found it really helpful and is FREE.

Jamie.




Posted: 06/11/2006 at 10:05

I've just tried runningahead.com and am a very happy person indeed!

My Garmin has just broken and I really didn't want to have to go back to my piece of string and A-z. I am just starting to think about routes for my marathon training and this is going to be very helpful, I think.

Thanks Jamie March 2!
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 10:44

I've just invested in Nike+ and I'm impressed and motivated by it! You need an ipod and the Nike+ kit. Basically you put a sensor in your trainer (doesn't have to be the special Nike trainers, I've just velcro-ed it into mine!) and plug a receiver into your ipod. It tracks your distance, pace, calories burned and the Nike+ website saves all your runs so you can keep track of your progress. Check out Nike+.com for details - I highly recommend it. PS it was much more accurate once I had calibrated it, by running round a 400 metre track a couple of times.
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 11:45


dib
Found this one recently on the London marathon site. It allows you to save your routes and also access other routes submitted by users, using your postcode. Seems to be very accurate from my experience. It's free, but you do have to register.

http://www.london-marathon.co.uk/routeplanner/
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 13:42

Has anyone tried www.goodrunguide.co.uk? Excellent for streets and with aerial views of certain runs.
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 14:09

whatever happened to maps?!


teehee. That's what I always used to say in a Grumpy Ol' Leopard sort of way. Then I finally discovered how to make the profile thingy work on the GMap site and now I can see JUST how hilly my runs are and I love it!
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 14:12

i use runningahead.com and i save my routes. Useful for me planning new routes as well.


Posted: 06/11/2006 at 15:05

Either:

1) runlondon routemap measuring thingy (g-map only I find it alot more user friendly) or,
2) my Nike CV10 HRM/SDM. Love mine to bits - it's getting on a bit now though and needs TLC (just like me)

I tried GPS based systems and they just pig me off. They drop the signal, so I lose my speed/ distance data, and when I find they lost the signal, my HR sky rockets, so I also loose my HR data. Not a happy bunny. See my review for the Timex trail runner for more GPS bashing. Grrrr...


Posted: 06/11/2006 at 15:23

I just run on the track and use the 100m marking. So 100m this way, then turn round and repeat.

I could run round the track, but dont want to risk getting dizzy.
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 15:41

Do you use a Nikegarmin+gmaprouteguideplanner to keep track of how many times you have run up and down?
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 15:49

I have one of those GPS car tracking devices attached to me and have to remember to call the service to declare my car stolen, and then check with them later how far my "car" was driven.

Its easy really.
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 16:27

A pedometer was my first present,
But that was no better than guessing,
I couldn't afford
A Garmin, of course,
With my map and some string there's no messing.

Posted: 06/11/2006 at 18:34

Boom boom
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 18:40

polar rs200sd is prety damn accurate enough for me - who cares about .1 of mile here and there?!
Posted: 06/11/2006 at 18:55

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