Reader To Reader: Measuring Distances


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


Any questions?
Got a new poser or problem that you want RW members to answer? Spotted a great question on the forum? Email us!

Click here to find out more about Reader to Reader.