So Many Choices
If you haven’t been under a rock, you already know that the landscape for training sites has become a metaphorical candy-land over the recent years as more people track their activities on their phones, watches and other gadgets. All of them support mapping your route, the ability to view your pace and some level of social media sharing. But what if there was a site that gave you data about your run that you didn’t even know you wanted? A psychic running site? Whaaa?! No, just a brilliant new training platform for runners called Smashrun.
I personally work in the world of data and I’m also an engineer who loves to run. So when I was first introduced to Smashrun, I immediately geeked out and started drooling over not just the sheer amount of detail I had about my runs, but also the context of where that run fit into the big picture. Seeing where you’ve come historically, compared to where you are today, is not only a powerful motivator but also a vindication of all your hard work.
It’s that context, combined with a light-hearted and fun attitude toward running that really sets Smashrun apart from the other sites vying for your GPX file.
What It Does Best
The first thing you’ll notice about Smashrun is that it’s visually kick-ass. Charts, graphs, scatter plots, sparklines and pie charts make me want to know more about all the data-driven awesomeness they hold. Should you choose to import all your past runs, you’ll be able to analyze both the macro (all-time, yearly and monthly) trends all the way down to each individual day and run.
Sure, some of them are things you’d expect, but do you know your average pace for the month? What day do you run the least? What is your average run length for the month? For the year? If the training platform you’re using today doesn’t easily show you these things in a dashboard, you’re definitely missing out.
Some of my favorite monthly metrics/visuals include:
- Trailing 90 day miles
- Run distance vs. pace
- Consecutive days run
At run level, there are a couple things you won’t find anywhere else.
- Food equivalent of calories burned (we all run to eat, right?!)
- Notable achievements
- Smashrun Performance Index (Pro feature)
By far, the most impressive feature of Smashrun is the Pro Map. At the outset, you get to see your color-coded pace across the route. But what happens when you add things like cadence, heart rate and hill grade? Magic, that’s what.
This highly interactive map allows you to dissect your entire run to highlight specific segments based on any of the data elements mentioned above. It’s cool as heck but I don’t trust my writing to do it justice. Check out this short video courtesy of Smashrun.
Another thing I’m sure will get you amped up are the achievement badges. Think of them as virtual high-fives for reaching various running milestones. The badges help solidify your achievements to date and help drive you towards others (it’s awesome that they tell you what you need to earn the badge). Some are pretty traditional but others again point to the fact that the Smashrun team doesn’t mind having a little fun.
What It Doesn’t Try To Be
It’s difficult to find one training platform that is all things to all people which is why Smashrun makes no illusions that it’s made for runners, by runners. Cycling and swimming capabilities are intentionally non-existent. Some folks might find that lacking but I like to think of it as focus, passion and dedication for the sport.
In my correspondence with the 3-person Smashrun team based out of Brooklyn, it was clear to me that they are very connected to their users and constantly listening to their feedback on how to improve the site. Members are always welcome to send in ideas for features, but most of their energy is focused on what they call Headliner Features. These are major improvements to the site that go above and beyond what you might find (or expect) on other training sites. Each is focused on providing you even more context and relevance for your runs and goals.
Having used the site now for almost 3 months (as a Pro user), I have not been disappointed in the least. Everything I personally need for my training is on Smashrun in one convenient dashboard. I can also follow friends who join Smashrun. I did make a few suggestions to the team but they are minor in the grand scheme of things. Things like:
- Can you make more widgets available for my blog?
- The ability to search on run tags (e.g., trail, road, PR, race, etc.)
- Provide more social sharing capabilities on the run details page
At present, there is no Smashrun mobile app. You might groan a little but if you consider the (growing) number of devices they support and direct integration with Garmin and Nike+, do you really need another mobile app? I personally load my runs to Garmin and then sync them over to Smashrun.
Standard vs. Pro
For many, the features on Smashrun’s free service will be more than enough to provide an unparalleled level of insight you’ve never had before. Pro memberships will run you $59 a year (less than $5 a month) and provides users a long list of additional capabilities that will likely cause spontaneous ritualized running and obsessive-compulsive badge hoarding. Some of the Pro features include:
- Pace variability chart
- Hill grade distribution
- Estimated finish times
You can view a full list and explanation of all the Pro features in the Smashrun Pro FAQ. If you’re shy on commitments, you can also do a 4-month Pro membership for $29.
At the end of the day, why wouldn’t you want to see more about your runs? Visual awesomeness (or guilt, depending on your point of view) is a powerful tool, whether you’re hardcore or just a casual runner. Today, I use several other training sites along with Smashrun and I get different data from each. Where do I spend most of my time? Smashrun, hands down (there’s a badge for that!).
I can get the basic data from any training site or app. What I love about Smashrun is seeing all the data I didn’t even know I wanted. Having transparency to how you’re performing at every level – daily, monthly and yearly – has changed the way I perceive my running progress, abilities and goals. When you have more data, you make different decisions. I mean, who chases virtual badges now like they were actual race medals? This guy…
As a self-coached ultra-marathoner, I recently came to the realization that I’ll spend hundreds of dollars on a new pair of shoes but I have yet to invest in a training site that actually provides me all the information I need to prepare for races, train on a daily basis and review my trends over time.
Believe me, I’ve tried them all. And I have to say, I think Smashrun has knocked it out of the park.
Click my referral link to sign up today (yes, it helps me earn more badges!)