The Los Angeles Marathon is in March, just about four months away; Rock & Roll San Diego is in June, or just over six months away; and, personally, I’m sweating Boston, which is about five months out. Around this time of year, a lot of us are looking at the long winter training runs ahead with some trepidation.
A coach would be great—but who can afford a coach, or even e-coaching sessions? Instead, I decided to look for a digital coach among the popular cell phone apps on the iTunes and Google Play stores. Software developers have hired some of the most well-respected coaches in marathon running today, and you can access their coaching advice through your phone, paying very little for the privilege.
Here’s basically how they work: you launch the app, and pick from a variety of workouts tailored to your interest and ability. During the run, your "coach" tells you how fast to run and how far. For instance, on an interval day, the app might say, “Run at a 7:15 pace for the next three minutes.” It tells you when you’re done with the interval, offers GPS splits, and prompts you when it’s time to start the next interval.
We tested over a dozen coaching apps, and they varied widely in the quality of advice. But several of them would be a valuable training tool in achieving long-term goals. In addition, they’re probably your only shot at free advice from an Olympic-caliber coach.