Running a marathon is a personal goal for many, but being able to run the official distance of 42.195 kilometers (that’s 26 miles 385 yards) takes lots of preparation and hard work. Today, however, there are plenty of gadgets to make your marathon training a little less excruciating.
Get yourself a decent running watch
It’s the obvious place to start, and for good reason. Smartwatch technology has always had a close relationship with sports and fitness, but there is a growing market for dedicated running watches that strip away a lot of the more general smartwatch features. The result is a more streamlined product designed for runners and runners alone.
Running a marathon is all about pacing. Believe me, I’ve been there and done it. It is so easy to get caught up in the moment and run with the crowds, but mess around with your pace and you can destroy your race plan. Having a dedicated running watch on your arm will not only help you maintain your race pace on the big day, but it will become an essential tool during your training runs in getting your pace just right.
Garmin is the top dog in the running watch market, but its products come at a premium. If budget is not an issue, go straight for the Garmin Forerunner 935 - it’s probably the best running watch in the world right now. The Garmin Forerunner 235 is more affordable and does a lot of what the 935 can do. You’ll have to make a few compromises, but pound for pound, the 235 is one of the best running watches you can buy.
For those on a tight budget, or who want to try out a running watch without committing too much money, check out the Honor Band 4 Running Edition. It features a 6 axis motion sensor that monitors your running posture and technique, making it perfect for beginners.
Wear a fitness armband
Smartwatches designed for running are great, but they are an added expense. A cost-effective way of tracking your runs is to use your smartphone. Combined with running apps, your phone likely already has everything you need to track your runs accurately, such as GPS.
Sure, you can just slip it in your pocket and set off, but you run the risk of it falling out or getting sweaty. Fitness armbands provide a secure way to run with your smartphone without the risk of dropping it. Belkin sells a good selection for all different phones. Using your phone as your running tracker also means you’ll have music to soundtrack your run.
Wear a pair of wireless headphones
For most amateur athletes, running a marathon is going to take somewhere between three and four hours. If you can go under three, that is mightily impressive! Even the best marathon runners in the world take just over two hours to complete the distance. What I’m trying to say, is that it’s a long time to be running in silence. Music can help take your mind off of the burn in your legs and the pain in your body. For running, you will want a wireless set of headphones.
The market is full of Bluetooth headphones designed for sports and fitness. The Jaybird X4 are generally considered among the best today, but they will cost you around $130. There are also true wireless sporty headphones such as the Sony WF-SP700N, which feature active noise canceling. The key to shopping for Bluetooth headphones is to go for comfort and a secure fit. Ear fins are essential, but the rest will depend on your personal preference and budget.
Use the Mighty Vibe to listen to Spotify
Speaking of taking your music collection on your run, one of the main problems that Spotify users face is the lack of offline listening in most smartwatches. The Mighty Vibe solves that issue. The idea behind it is simple, yet brilliant. Imagine an iPod shuffle, but with your favorite Spotify playlists on it. You can download up to 1,000 songs to the Mighty Vibe, connect your Bluetooth headphones and go for your marathon training run without the need to bring your smartphone along. It costs north of $85, but for those who want to take Spotify on the road, offline, without a smartphone, it’s by far the best option.
Try a smart heart rate sensor
If you are going to get serious about your marathon training then you might be interested in dipping into heart rate monitoring. Training by heart, in which you use beats per minute (bpm) rather than pace to measure the intensity of your run, is becoming more popular. Of course, you’ll need an accurate way to measure your heart rate to do it.
Lots of smartwatches will provide a reading for heart rate, but few are as accurate as a proper, dedicated sensor. Something like the Suunto Smart Sensor is ideal. It is comfortable and accurate, and when connected to either a Suunto smartwatch or a branded companion app, it will store your heart rate data and transfer it wirelessly to your device.
Don a pair of connected running shoes
Manufacturers of wearble tech for runners have started going straight to the core the most important piece of kit a runner owns - the running shoes. It is surprising it has taken this long to really catch on, to be honest. In a world with everything is smart, from our light bulbs to our refrigerators, it's amazing how most runners are still wearing regular footwear that is not connected to anything. That is all about to change, however.
Connected running shoes are starting to break into the market. Under Armour recently announced its HOVR Phantom and the HOVR Sonic running shoes, which feature sensors that measure your cadence, distance, pace, stride and steps. They sync with Under Armour's MapMyRun app via Bluetooth, and the shoes can even tell you when its time to buy a new pair.
Track with the best running apps
The quickest and cheapest way to start your marathon training is to download a great running app. There are plenty to choose from, but there are a couple that stand out as best in class.
Strava is one of the deepest and most reliable fitness tracking apps and is a good place to start. You can record and track running distances, map your routes and there are training challenges to help you stay on track with your marathon training plan.
Map My Run, which is now owned by Under Armour, has been a real favorite with runners for years. What started as a digital community for sharing running routes in your local area has grown into one of the most feature-full runnings apps available today. You can review your performance and track your runs, obviously, but the social features are great if you are training for your marathon with a friend or group of colleagues - something I would highly recommend.
Runkeeper, owned by sports brand Asics, is one of the most popular running apps available today. As well as tracking your distances and training goals, it comes with deep features for charting weight loss. If your marathon mission is the result of a desire to reduce your body mass, then Runkeeper is probably the app for you.
What tech do you use for your marathon training? Anything we should add to our list? Let us know in the comments below.