Reprogram Your Run (or Ride)
If you're a runner or a cyclist in the D.C. area, your workouts are about to get a lot easier provided the weather forecast isn't lying: Tomorrow should bring an end to 90-degree heat, at least for this week.
But while it's still the usual hazzymuggyscorching mess, you can benefit from some quality, air-conditioned time in front of a keyboard. No, not by window-shopping for any new high-tech running/biking gadgets, but by using one of a handful of sites to plot a new route by clicking away on an interactive map or satellite photo.
I got into this habit two years ago, when the only way I knew to measure a route was to use the ruler tool in Google Earth. Then a reader tipped me off to Gmap Pedometer, which used Google Maps data to let users measure distances using any Web browser. A steady stream of updates added a calorie count and, later on, a graph of a route's elevation.
But since last year, this site hasn't seen any revisions to its features -- the last post on its change log came back in October. And several other sites have sprung up that provide the same functions and then some.
Back in May, for example, the Post's Health section recommended WalkJogRun. This Google Maps-based site lets you save your routes for later reference -- keeping them private or sharing them with other users -- and search through routes published by other users. You can also export a route for viewing in Google Earth. It provides a live calorie count, updated with each new route segment added--if you're feeling guilty about shoveling down a whole order of Five Guys' fries (620 calories!), this site will tell you exactly how far you need to hoof it. But WalkJogRun doesn't let you edit a route beyond erasing the last waypoint (a defect it shares with the route planner at Runner's World).
My current favorite is MapMyRun, which does everything that WalkJogRun does (aside from the live calorie count) but also lets you edit a course as you draw it. You can correct a misplaced click or revise your route to account for unplanned detours by dragging the waypoint icons that mark each turn. You can also place pointer icons for water fountains, bathrooms and other important stops. And if you've picked a less-than-flat route, a nifty elevation graph can show how many hills you'll eat. Lastly, its calorie counter factors in your gender as well as your weight and pace. (Sunday afternoon's bike ride burned 1,119 calories--guess I was justified in having dessert!)
MapMyRun (you can access the same service under the addresses MapMyRide and MapMyWalk) could stand some improvements of its own, though. Its route-drawing tools lack the flexibility of those that Google recently introduced for its "My Maps" site, which display the length of each segment as you draw it and allow you to insert new waypoints if, for example, a road reveals a few more twists in person than had appeared on the map.
Another thing that all of these Google Maps-based sites could use: More overlays showing running and bike trails, since most of them aren't listed in Google's map view and are hidden under trees in its satellite views.
What Web tools have you used to map out a run or ride? Share in the comments!
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