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Runtastic app gives you bells, whistles and William

By Sarah Lane
© 2014, The Washington Post.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use running app with lots of bells and whistles, consider Runtastic. Not only does it track pace, distance, route and heart rate (with a separate sensor), but it also connects with smart watches, offers training plans and a slew of statistics, and provides a feature called Story Running: 40-minute downloadable tales, all featuring running, of course, to help you get to the finish line.

The mobile app syncs with social media, so you can post your workout directly to Facebook. You can also have your friends cheer you on in real time, which might be fun during a race.

And despite the name, Runtastic, founded in 2009 in Austria, isn’t limited to running. You can use it for a long list of fitness activities, including skateboarding, skiing and surfing. I can’t attest to how the app works in the water, since I use it for running and walking, but the GPS is accurate on land.

Using a mobile app makes sense for me. I often run by myself, so I’m already in the habit of carrying my phone. I prefer listening to a voice coach for mile markers, rather than looking for them. I also like that all of the information is available immediately without having to connect devices. Runtastic’s GPS is more accurate than those of other mobile apps I’ve tried, and it’s more intuitive. The only glitch I’ve come across is that the app has frozen a couple of times during a workout.

I initially downloaded the free version of Runtastic. It has all of the functions I need – pace, distance, route – but the voice coach, “William,” quits after the second mile. (Actually, the voices are less coach-like, more along the lines of somber announcers, but I’m getting used to the serious British tone.) I was on the fence about upgrading to the Pro version. The relentless nagging by voice and pop-up ads to upgrade was deterring rather than selling me on the product. I relented, though, and paid the $4.99. Now William is with me for the duration.

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