When I started running last May, I didn’t realize I would be learning an entirely new language. I’ve unofficially dubbed it “Runnerspeak,” because it’s the language that runners speak. Get it? I’m clever.

And, in learning that language, I didn’t realize that there would be a whole new set of tools I could not live without (OK, run without. Same thing).

There were a couple of running apps that had been recommended when I was considering getting into running. Runkeeper and Run-somethingerother. I can’t recall what the other one was. I know I downloaded it and gave it a try, but it wasn’t very user-friendly, from what I remember.

Then I gave Runkeeper a try. It kept track of my pace. It logged my splits. It provided me with training that had me running strides and something called a fartlek. I still don’t completely understand the fartlek, but it makes the 12-year-old in me giggle like a, well, 12-year-old. Plus, I wanted to type fartlek as many times as I could in this paragraph.

At first I thought the app, created by a Boston-based company, was just another type of social networking app (you can add your running friends, and “like” their workouts!), but the more I used it, the more I discovered. Since Runkeeper also acts as a GPS, it can record the routes I’ve taken and lay in routes I would like to use. Afterward, it allows me to see the elevation of each portion of the route. Not a particularly useful feature where I live, since it’s mostly flat, but it has come in handy in other running adventures.

A friendly female voice can also let me know (in five-minute increments, depending on personal settings), how far I’ve come, how much time has passed and what my current pace happens to be. There are times when I love hearing Lola’s voice. Lola is the name the missus has given the voice. It works just fine for me:

“Five miles under 40 minutes? Awesome! Thanks, Lola!”

But there are also times that Lola frustrates me:

“Next interval 0.99 miles,” Lola said.
“Really, Lola? Really? How many of these intervals are left? I’ve already run 0.GAZILLION!”

The other thing I’ve gotten accustomed to with RK is its ability to break down my splits (not banana), and then compare those with other runs. Which I find helpful in tracking my progress.

As I mentioned, I started running just about a year ago. When I started, I could barely run an entire mile without stopping to die in a gutter. This was before I knew the benefit of shoes, a water bottle, Clif shots, and a positive mindset.

I also didn’t know the benefit of an app such as Runkeeper. Suddenly, I was able to listen to music while I pushed myself a little further. It bettered my pace. And I looked cool with my knowledge of music. Yeah, I’m listening to ABBA. Jealous much?

Suddenly, I was able to run TWO miles without crawling to the gutter for the aforementioned dying. The day before I RAN my first 5K, I ran the 3.1 miles to make sure I could. Runkeeper helped me to know when I’d reached that milestone.

The 5K gave way to more 5K’s. Then a half-marathon, a 10K, then my first marathon and several half-marathons since. I credit Runkeeper’s built-in training plans for helping me train for the majority of these events.

At the moment, I’m training (using one of those plans) for the San Francisco Marathon on July 27. Although the plan is almost finished, I’m going to go back through it, adding hill work to the existing plan. My goal is to get a sub-4 time in the race.

Although I’ll wear my iPhone and run the app while I’m running the marathon, I’ve heard that larger races don’t allow runners to wear earbuds (or suggest runners don’t). Completely understandable, but I’m not sure what I’ll do without my music and without Lola.

Eventually, I would like to get a GPS watch, but if there’s a way to tie Runkeeper to such hardware, then I’m more likely to buy that watch first.

This is not a ringing endorsement of Runkeeper by any means. There are plenty of apps I’m sure can do a similar job. Different runners/walkers/fit-type-people will find the right one for them. This is simply my realization of how much I’ve come to rely on one of many running tools. So what if get all starry-eyed when I talk about Lola?

Lola who, by the way, taught me a bunch of that Runnerspeak peppered throughout this post.

This post was originally featured on Marc’s Blog, “The Wretched Mile.”