Twelve months ago I was one of those people who ran, but wouldn’t call themselves a runner. I’d run a marathon - two in fact – but show me a pair of running ‘tights’ and I’d show you a face that said ‘Over my dead body’. In 2012 technology changed all that.
As a tech editor, I’d trained for my past two marathons using the GPS tracking app Endomondo. I found it to be one of the best tools for monitoring my pace, distance and vital stats. The web-based tools are also really robust. It was during some routine stat-crunching on the site, that I spotted a challenge in the community section of Endomondo.com.
From the most miles in a month to the fastest marathon, with over 7.5m users, a feature within the Endomondo community section lets users throw down a global gauntlet. The gauntlet I stumbled across on 1 January 2012 was a challenge to run 2,012 miles in 2012. Or, to put it another way, 5.5 miles every day for 366 days.
Seeing this sparked a crazy thought. What if I took up that challenge and used it to see if Endomondo-style tech could motivate an Average Joe like me to pull off an implausible feat of endurance? Could gadgets really make the difference? Could man and tech conquer 3,238 kilometres in one year?
I spent the next twelve months pitting myself - and the finest fitness tech on the market - against 2,012 miles of tarmac, treadmill and trail, while raising money for Save the Children.
Three-hundred-and-ten hours of running, one ultra marathon, four marathons, fifteen half marathons, 350,000 calories and 1,184 jelly babies later and the challenge is over. The job has been done.
Along the way, I’ve used tech for everything: to track my mileage, provide musical motivation, keep me warm, aid recovery and even prevent injury by letting me know when I’m over-doing it.
I’ve been on underwater treadmills at England’s shiny new St George’s Park training ground, monitored my heart rate, tracked my sleep patterns and even tested shorts that claim to replace ice baths.
It’s been a great year for health and fitness technology. We’ve seen an influx of new products hitting the shelves, as hardware and software companies bid to cash in on this booming tech sector. It means fitness gadgets are now better than ever and I can safely say that I wouldn’t have been able to complete the challenge without the aid of this innovative new equipment.
That’s not to say everything I tested was good. For every gold-medal-worthy device, there are plenty of also rans. So in a bid to help you find the winning products, I’ve pulled together the essential running gear that I genuinely used to help me go from 13-stone lay-about to super-fit marathon runner.