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MARY LOUISE KELLY, host:

And it's always seemed to me - turning to another sport - that appeal of running is that all you need is a good pair of shoes and a stretch of open road. But like everything else in our lives, this most basic sport has gone high-tech. Go out for a jog these days and your GPS watch will constantly update your pace and distance. And now smart phones with built-in GPS have gotten into the game, offering lots of new tools to runners. We asked NPR's Tamara Keith to take a couple of these programs for a spin.

TAMARA KEITH: I'm a runner, not a good one, not a fast one, just a runner.�And I'm a total gear head.�I'm the person you see coming down the trail with a GPS wristwatch on one arm, an mp3 player on the other, water bottles strapped around my waist and compression socks pulled up to my knees.

I realize this is super geeky.�But I love to know precisely how fast I'm going. And if my GPS says I've only gone 5.95 miles, I'll run up and down my driveway to get it up to six.

So of course one of the first things I did when I got my new iPhone was install a bunch of running-related apps: runkeeper, imapmyrun, the Nike Plus app, and one from Adidas called miCoach.��

(Soundbite of app)

Mechanical Voice: Begin workout.�Blue zone, five minutes.

KEITH: With miCoach, you set up a training plan online, then the app guides you through your runs with voice cues.�

So it says to start out slow, so we'll start out slow.

Today's workout is an interval run with a couple of five-minute fast-paced intervals.�

(Soundbite of app)

Mechanical Voice: Speed up to yellow zone - five minutes.

KEITH: I'm wearing my Garmin GPS watch too, to see how they compare.

(Soundbite of app)

Mechanical Voice: Speed up to yellow zone.

KEITH: It doesn't believe me.�I'm going faster.�So my Garmin says I'm doing a 9:15 pace and my phone says I'm doing a 9:36 pace. And this is the problem with having too much information at your fingertips.

And so it goes, with the phone telling me to speed up and slow down until the workout is complete.

(Soundbite of app)

Mechanical Voice: Great job. Time, 35 minutes. Calories, 365.

KEITH: Like all of these apps, miCoach allows you to check your stats, see the run on a map, tweet your results, and upload the data to the Web.�They all cost less than $10 and have slightly different bells and whistles. David Willey is the editor-in-chief of Runner's World magazine.�He regularly uses imapmyrun and runkeeper.

Mr. DAVID WILLEY (Editor-in-chief, Runner's World): I've actually gotten quite addicted to the data and the specific information that I can get in real time and then sort of play with after my run.

KEITH: He says in the past only very serious or elite professional runners got this kind of coaching and detailed information.�Now anyone can.

Mr. WILLEY: There are probably more runners that are out there training smarter than there ever have been, because of technology and the sort of democratization of technology.

KEITH: And then there are people like Rich Cohen.

Mr. RICH COHEN: It's nice to just go out there with your watch and just enjoy the outdoors and enjoy the nice weather and the people running around you and maybe some of the scenes.

KEITH: And when he says watch, he's not talking about one with a built-in GPS. Just a plain old watch, so he knows what time it is. Rich and I run together when he wants to take it slow.�And I get the sense that he thinks all my gear and technology are silly.

Mr. COHEN: If I want to run six miles, I'll go for about 45 minutes.�If I feel like I'm going a little slower, I might add on a few minutes.�I don't feel a need to say I'm going out at 7:30 a mile, I need to run 7:30 a mile for six miles to feel like I accomplished what I was trying to do that day.

KEITH: But if you do want to know exactly how far and exactly how fast you went, there are now plenty of options.�

Tamara Keith, NPR News, Washington.

(Soundbite of music)

KELLY: And you'll find a summary of running apps on the All Tech Considered blog at npr.org/alltech.

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