Buy one, Give one

Smashrun's Buy One Get One

There’s no better time to dig in to Smashrun’s Pro features than during our annual holiday promotion! For a limited time, until December 31st, you can upgrade to Smashrun Pro or renew your pro account and receive a matching gift subscription to give to a non-pro user during the holidays! (Note that the matching gift cannot be used for a membership renewal.)

You can also buy a regular membership at a discount by first logging out, and then buying it as a gift.

Happy holidays!

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Magic PRs and new filters

We just added a couple of new features to make PR Progress and Pace Trends even more powerful.

Discovering your “Magic” PRs

What makes a PR magic? A magic number is a number that’s significant because… well, just because it is. When we’re talking about PR’s the magic numbers are nice and round. They’re the ones we all try to hit. The most classic example is the 4-hour marathon or, if your name’s Kimetto or Kipchoge, it might be a 2-hour Marathon. But, in running, there are hundreds of magic PR’s. For one person, it might be a 50-minute 10k, for another, it might be a 10 minute mile.

Magic PR's

It’s pretty simple. Go to the new PR Progress page in the Smashrun Pro Analyze view. Click the Magic PR’s button and a bunch of strobing circles pop into view. These are the magic PR’s you’re closest to reaching. Mouse over them to see the target time and use them to set your next big goal.

Filtering your runs

When you’re tracking your relative improvement, there’s a couple of things that can throw off your analysis. The first is when you compare runs with pauses against runs without. If last year you used to run a route that took you across a big intersection and you usually paused for a couple of minutes in the middle of your runs, then that recovery time may have artificially inflated your performance. That’s not necessarily a big deal but, if this year you don’t pause at all, it can look like you ran slower, even though you improved. There’s now a filter button in the lower right hand corner to exclude runs with pauses.

You can also filter out treadmill runs or, if you’re mainly concerned with your performance during races, you can apply a filter to only view races.

Filter Pace Trends

Thanks to everyone for all your great feedback. We’ll keep improving and adjusting.

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Learn from your best runs

Last month we released PR Progress, a new Smashrun Pro feature which allows you to visualize all the PR’s you’ve set over time. Knowing this information shows you the end result of all your training from different training cycles. So it also makes sense to see what kind of training made each of those PR’s possible.

The new run view within the Pro Analyze section provides quick access to the training that took place 3 months prior to each PR. At a glance, you’ll see your performance, the basic conditions that affected that performance, and details about your training that led up to that run.

To get the run view, just click on any of your best performing runs within Pace Trends or any of your PR’s within PR Progress.

Access PR Modal

Where it gets really cool is how you can break down your training preparation.

All the runs that you did in the 90 day period leading up to the run you’re viewing show up as a distribution. This allows you to easily visualize how many of those runs were longer/shorter, faster/slower, or had a higher/lower heart rate. That’s pretty useful information in and of itself, especially when you compare different runs in different training cycles. From here, you can continue to drill down, by highlighting a range of runs.

Analyze Run View - Interactive

Let’s say, for example, that you’re looking at the training leading up to your last full Marathon. You might want to see how much time you spent on longer runs. By highlighting the range of all runs that are 10k and longer, you can immediately answer questions such as:

  • What percentage of runs leading up to the race were 10k or longer?
  • How many hours did you spend training by running longer?
  • When were these runs distributed, and were they close to race day or long before?

You can do the same thing by choosing a range of paces or heart rate values, then use it to find when or how many faster or higher intensity runs you did before the race.

With this new functionality, we’re hoping it’ll make it easier for you to figure out what worked and what didn’t work as you compare your training for both recent and older runs to help you plan for your next big race.

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Introducing PR Progress

Hurrah! Today we released a new Smashrun PRO feature called “PR Progress”, which you’ll find within the Analyze section.

First off, a PR (or sometimes called a PB) is a personal record/personal best. You set a new PR every time you run faster for a given distance. Regardless of how fast a runner you are, it feels great to set a new PR. Every new PR is an accomplishment, so we decided to focus some energy on visualizing them. PR Progress shows you how your PR’s have improved over time and also shows you which new PR’s you may be able to set.

It’s important to understand that your peak performance happens along a curve. Your very fastest sprint for 1,000 meters might be one pace, but if you run 1,100 meters, it’s going to be just a bit slower, and your best 5 km will be quite a bit slower, and your best marathon much slower. That curve looks a bit different for everyone, but it tends to follow a pretty consistent pattern, something similar to what you see below.

PR Progress Curve

The white dots along the red line show the fastest run for a given distance (or farther) so the red line answers the question “What’s the fastest I’ve ever run x distance (or farther)?” And those little circles below the red line are every run you’ve ever done. You’ll notice that all of them are below the red line. That’s because the red line represents the boundary between the best you’ve ever done, and what’s left to achieve.

Where it gets even more interesting is when you visualize how your PR’s have changed over time. You can do this by selecting a section of the timeline below the graph and/or dragging it over different months or years. As you do this, the curve is re-drawn as Smashrun plots your historical PR’s against your all time best, effectively showing you the last time you set a PR for any distance.

Historical PR's

For anyone who’s training for a race or just recently ran one, this information can be really validating. Our training runs are the stepping stones towards our race pace. PR Progress helps you identify those pivotal runs that made the real difference to your race. And it’s really neat to see how all that training has paid off!

But, how about if you wanted to go out now and break one of your old PR’s? Are some of them easier to beat than others? Are you in good enough condition right now to pull it off? Is your 50 minute 10k easier to beat or your 24 minute 5k?

No problem. Click the button for “PR’s you can beat” and then select a time period, say for example the past 90 days. The algorithm finds your best performing run in that period and uses that run as a basis to create a predictive performance curve across every distance. Smashrun then redraws that curve over benchmark distances to see if any of the projected times are better than your current best PRs.

Projected Times

The question we’ll focus on for our next feature is how did you set those PR’s? How did your training compare for this marathon/half/10k/5k etc versus the last one?

Since this is a new feature, please send us an email at hi@smashrun.com if you find any bugs!

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Nike import issues

The Nike sync is currently down. As of Sept 28th, new runs are no longer flowing through the pathways we use to retrieve your data. We’re not an official partner of Nike, and so we don’t have any recourse, but to wait and hope that they fix something.

This turn of events is all the more painful because I’ve just spent over a month working to make the Nike import bulletproof. We have a fair number of Nike users on Smashrun and, for many people, the data we’ve retrieved has become the sole existing record of those runs. It pained me to see the frequent problems and errors. So, I rolled up my sleeves and attacked the issue wholeheartedly. I invested an embarrassing amount of time in the task.

There are currently dozens of different sources for the runs that end up on Nike’s site: the watch, the footpod, the iPhone and Android apps, runs sent from Tom Tom, runs sent from Garmin, the Apple Watch, and even connected treadmills. Each of these sources have unique data signatures – the data is registered in the same fields but with different meanings. This means that each source must be handled differently. And, of course, these sources have also changed historically as old bugs were fixed, and new ones were introduced. In short, it was a fool’s errand, the deepest and darkest morass.

After spending a month in the weeds, building a matrix of kludges based on the different versions and sources, I can only describe the way the data is stored like this… Imagine you wrote a love poem, and faxed it to a machine running out of ink, somewhere in Glasgow. Someone picks up the printout, stuffs it in their pocket and carries it through a rainstorm to the nearest pub. Once there he hands it to the first person he finds who happens to have this terrible cold, and they uncrumple the soaking wet fax, with it’s smeared ink, and they read it in their thick Scottish brogue over a bad Skype connection to someone who’s hard of hearing. It’s kind of like that.

Ok, well, it’s not exactly like that. From the 1,000 foot view that Nike’s site gives you, everything appears to be in order. Yes, the graph goes up and the graph goes down, and indeed, it does change colors. Yes, there’s a map that shows pretty much where you ran. Yes, there are splits. But, no… those splits can’t be backed out of the raw data. And if you calculate the distance based on the GPS points, it won’t match the distance you’ve been given for that run. And the bits on the graph where it’s green don’t always match the places where you ran fast.

In practice, the data isn’t there. Not really. What you see on Smashrun, I think, is the best that can be done. And, for some device/software version combinations, the data should be pretty good now. But, looking back at it, no programmer who wasn’t also the founder of the company, would ever have been given the latitude to sink so many hours into this project. To be honest, it was as much a crusade as anything else. Runs are personal, the record of the run is personal, and that data is yours – you should be able to have access to it.

Which brings me back to the current situation. Nike usually stages runs from the main site to their API. But, at present, that’s no longer happening. I suspect that at some point, someone may notice and reboot a process somewhere and get things back on track, or the choice may be deliberate in which case the sync will be broken for good. I highly recommend supporting companies that believe in data portability.


If you’re using an iPhone, iSmoothrun has a great app as well as a standalone Apple Watch app that exports to Smashrun (and many other sites).

If you’re using an Android phone then Sportractive, Caledos Runner, and Ghostracer all export directly to Smashrun (as well as other sites).

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The new demographic ranks

Finally! The new “Demographic Ranks” is live today. We know. It took for…ever. But, all I can say is it was just really quite hard. Yes, the entire endeavor consists of exactly one single page. But, it is a fairly useful and maybe even, to those who are being somewhat generous, a pretty cool page. Of course, it is almost certainly not half as cool as you were hoping it would be, nor is it even one tenth as cool as we really wanted it to be. It also took 10 times as long to build as we projected. All of this, as those familiar with the industry will be quick to point out, is just a rather long-winded way of explaining that this was a software development project.

So, now that we effectively dispatched any expectations you might have, let’s move on to the good stuff.

So what’s this demographic all up in my rank?

A demographic is made up of three components: sex, age, and affinity.

Choose Demographic

For example, a demographic could be: “Women / 20 – 29 / Marathon Training”. Or it could also be any combination of those. Such as, “Women / Marathon Training”, or even just anyone Marathon Training or anyone 20 – 29, it could also be just anyone at all. The point is that you get to choose who you want to compare yourself to, and you can make that group as broad or narrow as you want.

When we first announced that we were dividing the ranks by demographics, we asked for runners to submit their own affinity groups, or to join the groups others had submitted. This effort produced hundreds of suggestions, but many had only just a few members. We took all of these and culled them down to the 10 most popular. In the future, as more people join Smashrun, we’ll add new narrower affinity groups and maybe, one day, you’ll be able to join Women / 60+ / Barefoot, Finnish, Vegan Runners. But for now, we just have the following: Trail Runners, Marathon Training, Desk Job, Redditor, Run-walker, Military, Student, Busy Parent, New runner, and Ultra-distance.

198 demographics to start

10 affinities X 5 age brackets X 2 sexes = 100 demographics. However, since “All/Any” is also an option, that works out to 198 unique demographics. Some of these ended up being pretty thin, for example: “Men / 60+ / Students,” so we set a threshold of 50 members for any given demographic to go live. In practice, the way this works is that you first join a demographic that’s available, and afterwards choose a demographic that isn’t yet available, but that you would like to join if it was. You’ll be put in a waiting list, and when enough people join, the new demographic goes live and everyone who chose it gets moved automatically from their existing demographic to the new one.

How does it work?

Every day we add up how far, how often and how fast everyone in each demographic ran. Then we use that information to create a brand new curve. Just like when you were in school, this curve creates a percentile rank and that rank contributes to your Overall Score.

Rank Comparions

Each gold medal is worth 3, silver is 2, bronze is 1. So if, like in the example above, you have 1 gold medal (1×3), 11 silver medals (11×2), and 2 bronze medals (2×1), then your Rank Score would be 27. The nice thing about the score is that it’s relative to each individual’s demographic. So, you’re not “competing” with the people you follow. The score is the tally of how everyone is doing within their categories. It’s like the equivalent of an age-graded time or your gender place for a race that you ran.

The other nice (maybe, challenging?) thing about Demographic Ranks is how often the curves change. Every new run logged within your demographic affects that demographic’s curve.

If, for example, you ran 10 kilometers this week, we might calculate that 49% of the people in your demographic “New runners / 60+” ran less than that, and 51% ran more – i.e. your distance was just a bit better than average. So you’ve got a bronze medal! Sweet! But let’s say tomorrow is the last Sunday of the month, and all of the runners in your group go out for long runs because they want to hit their monthly goals. Suddenly, your 10 kilometers isn’t so great anymore, the average 7-day distance jumped up to 12 kilometers and, because of that, now just 40% of your peers ran less than you. Your rank goes down and you’ve lost your medal.

Your rank is a moving target. If you want to stay on top of them, you’ve got to do better than your peers did each and every day. Luckily, you’ll know exactly how to move up within the ranks…

Speed rank breakdown

You can also view the gold/silver/bronze thresholds by mousing over the “Details” which, for the above, looks like this…

10km rank details

Picking your demographic

When you choose your demographic the only thing you should consider is this: Do you think these people might be pretty similar to you? What you don’t want to do is choose a demographic based on how high your rank is. One reason for this is that if everyone did this, then all the ranks would average out and end up being pretty similar. But, more importantly, when you choose people like you, then it’s possible that they have similar running patterns to you. Busy parents might not have time to run on public holidays, and students might be too busy to run during exam season. That means when it’s hard for you it’s also hard for everyone else, so the ranks will be easier to stay on top of.

What’s next?

The obvious thing missing from the new ranks page is a way for you to learn about the other people in your demographic. Who are they? Who runs as far, as fast, and as often as you do? And who’s the best? Who are the leaders? This is all coming soon.

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Nike import changes

UPDATE July 11th, 2017
Nike seems to have made further changes, and as a result their API now returns an error rather than the GPS details for many (but not all) Nike users. We’re going to keep investigating, but since Nike is officially a closed platform, we have limited options at this point. I know how painful it is to have a great run, but the data is all locked up and inaccessible, so we’ll keep trying and keep you posted. If anyone has any info that might help please email hi@smashrun.com

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There’s been some changes behind the scenes with Nike’s platform this month, changes that unfortunately severely compromised the accuracy of the analysis we’re able to provide. But before I get into the specifics, I’m going to take a somewhat long and meandering digression.

Nike Running has always been a closed platform. You go out and buy a Nike Sportwatch, or an Apple Watch with Nike software, or you just download their app. You record your data on a relatively simple to use, relatively slick interface and the data is synchronized to Nike’s servers. Once your data gets there, it proceeds to live out its life quietly waiting to die in obscurity. There’s a rich ecosystem of powerful (and sometimes even fun) websites that you can use to track your running data provided, of course, that you didn’t record it with a Nike device.

It’s important to understand that when we talk about closed and open, it’s not really black and white. It’s really a spectrum of shades of grey. If, for example, “closed” indicates the blackest black, the kind of black you might find in the threads of a tie worn by Richard Roundtree at a funeral, held at the bottom of Krubera Cavern, at midnight, then, well, the Nike ecosystem is perhaps a shade of slate. Because, in truth, there is no such thing as a completely open platform or closed platform. There’s always some inertia to the free, unrestricted movement of your data. Since no company wants to be called out for locking up your data like some snarky dragon hoarding gold under a mountain, the techniques to restrict the movement of your data are often subtle rather than overt.

Here’s a few common ones:

  • Provide an API, but restrict access to just a few “strategic partners” (Suunto)
  • Craft a terms of service where the company is the owner of the data, rather than the user, and strictly limit what can be done with it. For example, prohibit holding it on a server for longer than 24 hours, or exported in any form to a company with a commercial product. (Strava, Runkeeper)
  • Charge thousands of dollars to access the data in bulk (Garmin)
  • Allow users to export the data, but only if they pay a subscription fee.
  • Allow users to export data, but resample that data first, removing most of the recording so that only the rough shape of the route can be discerned (Runtastic)
  • Export the data via an open API, allow users to download it one by one, or in bulk, but don’t seamlessly push it to other companies (Smashrun)
  • Don’t have an open API, but also, don’t work to prevent sites (like Tapiriik) that benefit your users from helping users to get access to their own data (Garmin)
  • Allow the export of data, but don’t invest any time into fixing the bugs in that export

In Nike’s case, they have an API, but they haven’t granted anyone access to use it in years. In fact they used to has have a function where any user could use the API to export a copy of their own data, but they deactivated it around the time the Nike Apple Watch launched.

So, there’s a kind of range from actively working against the export of your data, to failing to invest a ton of resources to facilitate it. Since the beginning, we’ve helped users to get access to their own data on Nike’s site. It hasn’t been easy, but they also haven’t made it impossible for us either. The Nike Sportwatch is an easy to use device. It’s a good entry level watch that was built for Nike by TomTom. The GPS is quite good, and it records 1 GPS point per second which is great, because it allows nice accurate analysis of structured training. You don’t need to read a manual to use it. You can start, stop, and pause and that’s pretty much it, but it’s also all that most people need.

From Nike we can get the GPS coordinates, but there are no timestamps. So we can tell where you ran, but not when you were there, which makes calculating splits a challenge. Luckily, if you record 1 GPS point per second you can figure out the timestamps just by counting the points. Pauses throw a wrench in that, but it turns out there’s a certain signature typical of pauses that can be used to identify them, and up until recently we used that to good effect.

This month, all of that changed. Nike went from providing 1 second recordings to 10 second recordings. Ten seconds is a long time. Try counting to ten now and imagine how far you could run. Ten seconds is a lifetime. It also makes it impossible to identify pauses, and it means that if you run for 59 seconds, for example, there will only be 5 points returned. The splits become a kind of wild guess. We released a patch yesterday, to try and improve the results, but it’s like trying to squeeze water from a stone, a particularly dense and dry stone, that makes your run look kind of squarish, think granite.

So a few ideas…

The Tom Tom Spark 3 is a great watch for the price. The Garmin 230 is an even better watch for a bit more money. If you have an iPhone, iSmoothRun seamlessly exports your data to nearly every running site on the planet and it’s a solid app for a one time $5 cost. If you have an Android phone, then Sportractive, Ghostracer, Caledos(beta) are all free and worth trying.

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RunPlan Integration

Running a couple of races this year? Need a little help staying on top of your training plan? Check out RunPlan! It’s a user-developed web app built on top of the Smashrun API. It’s sleek, extremely functional, and easy to use. Paul designed RunPlan to make custom training plans more manageable. It’s quite common for runners to create their own training plans on spreadsheets, but manually entering each run to see it within the context of of your training plan can feel like work.

Introducing RunPlan – a web app that migrates your training plan from a CSV or excel file and into a full-screen calendar with your training schedule plotted out… and it imports your runs from Smashrun including your splits and your route map!

RunPlan Calendar

You can quickly see when or if you miss any runs, how each week compares to one another, visualize how much or how little you’ve run according to your training plan, and even see if you exceed your planned distance during your training cycle.

RunPlan Progress

You can also share your custom training plans with others. So, if you feel like sharing a plan that worked for you in the past, I’m sure someone else will make good use of it as well.

RunPlan Share Plans

To get started, you’ll first need to create an account on RunPlan. Then, to create a custom training plan in the right format, you can download this example plan, modify it to your training schedule, and upload it here (https://runplan.training/app#/plans/edit/) when you’re ready.

RunPlan Sync Setup

Afterwards, you just need to link to your Smashrun account within the Settings > Sync Setup and you’re good to go! Just remember to click sync within RunPlan to import your runs.

If you’d like to share some feedback (and compliments!), feel free to reach out to paul@runplan.training.

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A new app for a new year

sportractive-580

Sportractive is a popular and highly rated free app for Android phones. It’s got a super clean interface, accurate recording, and a ton of features. And best of all, it now has a direct integration with Smashrun.

If you’ve got an Android phone, and you’re looking for an easy way to get your runs on Smashrun it’s definitely worth trying out – especially because it’s completely free.

To set it up with Smashrun, go to Sportractive’s main menu and click on ‘Settings’. Scroll down to ‘Cloud and Social Network Preferences’, click on it, and check Smashrun. In the subsequent window, either create a new account or connect your Smashrun account with Sportractive. You’re all set!

Sportractive Setup

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API Improvements

This past week we’ve added a bunch of new functionality to the Smashrun API. We’re moving beyond import/export to try and make some of Smashrun’s unique functionality more accessible.

Some highlights:

  • Stats by all-time / year / month
  • Notables for a run
  • Splits by kilometer or mile
  • Return a route map as SVG, GeoJSON or a Google Maps formatted polyline.
  • Get extended data about a run: sunrise/sunset, moon phase, country, state, city, treadmill, race, and cooper test flags, and much more
  • Edit an existing run, and flag a run as deleted
  • You can also now post FIT files directly to the API

If, however, you’re looking to just play with your data on a spreadsheet, remember you can always get a csv export you easily open in Excel by adding /export to the end of your url. For example: http://smashrun.com/your.username/export

Coming up soon:
Individual TCX export and bulk zipped export. If you’d like to beta test the functionality shoot us an email.

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