What can be the cons in NRC

Endurance test: Berlin marathon with the Apple Watch

When we met Lars Sonnemann at eight in the morning in front of the Reichstag, not only was the sun shining in a deep blue sky - it was also Sunday. The signs could therefore not be better. The marathon runner, who is experienced despite his young age, is in a great mood, he is rested and well prepared. And he wears the Apple Watch Series 3 on his wrist to record the values ​​of his run.

The trained banker is currently studying business psychology and has been running the famous 42.195 kilometers since 2013. Among other things, he has already completed the supreme discipline of runners in Stockholm, Hamburg and London. In November he is aiming for his tenth marathon in New York. He will have mastered three of the six largest marathons in the world, the so-called Major Six. Boston, Chicago and Tokyo are to follow in the coming years.

After the obligatory check-in, where every runner receives their start number, Sonnemann starts off shortly after nine as number 36.278. The Berliner contests the race against time with the NRC app from Nike. This, he tells us before the start, he uses because of the better view. The application shows the data that is important to him clearer and more beautifully than others on the small screen. In addition, the app offers a variety of modes and preset options, such as distance and pace information, which the competition from Strava does not offer in this form. Strava, on the other hand, scores in another important discipline - a fact that Sonnemann will remember again later that day. But one after the other ...

Intuition versus technology

While Lars Sonnemann does not make any special adjustments to the watch before the marathon, it behaved differently when the working student was training. For his daily running units, he entered distances and speeds in advance as goals in the app used in order to then receive regular intermediate results during the run. In the Berlin Marathon, however, he mainly relies on his feelings. Later he will tell us that the body can be wrong about its own abilities, but the technique is not infallible either. It could well be that the Apple Watch shows him excellent values, but his feeling conveys a completely different picture during the run. Despite this knowledge, he regularly checks the smart watch on the track on this day in order to be able to assess how fast he is, whether he needs to gain strength or can conserve strength.

What the watch does for Sonnemann in training is offered on the streets of Berlin this Sunday as a marathon service: the organizers show every kilometer on a large sign. But: After more than half the distance, the numbers noted on it no longer exactly match those that Sonnemann sees on his Apple Watch. At thirty kilometers, the Nike app tells him that he has already covered a little more than that distance. But Sonnemann knows that in a marathon you never run an ideal line and thus automatically cover more distance than the official 42.195 kilometers.

Such deviations, even if they are annoying, cannot be taken care of during the run - he is working too focused on his way forward. The obligatory difficult phases come and go, his stomach doesn't seem to be in top form this Sunday, but the young marathon is doing well.

Surprise at the finish

After crossing Berlin-Mitte and - like all runners - being cheered on by an enthusiastic crowd, Sonnemann crosses the finish line in the early afternoon. The run was exhausting and didn't feel ideal for him. But a look at the Apple Watch confirms his best time to date: 3 hours 32 minutes. Sonnemann is startled when, in addition to the measured time, the distance of 41.2 kilometers appears on the display. While the Nike app had supposedly certified more kilometers for him on the way, it is now brutally pulling almost a thousand meters away from him. The 23-year-old knows from his training sessions that such inaccuracies are a problem with the NRC app - at least when the running distance is more than thirty kilometers.

Strava, on the other hand, offers a more precise alliance of GPS and numbers for runs of this length. And another value surprises the Berliner. While the Apple Watch showed him a 98 percent charge when it started, it now only has 38 percent. In comparable test runs in advance, the performance was reduced by a maximum of 40 percent. Without a continuously running app, Sonnemann can even use his smart watch for almost two days before it needs a new power supply.

After the regeneration, the marathon man starts evaluating his data from the Apple Watch. He is particularly interested in the split times, i.e. the results that show how fast he was on the individual kilometers. With these figures, Sonnemann learns what he needs to work on, where he may have broken in unnecessarily or at what time he accelerated too much. The heart rate also gives him information about his physical condition during the marathon.

The comparison

For a long time, Lars Sonnemann used dedicated running watches for his training and the marathon routes. Their advantage, he still says today, is their accuracy and specific capabilities: with a running watch, you can program intervals and pauses in advance. With the Apple Watch, however, he has so far had to have his training completely in mind in advance. He couldn't measure laps with the Apple Watch either, there wasn't even a start / stop button for it. In addition, he misses being able to set limits for speed and heart rate, which the watch warns its owner if they are exceeded or undershot.

Nevertheless, Sonnemann no longer wants to do without Apple's Smartwatch - and that with all the room for improvement that the Apple Watch and its apps for ambitious runners still have. After all, the developers would continuously improve their applications. According to Sonnemann, the perfect Apple Watch should also have a very mundane feature in the future: a home function that automatically guides the athlete home using a compass.

You can find all further information about our test subject at: www.runwithlars.de.

Interview with marathon runner Lars Sonnemann

"I like the versatility and the high level of everyday usability of the Apple Watch!"

How long have you been using the Apple Watch and what devices have you used while running before?

I've been using the Apple Watch 3 since mid-March. That is over 1,200 kilometers of running with the watch in the last six months. Before that, I mainly used my Spark 3 from Tomtom.

What are the biggest advantages of the Apple Watch for you?

Clearly its versatility and the high level of suitability for everyday use. Because compared to a pure running watch, it has a smaller range of functions in terms of running functions. But as a smartwatch, it also offers a range of functions that a normal running watch simply cannot offer - be it an app for making phone calls or navigation, as well as the ability to check the weather report or the current soccer results.
I also like the design. Most running watches are bulky or not very elegant. Thanks to the easily interchangeable bracelets, I can also wear the Apple Watch at work and combine it with a suit.
And last but not least, this has the advantage that there is no interruption when you want to use the watch as a movement tracker. Because with the three circles, Apple's own app motivates people to stay active in a playful way - even in the office. And of course that only makes sense if I wear the watch for sports and everyday life.

And what are the disadvantages, what can Apple do better?

I am pleased that the new Apple Watch Series 4 has an electrical heart rate sensor for the wrist in addition to the optical one. I see that as a great advantage - and for me personally, a great wish is coming true. Because there are more pleasant things than doing sports with a chest strap.
However, it would also be desirable for more than two network providers to offer the option of supplying the watch with a SIM card. This means that I can finally do without my smartphone, especially during very long training sessions, and call for help with the watch in an emergency.

How exactly do you evaluate a run in retrospect?

The evaluation usually takes place on my iPhone. Depending on the app used, I have my data available in the Nike Run Club or Strava app and can plan further training based on my results. In the apps, I can read out kilometer split times, the heart rate during the run and some other interesting data and of course also use some social functions, for example to cheer on friends. So you are also digitally connected with the sports fans.

Which apps are best for running trining for you?

Strava, because during long runs it is fairly accurate with regard to the route recorded by GPS - even if it would be better if you could configure the display yourself.
Otherwise I mainly use the Nike Run Club app. This has the great advantage that, in addition to a detailed display of all recorded data, I can also use the social functions super easily and can whip me and my friends at each other for best times. In contrast to Strava, Nike also offers a function for speed training and can be used completely without a subscription or in-app purchases. The bottom line is that the Nike app's range of functions is particularly complete for me.

The four best running apps for the Apple Watch

  • Strava: Strava has hit the fitness tracker market with power and accordingly offers a high level of compatibility, whether with Fitbit, Garmin or others. The accuracy of the data displayed is impressive. The competition shows the information more clearly. The app is free of charge, but offers a subscription for subscription for 60 euros / year.
  • Endomondo: The appearance of the app is more sober, it has all the important capabilities and, unlike the others, can focus on the heart rate during training. There are negative points when it comes to archiving the data. The app is also free of charge. A subscription is available for 30 euros / year.
  • NRC Nike: The app favored by Lars Sonnemann offers information on pace, distance, incline, heart rate and split times. The NRC app is also recommended from a social point of view: Comparing it with friends is easy and fun. However, the app does not yet work reliably in all categories. The app is free of charge.
  • Runtastic: Similar scope as the Nike app, even an idea clearer: route view, checking of the split times - and here, too, there is the possibility of exchanging and comparing with friends. You have to pay to forego advertising and additional content. The app is free of charge. A subscription is available for 50 euros / year.

The alternative: Withings Steel HR Sport

As beautiful as the Apple Watch is, as many bracelets and wallpapers are available: Not everyone likes the technical appearance of the Smartwatch. An alternative is called Steel HR Sport from Withings. Equipped with a traditional dial and a digital round element that blends elegantly and discreetly into the aesthetics of the watch, the Withings watch is more reminiscent of a conventional chronometer. It is not for nothing that the manufacturer calls its product a “multisport hybrid smartwatch”.

With the Steel HR Sport you can also monitor your heart rate and the values ​​of thirty different sports or get an assessment of your fitness level using a V02max estimate. The GPS-equipped watch is waterproof up to fifty meters, its battery lasts for almost a month and the case is made of durable stainless steel. Even sleep analyzes, vibration alarms and smart notifications are integrated in the versatile watch.

Product notice

Withings Steel HR Sport - multisport hybrid smartwatch, connected GPS, heart rate, fitness level via VO2max, activity and sleep tracking, notifications

What can the Apple Watch Series 4 do?

Especially runners who do not have the time or leisure to stare long and detailed at the screen of their smartwatch during the race will be delighted with the larger display of the Apple Watch 4. An innovation that is initially not particularly important, but is useful in the hectic everyday sporting life, is the revised Digital Crown with haptic feedback. This results in less distraction and faster information gathering.
Does your training also include swimming courses? With the Apple Watch Series 4, you can also measure your performance in the pool and in open water - the smartwatch is waterproof up to fifty meters. In order to see as much information as possible at the same time during training, you should use the new "Infograph" dial, which offers space for eight categories and five measured values ​​at a glance.
The automatic training recognition, which notices whether you are boxing, hiking or doing a yoga exercise, is also very practical. The latter two have also only recently been added to the range of sports covered by Apple. While running, you can also benefit from the pace hints available with a light tap, which inform you of an increase or decrease in speed, as well as the measured value cadence, which shows your steps per minute. The pace of the last kilometer run can also be called up.
If you want to keep an eye on your health in addition to training times, you can do this with the new electrical heart sensor that Apple has integrated. There are also notifications when the heart rate is too low or too high. Fall detection is also implemented so that you can get help as quickly as possible, especially in the event of serious accidents.

More info: www.apple.com/watch/

The perfect sports accessory for the Apple Watch

While the iPhone should be protected from falling and therefore all around, the focus in terms of security with the Apple Watch is on the screen. However, you can easily prevent the display from breaking or scratching with the so-called CurvedDisplay Watch from Artwizz (20 euros). This consists of real glass, protects the Apple Watch with a degree of hardness of 9H, is very easy to attach and adheres perfectly. The feeling of operation remains unimpaired, you can only see the protective layer on closer inspection.

With the Sport Band (44 euros), Catalyst has an air-permeable bracelet in its range, which with its double locking system ensures that the smartwatch does not slip a millimeter. The silicone strap is also suitable for sensitive skin and fits perfectly with the brand's Impact Protection Case (77 euros), which is recommended for stony walks.

If you prefer something a little softer, Apple offers the Sport Loop (59 euros), a particularly light and breathable wristband for the Apple Watch. Soft on the inside, equipped with a quick-close Velcro fastener on the outside, it can keep Apple's product standard without any technology.

The Action Sleeve from Twelve South (35 euros) can be used particularly flexibly. The wristband is also attached to the biceps, for example, with a Velcro fastener and also protects your Apple Watch with a protective rubber ring. The manufacturer states that the heart rate measurement on the upper arm works a little better than on the wrist.

Among other things, Twelve South invented the Timeporter housing for running in strange places, for example on vacation or on a business trip (55 euros). In the case, reminiscent of a glasses case, you can stow not only the watch, the charging cable and an additional bracelet. The hardened little bag doubles as an Apple Watch stand for the bedside table, which charges the smartwatch at the same time.