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Technology Catches Up With Runners

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It costs $180, says company spokesperson Ted Fitzpatrick, and for an extra $59, runners can uplink the watch to the FitSense web site to, for example, keep track of their progress.

"People want a higher level of feedback, more accurate information, and information available while doing the activity," Fitzpatrick says. "People want feedback that is positive, that compels them to work out more. When people out there see the numbers build, it becomes very powerful."

Past attempts at this kind of motivation -- the use of hip-worn pedometers in the late 1970s -- didn't work so well.

"Most pedometers sat on the hips. It assumed a fixed stride length, so it lost much accuracy," Fitzpatrick says. "The new idea is not to get a fixed stride length but the movement of the foot. Our rate of accuracy is 98%."

Runners content with logging their information after running have numerous computerized choices -- from software to internet sites. Many carry obvious names: Log-A-Jog, Runner's Log, i-run.com. By entering a minimal amount of information, runners can come up with some of the same data available on more expensive speedometers -- and more, such as visual representations of favorite running routes.

"One of the benefits is graphing," says Tim Meehle of VCR Incorporated, in Indiatlantic, Fla., which markets the Log-A-Jog. "In a logbook you might have one page [to write]. With electronic logging you can track your progress as part of a graph. Doing that in a logbook would be difficult."

Of course, some runners would simply rather use a logbook.

"I'm a writer and that has a lot to do with it, ... and I have 17 years of running logs," says Michael Selman of Alpharetta, Ga. "Maybe it's more out of habit than anything else. But low-tech is the way to go. There's nothing like picking up a log from 1983 and reading about my running on the day my daughter was born."

Selman says he usually sticks with the technical aspects of his run in those logs, but reading those opens a window. One example, from May 21, 1994, reads like this:

"Very pleased with today's swift run. Weather was cool + breezy. Will try hard to keep up training to some degree throughout the summer. 1st mile and total very close to projection. Pigged out today, but why not."

But there was much more to say behind that entry -- where he was, the tactics he used, and a mile-by-mile description of the course.

"I have a comfort level with logs," Selman says. Maybe if I had started running during the time of online logs I would have used them."

And maybe not.

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