Social running apps like Strava provide tremendous benefits for runners, but especially ultrarunners. When it comes to finding specific information about trails, race courses and training data, the app has a plethora of details. Here are some ways to help you get the most out of Strava that will not only help your running, but also allow you to meet new friends along the way.
Five things to use Strava for:
1) Connecting with Friends & Fellow Runners
Strava is a wonderful social tool and unlike Facebook, you don’t have to sort through tons of ads and political posts to see what your friends are up to. It’s a great way to find running partners, stay in touch with friends across the globe, and connect with people you may have shared a few miles with on the trails. I’ll often ask runners I meet during races if they are on Strava so that we can keep in touch.
It’s also a great resource for finding running clubs and trail work parties. In addition, giving “Kudos” or posting encouraging comments can go a long way in helping beginner runners stick to their training and fitness goals. Who doesn’t like to be congratulated for getting a run for the day?
2) Finding New Trails
Whenever I travel to a new area and am unsure where to run, the first thing I do is use the Segment Explore tool. This allows me to see the popular areas where people are running. Simply type your location into the search box and then zoom in on the map to see the various segments. Once I find a few segments that look interesting, I’ll click on “View Details” and then sort through individual runs that include those segments. This will show the runner’s full route and allow me to piece together longer runs.
3) Race Research & Analysis
Course profile maps don’t always tell the whole story. If I am unfamiliar with a race course, I will use Strava to take a detailed look into how others have raced the course in the past. I’ll make notes of sections where runners have abnormally faster or slower splits and use that to prepare for what I might expect in that section of the race, and will also use the satellite view to get an idea of the terrain.
Also, looking at Strava logs from runners who ran near your goal time allows you to form a general idea of how long it may take to run from one aid station to the next. This is great for devising a fueling plan and deciding if you need to carry extra water. Plus, it can give your crew a better idea of when they might expect you at an important aid station.
Finally, I like to use the Strava Flyby tool to see how I ran a race compared to other runners. Did I go out too fast and fade at the end? Did I start too slow, creating an insurmountable gap? The Flyby tool shows a side-by-side analysis of how your competition ran the race which can provide valuable tips for improving your race strategy.
4) Checking Trail Conditions
Similar to using the Segment Explore tool for finding new trails, I will look at segment leaderboards to check trail conditions. I’ll find a segment in an area I’d like to run, and then click on the “This Year” tab. If there are several results, it’s generally a good indication that the trails are open and in good condition. If there are few results, it tells me the trails are likely still covered in snow or have not been maintained.
I use this tool often when running in the Columbia River Gorge where many trails were devastated by the Eagle Creek Fire in 2017. This lets me examine which trails are open or still closed.
5) Training & Accountability
The most basic function of Strava is keeping a record of your runs. I love its simplicity for keeping track of miles and vert, looking back at past training cycles to see how I prepared and tapered for a race, or what I was doing before an overuse injury. Did I not take enough rest days? Was I doing too much speedwork? You can learn a lot by looking back at past successes and failures.
Furthermore, putting your runs out there for the world to see adds a level of accountability to your training. Despite how I may perform in a race I want my friends to know that I gave it my best shot, and that includes putting in the necessary training.
It can also be helpful to view the training logs of elite runners to see what they do in training. While this can inspire you to work harder, just be sure not to try and replicate what they are doing. Jim Walmsley might be logging a 100+ mile week, but that doesn’t mean that you should be, too. Listen to your body and do the training that works best for you.
As a friendly reminder, no imaginary trophy is worth grandma breaking a hip while diving off the trail as she attempts to get out of your way. Share the trails and be polite, and if you see trash on the ground stop and pick it up. Trail etiquette always takes precedence over your segment time.
The key thing while using Strava is to remember is to stick to your training and not worry about what others think. I’ve met a lot of friends through this social network that I would likely not have met otherwise, and I hope to make many more as I continue my running journey.
Do you use Strava? What do you like or dislike about the app? Please comment below and feel free to follow me on Strava @ Drew Dinan. I always welcome the opportunity to meet fellow runners.