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REVIEW: Runtastic Story Running

You may have read a review we posted a while ago in which we explained that we were not impressed by the Story Running feature in Runtastic. Move on a few months and we were able to secure some time with the Susana from the Runtastic team at Mobile World Congress (MWC) to discuss Runtastic, including the Story Running feature. Now that we have been able to gain a better understanding of the thinking behind Story Running and the future development vision for the feature we have revisited it and here is the result.

Why Story Running?

In our experience most people that are running with their phone as a tracking device also listen to music to make their workout less monotonous. The Runtastic team initially enabled playback of on-device music through the in-app Music screen with optional interruptions to provide you with workout analysis feedback like speed, pace, time, calories and HRM (requires the Runtastic HRM belt). Next they worked with the Nokia Mix Radio team to enable in-app streaming of specific workout music mixes developed specifically for and only available through Runtastic. This still left a little something missing in the possible audio experiences available during a workout in the form of audiobooks, which is where Story Running was conceived.

Although you could play an audiobook through the in-app local music playback feature, most audiobooks are not best configured for workouts as what you here affects how you work out. It is scientifically proven that the speed, or beats per minute (BPM), of the audio that you listen to directly impacts the speed at which you run. As a species human are a pack animal and as such are programmed to comply to eternal stimuli one of which is audio in the same way as you will find, when walking with others, all people will tend to end up foot impacting at the same time with the same foot.

Story Running tries to merge audiobook with workout mixes to provide something to think about or absorb the listener whilst providing musical stimuli to aid pace.

Current Offerings

The current offering from Runtastic is limited to four options demonstrating four different styles of Story Run priced at 79p each, described below:

The Carrier of Truth

The first of the four is an Adventure run placing you in the mind of an escapee from Alcatraz as he runs for his life whilst trying to understand what is going on.

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Adventure: A key, a moment or carelessness, a glimmer of hope. Maybe his only hope. Was it coincidence or destiny? His steps are echoing in nthe tunnel, suddenly, the noise of dogs barking, Are they at his heels already?”

Journey of Iomluath

The second is a Fantasy story placing you in the mid of a tribeswoman as she tries to find the ingredients required to make a serum to heal here tribe of an illness. As she runs she meets different animals with tribal significance and asks for their help along here journey.


Fantasy: All hopes of the Iomluath are pinned onto her. She has to keep on running, she just has to find the cure and bring it back to her people. Branches snap under her feet as she runs, anxiety hangs in the air… is it already too late?”

Toward the Finish Line

The third is a Motivational audiobook mixed with workout music guiding you and prompting you to identify your life goals and the mindset required to achieve them.


Motivation: Have a goal; But lack determination? Feel motivated, but then give up easily when things get tough? It doesn’t have to be that way. Get started and learn more about the power of thought, goal setting, motivation and perseverance!”

The Globerunner

The final story run places you in the mind of a high flying stock marketer who has quit the fast lane to spend time living a simpler life in Rio de Janeiro. As it is not the safest of cities around the world, some of his experience are not as relaxing as others.


“Travel: One week ago, work was his life. The decision to trade a workaholic lifestyle for running shoes, a suitcase and a plane ticket was a tough one. But now he’s really and truly jogging through Rio de Janeiro! Where else will his journey take him?”

Summary

In our experience, the best of the offerings is ‘Toward the Finish Line’ although it does feel like it could do with a little more audiobook and a little less workout mix as it felt like the mix was being used as a filler in some places due to the audiobook being too short to fill the intended track length. This being said we did find thinking about what was being said did motivate us to push a little harder and achieve a slightly faster overall pace.

The other three offerings are more story based, requiring the listener to connect with the subject, which we best achieved in ‘The Carrier of Truth’.

A problem we encountered with all of the Story Running options was that of BPM. As we run bareform rather than standard heal toe we run with a higher cadence (number of times your feet hit the ground per minute). Sadly the BPM is fixed, whereas it would be nice to have the BPM linked to your pace, either based on previous workouts or short-term averaging using the in-device accelerometers. An expansion on this idea would be to have the foot fall (sound of a foot hitting the ground, whilst running) set slightly higher than your current cadence to motivate you to align your pace to the audio and increase your pace.

Something we missed whilst using the Story Running features was the audio feedback feature available in all other workout modes. Susana explained to us that the Story Running feature is designed for casual runners, who aren’t as focused on the audio feedback, but looking for something different to listen to get them through their c.30 minute run. Susana advised that they have received a great deal of positive feedback from the user community.

Finally, all Story Runs are c.37 minutes long with no option to auto repeat or play a second Story Run if the Story Run ends before you have finished your workout. Discussing this with Susana, left us with a warmer feeling based on future plans.

What Next?

Although there are currently only four Story Runs available, the Runtastic team have plans for many more. We asked Susana what the future holds and she was able to advise us of the following plans:

  • More books are planned in the future
  • Additional chapters are planned for the existing books with ‘The Carrier of Truth’ discussed specifically
  • Multiple chapters playing back to back to support longer runs
  • Incorporation of other feature suggestions mentioned in this review

What would you like to see in the future development of Story Running?

Conclusions

Story Running feels somewhat in it’s infancy at present, but has the scope to develop into a very interesting unique feature for Runtastic. We may not be heavy users in the short-term, but will come back to it and review as it develops. As the feature develops pricing may change, but currently each Story Run only costs 79p, which is aligned to the cost of a single track from a music album, which lasts less than 10 minutes whereas a Story Run lasts over 30 minutes. Try them yourselves and let us know what you experience is like.

Verdict

3 out of 5

(We expect this to increase as the feature is developed)

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