Saturday, February 5, 2011

Smartphone Size Raises Question: Carry It on a Run or Leave It at Home?

Smartphones aren't exactly tiny. They're kinda bulky really, at least they are if you are a runner looking down at yourself trying to find where to stow it.  I've been carrying mine more and more over time on runs, but didn't know if this was the norm.  So I was curious and put out to the twitterverse: "Do you carry your phone with you on training runs? At races? Why/why not?" The responses were great.

Those who did carry their phone had the popular answer of safety/emergency purposes (@RunnersRambles, @McGarityDotMe, @Livnstrong). @Livnstrong added that a lot of events are "Call 911 Only", which is true - unless you are at a larger road running event, those precious minutes trying to reach the next aid station and hoping they have a number for medical support a race director may or may not have in place, could be the difference in outcome for someone in distress.

Carrying your phone on training runs can help you if you get lost (@McGarityDotMe) and track your stats (@Dominiqueia).  @Dominiqueia also mentioned that her family can track where she's at using Glympse.  I'm not familiar with Glympse, but I'm definitely very curious now and will have to investigate it. Sounds like something my husband would love since most of my runs are at night outside, and that makes us both a little nervous.  Having your phone with you at a race has the added bonus of helping you find friends and family at the finish (@runningmom2boys), especially for a large race.

While running tweeps like @McGarityDotMe and @jacqialmond also wanted to be able to be reached by and to reach out to their spouse if necessary (note that both are parents), there is the question that can be raised, both about running and in general, about our new world of being "too reachable".  If we carry our phones on our runs, how disconnected can we get? @keeponrunning brought up a great point that "theres no one i need to talk to while running. its my "me" time." Good point, Andrew!

A funny comment but something to definitely consider for an individual was from @Spamrazz: "I sweat too much and scared I would short circuit my phone." LOL, never thought of that!

Shaped by Personal Experiences

@Run4donuts shared that she always carries her phone "since my child was seriously injured at school while I was on a long run." Oh my! That's scary.

Personally, I have carried my phone on training runs and at races for several different reasons. 
  1. Psychological safety net - I used to carry it at races as a safety net after having my first child. It was just good knowing that I could always decide to move off course and call my husband to beg him to come get me if I just couldn't do it. It was at a time I was regaining my confidence in running as I regained my running routine. Same applies to a long training run. "Oh, I'll do an out-and-back because once I make it out, I HAVE to come back." But with the phone, there's something about knowing I can again bother hubby and he'll come get me if I begged enough.
  2. Medical emergency in the general public - I ran with a friend through a Dallas intersection 30 seconds before two cars were involved in a crash. We both had our cell phones on us, and my friend Dana called 911. Scary, and glad we had them with us!
  3. Safety - Actually had an instance recently where I was out on a city trail in the middle of the day, but there was a section not near the road and in a wooded area. A creepy-looking guy was there off his commuter bike, just hanging out. Going past him was my only way to get back home.  I took a walk break, pulled out my phone, and actually dialed 911 and held my finger over the little green dial button. False alarm, nothing happened, but I was glad to have that phone on me in that moment.
What has me thinking about all this? I've had the same running Amphipod pocket for a couple years now and it was looking worn out. And then I wore running tights the other day with a decent-sized back zipper pouch, so I decided to forego the Amphipod pocket and put the phone in the running tights pouch. Bad idea - the pouch with the phone in it, chafed my low back.  So my next blog post will be about the recommended storage gear people use for their phones and a review of a Spibelt I had been given that I used on a recent run.

Any reasons I missed for why to run with your phone or leave it at home? What do YOU carry with you on a run?


  1. I always carry my iPhone with me on runs. I think that it is for a feeling of security more than anything. I used to use the Run Keeper app sometimes too, if tracking a new route (not so much now that I have a Garmin). Erik and I witnessed a bad bike crash at White Rock once and it was nice to be able to help the guy call for help. I have found the perfect way of carrying it, but I see that you will be talking about that in your next post so I will wait until then.

  2. I am so torn on this. When I do my long runs with my training group, I do not carry my phone (HTC Evo - too big). Our pace coaches all have phones on them. In a large race or long run on my own, I do carry my daughter's phone (smaller - blackberry - has GPS, too). I think it is important for safety reasons.

  3. Here is a glympse link:

    Thank for the mention. I enjoyed this post.

    - dom

  4. I always carry my phone for many of the above mentioned reasons (safety, be available to my husband/kids, map function). I also like to snap pictures during my runs if there is something interesting.

    I can't live without my iFitness belt. I wear it almost every run.

  5. Even if you don't have a smartphone, carrying any kind of phone is the smart thing to do. After all, you wouldn't *drive* a long distance without the means to call for help -- why run just as long?

    One thing I did two summers ago was get an AT&T Go Phone account for my old Motorola Razr -- basically, turning my spare cell phone into a pay-by-the-minute phone. And only two people had the number: my wife, and my head coach. That way, I could be reached while out and about with my athletes, but I wouldn't be nagged by anyone else.