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How Far Did I Run? Here Are 3 Ways to Find Out

A woman runs by herself on a paved trail

Runners like to track lots of data—heart rate, steps, pace and overall time are all things we want to know. But the biggest question runners ask is:

How far did I run?

Accurately keeping track of how far you ran can be difficult without the right tools. From GPS technology to good old-fashioned measuring wheels, here are our favorite tried-and-tested methods to figure out exactly how far you ran.

A runner clicks through the screens on a Garmin Forerunner 645 Music GPS running watch

GPS Run Tracking

Using a GPS tracking device is the easiest and most convenient way to find out how far you ran.

GPS stands for the U.S.-owned Global Positioning System that uses a network of satellites to provide positioning, navigation and timing. Two other major satellite networks exist apart from GPS: Russia’s GLONASS and the European Union’s Galileo. Both systems provide the same type of satellite navigation as GPS.

These systems work by tracking the location of devices here on earth, which is ideal for runners, cyclists and swimmers who all want to know how far they’re going.

One of our favorite ways to track mileage is by wearing a GPS running watch. Popular Garmin running watches integrate GPS—some models include GLONASS and Galileo support, as well—into the low-profile timepiece.

Click a button on the watch to connect it to a satellite, and the device will ping your location at predetermined time intervals to measure how far you’re running. Some devices will let you modify how often they ping the satellite; the more often the device checks in, the more accurate your distance will be.

Smartphones also include GPS trackers, which help run navigation apps like Google Maps and Apple Maps. So, with the best running apps, you can also track your run if you bring your phone with you.

The one downside of GPS trackers is on switchback trails or out-and-back routes. Because devices don’t give you a constant tracking stream, they can miss sharp turns in your route if you’re between pings, which can lead to numbers that are slightly off.

Once you have all that data, you can upload to apps like Strava or Garmin Connect. If you’re using the app on your phone, the data will upload automatically. These kind of apps act like digital running logs so you can see your progress, and they add a social media component so you can see your friends’ progress, too.

Run-Mapping Websites

If you don’t want to shell out for a running watch and you don’t want to carry your phone along with you, you can find out how far you ran by tracing your route post-workout one of the many popular run-mapping websites.

Two of the simplest run-mapping websites are On The Go Map and Map My Run.

Both sites give you the ability to trace routes on an interactive map of any city. Click on your starting point, click other points along the way and then click a finish point.

The nice thing about both On The Go Map and Map My Run is the routes automatically snap to the nearest road or trail, which makes clicking exact routes a little easier. Map My Run requires you to sign up for a free account, but On The Go Map doesn’t ask for an account.

USA Track & Field also has mapping software on its website, but the routes don’t snap to nearby roads automatically. So, you’ll have to be more precise with your clicking.

Runners start training for a 5K race

Measure Your Running Routes

Before the advent of the internet and before GPS devices could be worn on your wrist, runners figured out how far they ran in a simpler way: measuring.

Running coaches and race directors often measure the distance of a run is by using a walking wheel. The wheel-on-a-stick lets runners measure their routes by pushing the wheel along the ground as the distance ticks by on the wheel’s display. It’s a slow method, for sure, but it yields accurate numbers, usually down to the foot.

A much quicker way to measure how far you run is by hopping in your car. Head to your starting point and reset the trip odometer on your dashboard so it reads zero. Then drive the route you want to run, and check the odometer again when you get to where you want to end.

The obvious limitation of the car method is that you can’t drive on sidewalks or trails that leave the roadside, so you can’t find the distance of your trail run or anything away from a street.

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