This past Saturday was the Brooklyn Half Marathon here in New York City. What was just a regular weekend race a few years ago has turned into one of the largest half marathons in the world with over 30,000 participants. For me, this year’s race was notable for being the first half marathon since I received my Apple Watch. It was the first real chance to put its fitness tracking to a true endurance test.
The first thing I noticed is that I did not see any other Apple Watches in the crowd. Now it is true that I did not see everyone who was running, not by a mile (or 13) but I did expect to see at least one or two others. I am not sure if this is due to it being so early in the launch window at this point or if perhaps fitness people are taking longer to warm to the device than I would have expected. Among the people I spoke to about it, the number one complaint was lack of GPS in the watch. It needs that for accuracy, which this group certainly cares about. But for now you still need to have your phone, and that may hinder its adoption this time around.
I did have my phone and I have to say it was so nice to be able to start and stop RunKeeper from my wrist. Manipulating the phone while in an armband is extremely annoying otherwise. I also started the exercise app due to the fact that RunKeeper cannot write to the first part Activity application. Still hoping a software update enables a single app in the future.
The Brooklyn Half provided three new data points for me. The first is the convenience of the watch during distance running. It is huge. I can quickly glance at accurate and up to date stats. I also was able to use the Overcast app to quickly change podcasts and cycle through my now playing list in ways that would have slowed me down in the past.
The second data point was rain. There was a brief downpour during the race. I got soaked, and spent not a small amount of effort moving my iPhone armband under my sleeve. But the watch I just kept on my wrist. I saw absolutely no issues with it despite getting completely drenched. The only problem was that tapping the screen was much more difficult when both it and my hands were wet.
The third was battery life. So far in day to day life I have not experienced issues with the battery. It is usually still at a good 40% at the end of even a long day. But fitness tracking uses more power. With that said, after nearly three total hours of travel, and almost two and a half hours of running, the battery was still above 50%. This was with full heart rate tracking enabled. I could have saved battery by disabling this function. I could see maybe doing that for a marathon, which could be cutting things a bit close. And something like an Ironman would definitely drain it well before the end. But otherwise for the vast majority of the physical activities most people do, there is battery to spare.