Analysis On How Running Metrics Make You A Smarter Runner

How To Run Properly

It goes without saying that measuring your running is one of the best ways to improving your running.

Whilst there are a number of metrics to measure, I believe that there are 6 metrics you need to measure to become a smarter runner.

Whilst it all sounds good and well in theory, in this post I want to demonstrate how it all comes together.

I use two types of recording mechanisms: Nike+ Run App and the Forerunner 225 Garmin. Both are fantastic tools. The Forerunner is more advanced and that is to be expected since it comes at premium in terms of price in comparison to the Nike+ Run App which is a free tool.

In this post, I am going to use data from my Garmin Forerunner 225 to do a two-part analysis.

Firstly, I will take one of my runs and do an in-depth an analysis.

I’ll then take a few runs and do a comparative analysis. In both of the analysis, I will make reference to the 6 metrics.

Route Map:

The first thing you can have a look at the is the route map. This is just a nice to have really, particularly if you want to share the route with friends on social media. The rout below shows one colour – red. Don’t read too much into this.


Nike+ Run App will have different colours: green denoting flat or downhill, orange denoting slight incline and red denoting a tough incline.

Summary of stats:

The next data is the overall running stats. This is important. As you can see below, it gives you a snapshot of your run, highlighting your distance, time, average pace, elevation gain and calories:


You then have the option of clicking the “All Stats” tab to get a more detailed analysis.

Below are two snapshots reflecting the data you get under “All Stats”:




Pace is one of the easiest to comprehend. From a statistical analysis perspective, don’t worry too much about the “speed” stats. For easy reference, always refer to the “pace” stats.

My average pace of 5.36 mins per kilometer and my best pace of 3.53 mins per kilometer can then be referenced to my average and maximum heart rate stats which I will go through just now.

Because it’s so easy to mess up your pace on race day, such statistics give me a good indication of how to control my pace during my training runs and races.


You also have the ability to view your stats according to splits. This will give you a kilometer by kilometer analysis.

Below are some splits from my run:

Running Splits

Don’t pay too much attention on the difference between “Time” and “Moving Time”.

From a race preparation perspective, you want to focus on the “Time” statistics.

Heart Rate

You will also notice my heart rate stats. One of the greatest features of the Forerunner 225 is that it has a heart rate monitor. It monitors my heart rate through my pulse, using a device on the back of the watch as you can see below:

FR225. Back

Many (if not all) of the free apps and tools that you can use to measure your running success don’t come with a heart rate monitor. Many of the gadgets that attract a price come with a heart rate monitor that you strap onto your chest. Personally, I hate those straps. It’s just too much admin.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Yes, gadgets are pricey. However, if you want to start running smart, you need to spend a bit of money.

Back to stats though.

Under the “heart rate” tab, you will note the following:

  • “bpm” – beats per minute (the standard measuring metric for heart rate)
  • “% of max” – the Forerunner 225 has figured out my maximum heart rate and is able to give me stats that are related to my maximum heart rate
  • “zones” – these are zones that indicate my work rate in relation to my maximum heart rate.

As you can see from the “bpm” stats above, on that particular run, my average heart rate was 143 beats per minute and my maximum heart rate was 184 beats per minute.

When you click the “% of max” tab under the heart rate section, it reflects the following stats:


From the above, I get a good indication of my average heart rate in relation to my maximum heart rate.  In addition it reflects my maximum heart rate on that run in relation to my maximum heart rate.  These stats give a clear indication of my work effort over the run.

When you click the “Zones” tab, it shows the following:

heart rate zone running

Heart rate zones work from a sequence of 1 – 5, with 5 being the max zone.

At times, as is evident above, you are able to run above your 100% threshold and that will be represented in a number in excess of 5.

Not ideal at all!

Quite clearly, from the above, I was pushing way beyond my limits at some point in my run.

To give you a better understanding, have a look at the table below:

 heart rate zones running

The above clearly shows you what your heart beats per minutes should be across different zones.

It therefore means that if you look at my average heart rate zone of 3.7 z, I was running a moderate to hard run for the majority of my run. It also highlights that as some point, I was running way beyond my maximum threshold at 5.9 z.

One of the greatest features of my Forerunner 225 is that it helps me monitor these during my run. When I start to run in the “hard to maximum” it immediately notifies me.

That way I can avoid burning out – one of the biggest challenges that most runners face.

Running Dynamics 

In the summary of stats, you would have seen that the running dynamics section makes reference to average cadence, maximum cadence and average stride length.

For the purposes of this post, I’ll focus on cadence and not your stride length

Your cadence is essentially your running steps per minute. On that run, my average running steps per minute was 162. My maximum running steps per minute was 182.

Your cadence is an important aspect of your running because it helps you avoid common running injuries and improve speed.

In an article published in Competitor.Com, titled “3 Ways to Improve Running Cadence for Speed”,  the author says the following: “Your height, weight, leg and stride length and running ability will determine your optimal cadence. Everyday runners generally fall between 160-170 steps per minute, while elite runners strike the ground around 180 steps per minute or higher—with some getting above 200 at their fastest speeds”.

Right there, you can immediately see that there is a huge correlation between your cadence and running efficiency. My average pace on the day was 5.36 minutes per kilometer at an average heart rate of 143. I ran this at average cadence of 162, way below the elite level.

When you shift to the quickest and hardest efforts in the run, I ran my quickest pace at 3.53 minutes per kilometer. At that pace, I was over my heart rate threshold and ran at 184 beats per minute. The cadence for that sector of my run was 182, pretty close to elite running.

I am by no means aiming to become an elite runner. However, through this analysis I am able to pick up areas where I can improve.

Do you now see how all these metrics come together and make you a smarter runner?

Comparative Analysis of Different Runs

Whilst the above metrics mean a great deal to your running success, when analyzed in comparison, you are able to derive so much more benefit.

So, I’ve exported a few of my runs onto an excel spreadsheet. Here’s a snapshot:


The two runs marked in orange were races and there is obviously a level of increased performance due to supplements, carbo-loading, adrenaline, etc. Having said that, there is still huge benefit to plotting runs so you can make comparisons.

It’s quite clear from the above that the Soweto Marathon was my toughest run. In fact, the 2015 Soweto Marathon showed me and many other runners flames.

My maximum cadence on the day was incredibly high – a whopping 57 higher than the second highest. Incredibly strange when you consider that the average of 158 was the lowest. It is also clear that I was working incredibly heard on that day, in comparison to my other runs. This is indicated by my average heart rate of 163, the highest of all the 11 runs.


Stats are incredibly important. But they mean very little in the absence of good training that entails long runs, speed training, hills trainingcore training and cross-training.

As basic as running may seem, there are a number of factors to consider and stats are one of those considerations.

In addition, I have to highlight that I train and run in seasons. I highly suggest you do the same so you can get some much needed rest between your running.

I have two major seasons. The first season starts mid August and the objective is to peak for the Soweto Marathon and Tough One during November.

I then take some rest and tone things a bit during the December period. The next season starts mid January and my objective is to peak for Two Oceans and Comrades Marathon, which I run in mid March and end of May/start of June respectively.

Based on both the in-depths analysis of one run and the comparative analysis of a few runs, I can pick out areas of improvement that I can then focus on next season.

It can get technical confusing but I hope through this post I’ve helped you piece the different metrics together so you can become a smart runner.

God Bless!

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