The Curious Case Of The New Balance Pedometer And Google Maps

What is a mile? Or more specifically, how far is a mile? I always thought it was a standard measure of distance. Wikipedia says it’s 1.609344 km or 5,280 ft – and if it’s in Wikipedia, it must be true. Then why is it that New Balance and Google Maps can’t seem to agree?

From the moment I started running I wanted to measure my progress. I thought that more than running pants, sunblock or even running shoes, a pedometer was an essential tool in a runner’s toolbox. Damn the day I decided to go to Target and get myself one.

I picked the most expensive one in stock, too. The New Balance VIA Slim Pedometer cost just under $30. But for all my troubles and monetary sacrifice all I got is a lousy device that insist on telling me I’m running less than I think I am.

I must have bought the pedometer a day or two after I started this blog. On my first post I embedded a Google Map (via Map My Run) of my route that said I’ve walked ran 1.46 miles. It wasn’t much to be proud of (specially because of the walking involved), so imagine my horror when I used my spanking new New Balance pedometer and it said I’ve ran about 0.83 miles instead.

We’re not talking about loose change here. The pedometer estimates (yes, estimates- as you can imagine, I’m taking Google’s side on this one) our runs are almost half of what Google says they are. Seriously.

After the second day of these mixed results, I decided to leave the thing at home. Dan, though, insists on bringing it with us and telling me, at the end of each run, how much New Balance thinks we ran. I do my best to block it out.

The more I think about this mathematical oddity, the more dense I feel. And now that I’m starting to think about (maybe) signing up for my first race, I really need to figure out what’s going on here.

So, I ask you, whoever out there uses a pedometer, to map their routes through Google Maps (you can try it at Trails, too) let me know if you notice a discrepancy. Or if, God forbids, my aging mind is missing something here and both Google and NB are correct, each in their own way (is that even possible?).

If I can’t figure this out soon, I might just have to launch an investigation into the business of distance measuring, à la Andy Lehren.

Today’s route:

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5 thoughts on “The Curious Case Of The New Balance Pedometer And Google Maps”

  1. I’m not certain about the accuracy of google maps, but I know pedometers are no good on runs–they really only work reasonably well on walks. Your stride is a lot longer when you run then when you walk, and the pedometer is calibrated to measure the average distance of an average step.

    NIke makes a cool sport kit for the iPod, but it’s not entirely accurate either, but it’s lots closer, especially when calibrated regularly.

    The discrepancies bugged me so much that I ended up by a Garmin Forerunner (the cheapest model I could find, but still fairly $$). It was totally worth it to me, however, because now I feel free to run whenever/wherever, and it can supposedly get me home, measure my heartrate, and maybe even get me a snack. I do like it though, so it might be something to consider as you get into running more–I don’t recommend it unless you’re running a bunch for a while because it is rather expensive.

  2. Apparently, if you’re running a long distance, you can make up a course and mark food/water drops. I do not run this far, but there you go. It’s a lot of technology, though, so I wouldn’t be surprised if it was able to get me a snack at some point. ;)

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