Map and Measure Your Walk Online: This weekend my walking club was preparing for our big walking events in April, laying out routes that were 10 kilometers, half marathon and marathon distances. Our trailmaster, Burt, used MapMyWalk online to draw the routes and get a distance reading as he drew them. MapMyWalk has both street view and satellite view, and he could zoom in on portions of the route that would use a sidewalk or path that wasn't along a street. How would these compare with other methods of measuring the distance?
GPS: Just a couple of years ago, you needed a special GPS unit to measure walking distance via GPS satellite technology. Today, you can download applications for many cell phones and simply use your cell phone as a GPS tracking device. I've been using AllSportGPS for my Blackberry cell phone since September. I simply turn it on, walk, and it continuously displays the data, and then at the end of the walk it uploads the data to view on a map online. The results over a six mile walk matched MapMyWalk.com exactly. MapMyWalk has its own application for the iPhone and may eventually have one for the Blackberry. As a walker, I need to use the Blackberry as the iPhone battery doesn't last long enough to track any walk over six miles. You can use other portable GPS devices as well, but the convenience of using the cell phone is wonderful.
Wheel It: You can drive a walking route in a car or on a bike with an odometer and measure it that way, although the distance may be off depending on whether your odometer is properly calibrated for your tire size and other factors. The "gold standard" for walking events is to use a mechanical wheel that clicks off each yard or meter. We took our mechanical wheel on the course along with my cell phone and the MapMyWalk map. All three agreed. I also drove the longer course in my car and found that my car odometer agreed very well with MapMyWalk.
Pedometer Distance: You can translate pedometer steps into distance if you know your stride length. Many pedometers ask you to measure your stride length and enter it into your user profile, then it automatically calculates distance. For this to be reliable, you need to have a very consistent stride. I use the pedometer distance reading only to get an estimate and don't rely on it as an official reading. Convert steps into miles and kilometers