I've been using the "Map My Run" app on my iPhone for a few months now. I use it every time I run, and some of the time when I bike. The original reason I wanted it was to measure the length of my runs and rides, without having to come home and Google map it.
I have found that it's really nice for other things as well. It tells me how many calories I burned. It tells me what the "gain" was - as in, how many feet did I climb on all those hills. It tracks for my record best times.
On the bike, it makes me ride faster. The minutes per mile gets called out at each mile marker, and those come quickly enough that I am constantly mindful of them. Each mile, I am working to ride faster than the previous ones. That's good, when I'm riding for training reasons...but I have found that I leave the app turned off a lot for my rides, because I just want to ride for the joy and not always be racing the clock.
I have been very consistent with using the app when running. But for the past two runs, I had accidentally turned the sound way down/basically off. Both mornings I didn't notice until I was already running. I don't stop, once I start. And I wasn't wearing my glasses, so I couldn't fix it en route. So both mornings, I just had to run around for as long as felt approximately right to me, and then stop. Both mornings, I ran 5ish miles - not as long as I wanted to go, but long enough that I wasn't tempted to somehow talk myself into taking off running again to complete it.
It has been a nice break, these last two runs, not being able to hear the app. I didn't realize how much I tend to run with my ears tuned, alert, listening hard for the report of my "split time." These last 2 mornings, I have kept my chin up more, and not spent so much time watching my feet on the pavement. I have looked around at the view more. I have had more fun deciding what my route might be. Basically, it boils down to this: when the app is on, I'm counting down to the question of, "How soon can I quit running?" When I can't hear the app, I'm left to just enjoy the run and not focus on how much longer it might be.
I wrote the other day that we need accountability, and I still thing that's true. Just like the app helps me ride my bike faster, accountability can make us more aware and more willing to try hard. But on the other hand, perhaps sometimes we need to stop measuring our pace in life. Sometimes we need to just let go and be in the moment, soaking it up and not counting how many more steps to the next stopping spot, nor studying our every movement to make sure it is correct.
I suppose it's all about balance, eh?