Inspired by Paula Radcliffe's magnificent victory in the marathon at the athletics World Championships, Crave is once more pounding the pavements in search of some moderate level of fitness. Unlike Radcliffe, we don't have a quartet of Finnish police officers on mountain bikes covering our every move, but that's okay: we have technology.
We've previously reviewed the Philips-Nike MP3Run, and now it's undergoing a sweaty, heart-rate-raising, shin-splintering long-term test on the streets of London. Does feeding our ears with Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run inspire our feet? Failing that, is the feedback about our distance, time and speed motivating, or merely humiliating? We're still not sure.
Having music while you exercise is great, but any flash-based MP3 player can manage a 5km jog (see our round-up of MP3 players for sport). The MP3Run's unique selling point is that it not only plays music, but also -- after a certain amount of button pressing, swearing and synchronising -- makes a wireless connection to a Bluetooth pedometer mounted on your shoe. If you press the 'swoosh' button during your workout, your music is interrupted by a synthetic rendition of the voice of Nike, Greek goddess of victory, saying: "Two... point... eight... miles... Twenty... seven... point... one... three... minutes... Eight... point... four... three... minutes... per... mile..." She is kind enough not to add, "You... are... very... slow...," but you know that's what she's thinking.
If we weren't spending the first minute of every workout making the pedometer speak to the player, our average speed might increase. Getting the two devices synced up can be frustrating, mostly because the pedometer has one button and one light, so you have to press the button for varying amounts of time and count the flashes to know what's going on. Also, our skinny geek arms aren't muscular enough for the supplied armband, so we have to carry the player in one hand.
Once you get the MP3Run working, it's nice to know how far you've gone, but depressing to discover how much you slow down when you hit the hills. For further mortification, you can sit down at your computer afterwards and make a sweaty puddle on your chair while you download a graph of your performance (see above).
After two months of (admittedly intermittent) training, we can't look at the MP3Run without getting short of breath and going weak at the knees. That said, having the data transmitted wirelessly and injected into your ears is a vast improvement over looking at your watch and hoping you've covered more than two miles. If we were less hideously unfit, we'd like it a lot. -ML