Intellectual-property lawyer Sarah Fegert started running last year. She loves the sport, but couldn’t find a Windows Phone run-tracking app that accurately provided the activity data that she and other committed runners want.
So Sarah created her own: Track Runner.
The Windows Phone 8.1 app leverages SensorCore technology to help provide granular information, such as stride rate, splits, average pace per mile, fastest mile, and estimated calories burned, that many runners want.
“We made accuracy a priority,” said Sarah, who lives in Boston, Massachusetts. “The app filters out GPS noise and just takes into consideration your pure run.”
“Most other apps do biking and skiing, but we focus on running and what we call the ‘core runner.’”
Other features of Track Runner include Pacer, which challenges you to run various distances within a specific time, and Intervals, whose 26-minute to 1-hour-plus training programs target goals, from losing a few extra pounds (Weight Buster) to getting faster at the end of a marathon (Marathon Speedwork Boost). You can also create and add your own customized interval-training program.
Track Runner also pairs nicely with heart rate monitors via Bluetooth and provides a “cardio map” of your heart rate zones. Personally, I also love the voice-guided feature that can tell me my pace per split or at five-minute intervals.
If you’re training for a fall race, whether it’s a 10K or a marathon, and want to achieve a personal record, check out Track Runner.
Sarah started running in May 2013, and her usual running route with friends is around a reservoir near Boston College. As she got more enthusiastic about the sport, she wondered how she could run longer and faster.
“I got ambitious. We were wondering, what’s a good lap time around the reservoir?” she said. “That’s how Track Runner started.”
So Sarah and a co-founder started The App Cauldron, their app-development business. Development on Track Runner began in earnest in July 2013, and by October, they had a beta version of the app. They publicly released version one of Track Runner in December.
“I wanted to create something for myself and to know what that feels like,” she said. “I like law and I will return at some point, but you learn a lot about yourself when you start a start-up!”
Track Runner has already won kudos: It received the Nokia Maps/Places Award earlier this year in the Nokia Create competition. And with more improvements made to the app since then, it certainly won’t be the last award.
Q&A with Sarah
We recently caught up with Sarah to chat about the evolution of Track Runner and what lessons she’s learned by jumping feet-first into app development.
How did you get started?
My co-founder took the lead in building the base framework and algorithms for the app. I watched Channel 9 clips and looked at other resources for Windows Phone development.
I actually went to DVLUP day here in Boston back in November, which was a week before our app was to go commercial from beta. That was interesting; I got so much input from so many different people to shape the last-minute work on the app.
We did get the help of a very talented graphic designer. I think that really worked out well. That was a turning point for us.
We also used Azure for our back end. We have a synchronization feature where your runs are backed up to a remote server. That way, you don’t lose run data. It’s linked to your Microsoft account so if you have a new phone, your data gets synchronized.
What was most challenging about the development of Track Runner?
The whole thing was a challenge! With law, the thinking is very specific. It’s narrowing down a problem and solving it efficiently–a lot of probing and problem-solving.
App development is nothing like that. It’s long-term strategy, seeing a vision for the end project. At times, I have struggled with this; it was very alien to my thinking. I had to overcome certain tendencies to not jump at risk.
I’m definitely learning every day. And programming was completely alien at first, but it’s getting better and better.
What’s the most enjoyable and satisfying part of creating Track Runner?
Using the app and monitoring my progress of course! Also, seeing the app go live after an update and working flawlessly. Usually, weeks and weeks of testing and hours of working through pre-release check lists will have preceded this moment so it is always very special. Getting raving reviews or kind feedback is always welcome, too.
What improvements do you hope to make to Track Runner?
We have some awesome features in the works but aren’t quite ready to talk about them just yet. We do want to overhaul the app’s achievement page. Plus, I’d love to create music integration with a twist, but this depends greatly on external APIs so I can’t go into it much before I have done my homework and see what’s possible.
For users who can’t wait to see what we have planned, they’re welcome to join our beta program (send an email: [email protected]) and be the first to get their hands on the new stuff.
We’re also in constant dialogue with our users via our uservoice forum. That’s where users can chip in and let us know what they’d like to see in our app as well.
What’s the time frame for those improvements?
At the moment, we are still in the listening, thinking and brainstorming phase because we want to get this new feature exactly right! So it will be few months until we’ll be able to release the next big update (v. 5.0).
Based on your experience, what advice would you give to people who aren’t trained in app development, but would like to start creating apps?
Get help and reach out to people with coding skills. You don’t have to go it alone. Meet-ups and hackathons are great places to get help or meet other app co-founders.
Also, do your research well and keep your ego in check: Is the world really waiting for your idea? What can you bring to a known concept that revolutionizes it instead of just creating another version of the same old [thing]?
And unless you are a hobbyist, have a monetization strategy in place before you start so you can tailor the app to the expectations of paying customers.