Why You Should Turn on Strava’s “Beacon” Feature When You Go for a Run

If you are running or traveling alone, it is always wise to let someone know about your plans and when you are going to return. What’s more, location-sharing apps can let your partner or friend know exactly where you are at any given moment. But there is a way to go even further, that: Use Strava’s Beacon feature, now even us plebs on free accounts is available.

Other running apps also offer location tracking with different sets of features. For example, Runtastic offers its tracking feature for free , but your contacts also need the Runtastic app to see where you are. Runkeeper can send your tracking data to non-Runkeeper users via text message , but you need a premium subscription to enable it.

While universal data apps like Find My Friends only share your location and a few other data points, Strava and its likes know that you are on a run (or on a hike, or on a bike ride), and can tell your contacts what you are doing. If I track my run with Strava and share the link with my husband, he sees:

  • What time did I start to run
  • Where am I now
  • What distance have I covered
  • Whether I am tracking a run or pausing it
  • How much battery is left in my phone

All of this can tell me if I need help. If I stopped for a long time without stopping my run, he might ask what happened. If he knows that I have run 10 miles and am approaching the eighth mile, he can see that I am more or less on the right track.

There are caveats, of course: if you can’t get GPS readings or don’t have cell data where you are, the tracking may not update. And the free version of Strava is only available for phones, not Apple Watch or Garmin itself (although Garmin has its own location sharing feature ).

How to use geolocation apps for security purposes

If Beacon or other communications service is enabled, you will still need to inform your proxy when you return. But now, if you don’t come back, they can easily see where you are. If you have any problems and you can write that you need help, they will tell you where to find you. And even if you can’t write, by the time they check you, they’ll be able to see where you are and how long you’ve been there.

Whenever I hear about new location tracking features for running, I think about that night in 2012 when I took a wrong turn on a long run and found myself completely lost as the sun went down and my phone battery was running low. In a panic, I called my husband because I knew that I should be close to the road, but I could not find the way. I was able to get latitude and longitude coordinates from Google Maps and send him a text message, and then I had to wait for him to call me back after checking a stack of paper trail maps I left at home. If I hadn’t been able to get the coordinates, or if my battery had run out just a few minutes earlier, the night would have ended very differently.

I think about this every time I go on a long trail. I am currently using Google location sharing (which was not available at the time), but the next time I head off the beacon, I’m going to turn on the Strava beacon.

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