Apple Running Track Mode Launched with WatchOS 9.2

apple watch watchos9 track mode runningApple Running Track Mode Launched: WatchOS 9.2

I thought I’d already written about Track Mode with Apple but Google tells me I haven’t. Here goes…

Running Track Mode is Now Available on your Apple Watch

If you have any Watch from Apple Watch Ultra down to Apple Watch Series 4 you should today be able to update to WatchOS 9.2 and get access to a few new features including Running Track Mode, which was announced a few months ago.

I have the latest watchOS 9.2 so I went to try it out.

However, I’ve just come back from my local running track at St.Mary’s in SW London and sadly, the Track Run mode only works right now in the USA.

Here’s what Apple says about how it works

Outdoor Run workout now automatically detects when you arrive at a running track and provides track specific metrics.

WatchOS 9.2 gives another new running feature that helps you follow your Race Routes. I tried that out here and if you can figure out how it works better than me, please let me know below (it’s pants…or worse). Anyway, back to the track.

race route For Apple Watch – Like cr*p, but worse

Q: Why Is Apple’s Track Mode Important? A: Credibility

Whilst a minuscule percentage of runners will ever use a running track, running tracks are places that most athletes will visit at some point and places where elite athletes will spend a lot of time.

Thus track mode is an important feature for any running watch to include if it wants to be seen as a credible running watch. At least that’s my opinion.


Q: What Is Special About Apple’s Track Mode? A: Automation

Coros and Garmin both already have a track mode for running, so there is nothing new in having a track mode. The key is how it works.

Let’s take a look at how track modes generically work…

The bottom line for running on a track is that your GPS will simply not be accurate at tracking your workout metre by metre. However, if you combine track geometry with either a GPS position or a lap button then the watch CAN reliably enough tell watch when you have completed a lap. So if you add to that information a known lap distance and the ability of the watch to record time (they all do that 😉 ) then accurate lap pace and distance are straightforward calculations.

The problems…

There are a couple of problems to overcome

  • The length of each lane is different. Obviously, lane 8 is longer than lane 1 and even where you run within any given lane, variations in distance of several metres can occur.
  • Tracks vary – Lane lengths vary from track to track and I believe that the ovalness also can vary.
  • You might change lanes or direction during your workout
  • Indoor tracks are considerably shorter and can be banked. They have no GPS reception or poor GPS reception

Apple’s unique selling point is that it knows when you are on a running track. Garmin kinda also knows this but only if you’ve previously logged a track workout there before.

Apple’s problem is that it only works on tracks with a standard geometry.

How Apple Track Mode Works

Apple Maps knows the locations of most standard running tracks in the USA. There are thousands of them but their location and orientation are NOT a lot of information, so are stored on your Watch.

Track Mode only works in the RUN profile of the Apple Workout app on standard 400m tracks. Once you open that app and, at some later point, move onto the track you will get the prompt regardless of where your workout started.

Tell the app what lane you are in and off you go.

Metrics – While You Run and Afterwards

Laps/splits and intervals/segments will be automatically added but doubt that the accuracy during any one lap will match what you can get from a footpod like Stryd as it will rely instead on GPS.

Apple Fitness then shows your splits added at 1km or 1-mile intervals. But Apple Fitness also hold segments which are triggered when you tap for a manual lap or finish a phase in a structured workout and those should also be recorded but perhaps not displayed in Apple Fitness (I think that’s all correct if you look in RunGap or some other tools you’ll see the extra info).

A nice touch is that your current lane is displayed on the screen.

Take Out

This will probably be a good first effort that will lack a few of the nuances that more advanced runners will look for.

In the grand scheme of things Apple probably won’t put too much more effort into this feature over and above what is released today. Other than rolling it out internationally.

Why? It’s mostly a tick box exercise #Credibility

Now I’m just waiting for the same feature to arrive for Pool lengths.













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3 thoughts on “Apple Running Track Mode Launched with WatchOS 9.2

  1. Now the big question: is it actual usefull?

    I run once a week on a track. Mostly intervals, and I know which times to run on 200m, 400m, 600m and 800m and on a track it’s easy to run the correct lengths.

    When I look at garmin connect afterwards, it reports the interval lengths wrong, the pace is wrong, but the time is spot on, so I know I did the correct intensity.

    Now, does this track mode help in any way, other than produce nice trails on strava?
    Pacing a 200m is easy, a 800m is more difficult. My forerunner 935 doesn’t help, because instant pace with gps on a track is always of. Does track mode help here?
    Otherwise, trackmode is only to get nice images.

    1. 😉
      you pose the starkest question about sports tec: Is it actually useful.
      you say above that the watch is great at getting the time right! but little else other than creating a pretty picture.

      for load and trend type info then tech has a relatively easy job to get things right. For stats during a workout it’s harder especially at higher speeds like on track over shorter distances. If we ran 400m, how often would we look at a watch? and if we did would whatever we saw be right.

      IDK the answer to that question with Watch Ultra as it doesn’t work on UK tracks.

      stryd and a chest strap make the inputs correct (or, in the case of power probably most correct). but really a watch is only useful in live mode if you have some way to alert yourself to off-target behaviours. Taht said, the ActiveLook glasses I recently tested do offer live pace and power in y our face as you workout without having to raise your wrist.

      so: stryd, a structured workout and alerts make track usage potentially useful.

      1. Fair enough.

        I do look at my watch, mostly at the 200m point. If I’m doing 400m intervals, and the 200m point says 45 seconds, I’m at the correct pace. After that, my feeling is pretty good for steady pace during intervals.

        But to be honest. If my forerunner 935 dies, the logical and economical choice would be to buy a forerunner 255, since that does al that is useful for me (and more). But I’m a gadget freak, so it will probably be the more expensive high end model. 😉

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