13. November 2015

Quantify this: Running

It’s easier than ever to track your mileage in running, cycling, and many other activities. But why would one do that? For the present self to celebrate past accomplishment?. Or to post it online here for promoting one’s virtual self? No. I want to track running mileage in order to adjust my course and correlate exercise with race performance.

The ubiquity of GPS devices makes it easy to track mileage. Over the years, many different devices and apps have entered the market. Nearly all of them come with social networking features, allow you to fan out your accomplishments to everyone, everywhere, instantaneously. But do you want that?

No, well I don’t. I certainly don’t mind sending out opinion, ideas, and other things over the various channels the Internet has to offer. However, when it comes to running, I’m tracking my runs to keep myself honest, and in order to get an idea whether my exercise is correlated with success in races.

Data in itself is brutal. It shows no mercy to the one looking at it. I look at my data and it tells me that I did not run for the last weeks. It’s not that someone would need to convince or force me to run – it is one of my favourite hobbies after all. But then, alas, there are sometimes more important things to do, to accomplish. And running temporarily fades into the background – endangering goals in the long run. Here is where the data comes into play. If I don’t go running for a while, the data shows exactly for how long. This helps me correct course. Thank you, data.

For routes that I run often, I am now able to see a trend & some sort of “seasonality” effects with streaks of very fast runs and slower ones in other periods of time. I can see whether I speed up and slow down, or keep a similar pace throughout the run. I can get a feeling for how fast I am, and I learn how the felt effort does not necessarily correlate with the actual speed. Thank you, data.

Finally, there is also sheer curiousity. How far have I actually run this year? The data says: the distance between London and Edinburgh as the crow flies. I run less than I hike. And I cycle in bursts, and then don’t cycle for ages – well, I blame London and its nightmare traffic on the roads.