Where I Run

I’m adapting more than the title of my post from the excellent Flowing Data blog, I’m also using some of their code. I was inspired by this beautiful visualization of running in Atlanta in small part because I’d like to imagine that some of my Pi Mile runs contributed to the data set.

Thanks to a small bit of technical knowledge, more than a few failed attempts at installing some software, about an hour spent in a terminal window and several late-night hours combing through Runkeeper.com, I give you my personal visualization:

A plotKML jpg of my running data from Runkeeper
I’m a creature of habit

It’s not exhaustive (since some of my running data got imported to Runkeeper via less-than-reliable sources) but it does visualize most of my runs that started at my door between June 2010 until this past weekend. It’s a grand total of 192 data files, if you’re interested, and I think it’s an intriguing look at the regularity of my path(s) as a runner.

It’s no surprise to me that my immediate neighborhood (and street I live in) get so much traffic. My “normal” routes are all out-and-back so that’s a given.

What does surprise me is what a concentrated center my running routes represent. I’d have wagered that I’m a little more adventurous, but maybe I just remember my longer, farther runs differently. Also, since I have to end up right back where I started, I can only go so far.

If nothing else this has been an excellent exercise in challenging the assumptions I had about how often I run the same route. For me the changing seasons & time of day provide much of my enjoyment, but the data doesn’t lie: I’m clearly a creature of habit.

I bet if I sliced different periods of time or lengths of my runs I’d get different results, but I like the pretty picture my feet drew. :-)

I’ve learned three valuable lessons from this exercise:

  1. The availability of awesome data (which I’ve spent a long time accumulating) & my ability to transform it into something beautiful is magical. I continue to be impressed with the tools I use while I run and what I can learn from those tools after I run.
  2. Regular running is a joy & a comfort. I knew I ran certain paths more often than others but seeing it visualized this way makes me smile. Doing certain things as a part of a regular, healthy routine is its own form of worship & meditation. This image, then, is a floor plan of my church.
  3. I’m lucky that I get to run as often as I do. I have a wonderful wife and a great life if this kind of adventure (the running, the data, the blogging) are all a part of it.

I’d love to update this post or do a follow-up that presents some of the data behind the visualization, like how many times I ran a particular route (even if it’s not exactly the same distance). I’m pretty sure I have 3 main patterns with each one having a couple minor variations for time allotted or distance I need to hit.

Or maybe the visualization does that well enough already. ¯\(°_o)/¯

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m really looking forward to filling in this map with future runs, making the dark parts darker and branching out farther from my little corner of Smyrna, GA.

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