Friday, September 09, 2005

Geek Runners

Is it just me or are lots of runners real geeks? Many runners I know are into gadgets. Some of them have been using heart rate monitors for years. These devices let you continually measure your heart rate during a run. If you are running too hard and you exceed your target heart rate, you can adjust your pace. Increasingly these devices include a GPS or other technology for measuring distance. Now you can continually track your pace and cumulative distance while you're running.

I have never been into extreme gadgetry, but I have kept a running log for a few years. I use the online log at Cool Running to record the distance of each run. The Cool Running log lets me keep track of my mileage for the week, month and year. Even better, it lets me keep track of how many miles I put on a pair of running shoes. Replacing shoes before they are too worn out is a key tactic for avoiding injuries.

There are lots of other online running logs besides the Cool Running log and there's plenty of desktop software for the same purpose. Now apparently many runners are using blogs to log miles, keep in touch with training partners, and wax philosophical about the act of running. The Running Blog Family Directory lists more than three hundred running blogs.

I've been browsing some running blogs lately. For me, one blogger stands out as the Ultimate Geek Runner (I mean that in a good way). Dave at Runningland has come up with a system for automatically uploading runs from his GPS watch and using Google Maps to display each run on his blog. Click here now for a sample of the result. Amazing.

Here's how Dave did it:
I wrote some Perl code to periodically check to see if I’ve cradled the watch in the charger. If it is detected, the most recent runs are exported using GPSBabel from the watch and converted to the Garmin logbook format and the Keyhole Markup Language (KML) for viewing in Google Earth. It then uploads the files to the appropriate directory on the web server. This allows me to simply insert the watch into the charger and simply go about my business. No buttons to push or programs to bring up. The next time the script runs I know the data from the watch will be processed.

On the web server, a process runs daily to produce the HTML file with my latest runs from the watch. It also creates an RSS feed of the most recent runs.
Is it just me or is that too cool?


m@ said...

It's not just you, that's really cool. Almost makes me want to go out and get a GPS watch. But wait, I run on a treadmill a lot of the time and when I run outside, I run the same 5 mile route I've run for the last 3 years. I don't think my run blogs would be that interesting.

Mark said...

geek runners. i like that.