After 175 runs on Strava

For those who don’t run, cycle or swim: Strava is a cross-device platform with 73 million registered users, acting as a performance analytics tool with social media elements. While its core feature is tracking, it’s packaged into a social stream on which you follow people, join groups, comment and clap on each other’s Sunday morning runs.

My Berlin running heatmap.

Since January 2019, I tracked 175 runs with a total distance of 2350 kilometers on Strava. And while the product does have its flaws, does not always track super precisely, sometimes doesn’t sync and lacks features on the mobile apps, Strava does something right: It is a strong signaling as a service product with great social glue. You can not fake to be someone you aren’t. Strava does not care who you pretend to be, all that matters is the hard, tracked facts: The distance and speed you put on the road. You will deserve the applause you receive from your followers for the hard work you put into the workouts. Every week and every month you don’t got for a run will be visible in your statistics for quite a while, both to yourself and your followers. In order to avoid that, go outside and run.

Analysing my running patterns

Thanks to the strong signaling in Strava, I managed to get through the last two years without too many breaks. In 2019, I did 103 runs, spending a total of 118 hours running (1370km total distance). There were five calendar weeks in 2019 in which I did zero runs. In 2020, so far I did 74 runs, leading to 89 hours and 1003 kilometers total distance.

Based on the raw data of every single activity ever tracked on Strava, some interesting analysis can be done. We can see that Sunday is my most active running day, followed by Tuesdays. Mondays are my laziest days, both in terms of number of runs and total distance.

When looking at total distance run, split by calendar month, I see that the longer the year, the less I run. My strongest months are April and May with an interesting drop on June. I was not injured in these two years, so I was never forced to take a break. A quick increase in temperature could be the reason, supported by the fact that August was the worst running month (December data being incomplete). I learn that for next year, I need to find ways to continue the positive trend towards summer, either by running earlier in the mornings or just running slower.

Looking at the running start times split by week day, you see that on Monday, not much is happening. On Tuesdays and sometimes Wednesdays there is some action early in the morning. Only very rarely will I go for a run during lunch break on working days. During Sundays however I don’t care.

Plotting the distances of all 175 runs from the last two years, you see not much evolution. My runs get neither shorter nor longer. I am surprised to see that, as I expected my runs to become shorter in 2020. There was not a single official run due to Covid-19 that I could have trained for. In 2019, there were multiple half-marathons I joined, so I would have expected that I did more longer runs last year. I see that as a positive sign: Even without extrinsic motivation, I managed to stay on the same level when it comes to average running distance.

Finally, we can see that I got a bit slower over time. And I think I know the reason for that. There were weeks during the summer of 2020 in which I felt like someone pulled the plug. I had no energy. I was not able to finish a 10k run without five breaks. There were bad weeks and I still don’t know why that was. I got tested for Sars-Cov 2 twice during summer, both tests were negative. All I know is that I was not the only one. I know a hand full of great runners who felt the same during the same period of time.

Final thoughts

After 2018 and 2019, I will finish 2020 as the third year in a row in which I will have run more than 1000km. I am very happy with this performance since for a few weeks in summer I did not expect to cross that line this year. 2020 was a year with no official races, a year of bad mood and a lot of uncertainty. I am happy that I managed to motivate myself to go out and run, a lot less than last year, but still. No major sickness, no injuries. When it comes to running, 2020 was still a good year.