Miklós Koren

def quantify(self): return self

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Three maps

I love the challenge of orienteering, finding your way on a map while running. I am fairly good at reading maps, yet I struggle to find my way under time pressure. What we use to navigate a terrain is the map in our mind, not the map in our hands.


There are three representations of the terrain:

  • in reality
  • on the map
  • in the mind.

It is fairly easy to match the representation on my map with the terrain as I look around and orient the map to the compass. I can match up each feature of the terrain: this tree is here, that rock is over there, and this looks like the definite valley on the map. This is sufficient to get a general bearing and to start running like crazy. But it is not sufficient for any sophisticated planning: what will the terrain look when I get there, which route is the best, how do I find my way if I lose contact with the map?

When I run based on the printed map...

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Running late

I had a great run in the Bois de la Cambre park in Brussels the other day. It was early evening and I was running in unknown territory. I brought my GPS watch along so that I can find my way back, but I had a very limited sense of where I am and how far out I have run. The sun had already set and it started getting dark, especially in the woods. I began to worry about not getting back to my hotel in time for my meeting.
The mild pressure invigorated me. My watch told me the direction and distance of my starting point, but I had no idea about the routes. I also had no idea about the time. So I did all I could: run as fast as I can, as close to the right direction as I can.

It felt like flying. I passed other runners with ease. I jumped across small obstacles in the terrain. I climbed small hills fast. I wasn’t trying to prove anything to anyone, I just wanted to get back to my hotel in...

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Why I am taking a break from Strava

It was 5:30 in the morning as I stepped outside Chata na Grúni. The sun was about to rise behind the ridge and four deers were still roaming the ski slope as I started climbing up on it. It was the run I had been anticipating for months. When, after 32 minutes and 470 vertical meters, I reached the ridge and began to run (yeah, Kilian Jornet would have run all the way up the 35% slope), I saw the first beams of sunlight.

This is how this run looks on Strava.
I cannot explain to anyone how beautiful this run was. Not via Strava, not via Instagram, not via Facebook. I was there, and they were not.

Why, then, was I obsessed with how my pictures are going to look on Instagram and how many kudos I am going to get on Strava? Fiddling with my watch and phone took me away from the moments I have prepared for months.

Measurement is great. I can train better, I can race better. Strava is also...

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Quantified running

I am obsessed with numbers even more than I am obsessed with running. I do all kinds of calculations with the numbers recorded by my running watch. Given my training runs, how am I going to do on the next 24K? Should I target 12K where I could run better? So far, however, I have predicted my race times with mixed results: two hits, two far misses.

Why did I miss? I knew I had to push harder on races than on training runs, but my estimate of how much harder I can push came out of thin air. I went out too fast and lost steam. Here is my new system for race goals that I think will work better.

Suppose each run can be quantified by distance and time. Forget elevation, terrain, temperature, heart rate for now. In the graph below, each run is represented by a blue dot.

If my best pace is monotonically worsening in distance (a fair assumption), then the best time (the orange line) is a...

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