Nazca lines in Tokyo by Joseph Tame - GPS Art

Nazca Lines Found in Tokyo?

The 2016 Tokyo Marathon (my 8th Tokyo Marathon, and 7th full Marathon) was the first for which I actually managed to train properly. When I say train properly, I mean spend about 4 months running several times a week, gradually building up to marathon distance. Why? I was intrigued to find out whether I could complete a full marathon in a respectable time.

My record up until that point had been 5 hours 6 mins (2010), a race in which I had very minimal tech equipment that could go wrong. Since then, as my broadcast technology (costume) had become more and more complex, so my times have dropped to typically 6 hours 30 mins, with hours spent troubleshooting technology and changing batteries.

But 2016 was going to be different. I knew that to keep my training program on track I was going to need an ambitious GPS art project, one that I could plan at the start of the season and just steadily work through.

The result? during one of my training sessions in early February 2016 I ran the marathon course in 3 hours 46 minutes; a week later I ran it again in 3 hours 48 minutes. 10 days later I took part in the actual marathon whilst wearing my 360 degree live stream camera …and completed the race in about 6 hours 30 minutes!! (I admit it was rather silly to run the full course twice so soon before the actual race..!)

A friend had previously suggested a Nazca lines piece; looking at the design of the famous bird – a lot of long straight lines – I realised it would be perfect.

The GPS points I needed to record to create the image.

I would need to use the ‘join the dots’ technique, where I run from point to point (just registering the GPS points at the end of each line), and then open the exported GPS data file in Google Earth, which automatically shows lines between the points, magically transforming the list of GPS coordinates into a picture.

A sample of the raw data produced by runkeeper – it’s coding through running!

I loved this course, as it took me right across the city, from Shirakawa in the East to Honancho in the West, Itabashi in the north to Meguro in the South.

In total, it was about 242km of running, split over multiple runs.

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