We need to encourage everyone to lead an active lifestyle. There is unquestionable benefit in a society that is fitter, healthier and using less resources to get around the place. We also need to inspire others to push their physical boundaries and realise that often the only impediment to achievement is getting started in the first place.
The Adventure Syndicate were set up to address both of these needs, using inspiring stories of female adventure to encourage others into the physical world. Lee Craige and Jenny Graham are two stalwarts of the syndicate with impressive CVs of adventure. Jenny broke the round-the-world cycling record last year riding entirely self supported and Lee is a veteran of many an ultra-distance race, usually beating the boys in the process.
We were approached by Lee and Jenny earlier this year and asked whether we could help with their "Match the Miles" annual event. The concept is straightforward. Lee and Jenny set off on a long distance route, ridden over a week. They then ask schools, workplaces, teams or individuals to compete against them by collectively riding and logging miles each day. The challenge is to match the girl's daily mileage or maybe even ride a few more.
Lee and Jenny carry a satellite tracker which logs their position and progress in real time. We were asked whether we could bring the challenge to life using a digital map? As committed cyclists ourselves, how could we refuse? We broke out the whiteboard and came up with a simple concept to pit Jenny and Lee against the rest of the world.
- we'd create a digital map showing the route the girls were going to ride
- we'd connect the map to their satellite tracker and show their progress in real time
- we'd create "virtual" makers for the competing schools/teams/workplaces/individuals
- these markers would travel down the map according to the mileage they logged
Sounds simple, but a fair bit of engineering was involved. We had to integrate with the tracker API which isn't the most user friendly we've ever encountered. The API requires you to fetch the last fifty points tracked and we had to filter out those we have seen already and only map the new ones. We needed to write functions to take a logged mileage and extrapolate it along the route to create our virtual markers. We also had to do the same with the satellite tracker in order to work out how far the girls had cycled themselves.
So a bit of coffee was drunk along with the occasional bout of swearing at an IDE. And as a result the Match the Miles map popped into fruition.
On the 13th May Lee and Jenny set off from Cape Wrath chased by nearly 80 virtual cyclists pedalling away at their schools, workplaces or local trails. As of time of writing they have nearly finished their 500 mile ride but were squarely beaten to the line by the children of Firrhill High School with an impressive 10000 miles!
We're very proud to have ben involved in this project and have been glued to the map all week. It's been fascinating to follow the various schools and individuals on twitter using the #matchthemiles hash tag. Miles have been racked up on everything from balance bikes to indoor trainers. It's inspiring to see so many additional miles as a result of Jenny and Lee's ride. In fact it's so inspiring that I think we'll take the afternoon off for a nice ride in the sunshine ;-)