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Ian Williams - Fetcheveryone
15 Mar 2019

Fix It Friday

2:26pm | 464 views | 19 Comments
*cracks knuckles*
*makes giant pot of coffee*
*puts on Jessica Fletcher t-shirt*

It's time to murder some bugs :-)

Early this week, I did some tidying up on the Fetch stickerbook, because it was looking unusably awful on mobile. For those of you who don't know what it's all about... it's just a bit of fun. Every time you meet a Fetchie in real life, you can add them to your sticker book. The definition of 'meet' is up to you - I'm sure that some of the people on my list were just a sweaty high five, but it's hard to remember everyone, hard as I try. I've got 375 people on my list, but I'm still only fourth on the collectors list. Take a look at the sticker book here: fetcheveryone.com/stickers.php

Suunto Import
...is now live for you to test. There are a few things you need to be aware of. Most importantly, there are two distinct Suunto systems. One is called 'Movescount' and has been around for a while. The other one is simply referred to as 'Suunto' (I think), and is their new preferred storage location. Without knowing much of the background, it sounds like they've changed how and where they store the data. Our importer works on their new 'Suunto' system - so for success, you need to get the 'Suunto' app on your phone (or perhaps the desktop equivalent? I haven't looked into that. They've also told me that later this spring they'll be giving their users the chance to transfer all their Movescount data into the new Suunto database. I know there's a bit of frustration surrounding some compatibility issues with older Suuntos (see Maclennane's blog), but if you drop me a line about it, I am in communication with Suunto, so I might be able to find out a bit more info for you. Anyway... here's the importer: fetcheveryone.com/suunto - I tried it this morning, and it's working reasonably well. There *is* an interesting thing going on with some of the FIT files looking a bit sparse, but I've sent some examples over to them to see if I can get to the bottom of it. Might just be my watch.


I'd noticed that a significant number of you have a tonne of un-viewed notifications - and I wondered whether it was just down to not spotting the notifications icon at the top of the screen. I've added a little effect that makes it pulse three times when you load the page, with the goal of making it a wee bit more visible. I didn't want to make it flash continuously, or over-quickly, because I know that would p*ss me off and might cause vision issues for some of you. So I *tried* to go with something relatively gentle. However, one user has asked for it to be switched off - and I've done so for that user. If it causes you any sight problems, please let me know.

Route matching
I've finally settled on an algorithm that seems to be working pretty well, so it's busily indexing all your training entries as we speak. I've asked it to look at every run that (a) has a GPS trace, and (b) is at least 3 miles long - and there were about 3.5 million of them. As I write this, there are about 2.1 million still to go.

If you're a regular reader of my blogs, you'll know I was looking at a way of creating a 'fingerprint' for each run - something that encapsulated all the essential features of a route. My latest algorithm is a bit of a compromise. I start by determining a 'bounding box' for a given run, and then storing a few parameters that describe the distribution of points within that box.

The indexing is working in chronological order, and is currently working through March 2015, just to give you an idea of where it is. I did cheat, and index all of my own runs first - dealers privilege :-)

For a little preview of how it will work, here's a few entries from my training log:

Bedford Harriers Half Marathon: fetcheveryone.com/t-11943208
Bedford parkrun: fetcheveryone.com/t-11980869

If you view those, you should see a dark bar just above the map, with green buttons. In a nice little addition since last time, the green buttons don't just show the number of times the route has been completed, it also shows you the ranking for this particular run/ride etc.

Click those green buttons, and they take you through to a table listing yours/everyones best performances. You'll also notice that there's a 'Match' column, which shows how similar each route is to the training entry you started with. I don't show anything that has less than an 80% match. Hopefully it will do better at matching than the previous incarnation - let me know how you get on when it finally catches up.

Have a great weekend, and hope for my sake that Wales win tomorrow :-)
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • Is a naked swim in the shark-infested Ouse on the cards? ;-)
    2:45pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • I will happily hold your coat.
    2:51pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • 'MON WALES!! :)
    Angus Clydesdale
    3:05pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • I don’t like the flashing notifications I’m afraid. I wouldn’t mind if it was just when I logged on after a few hours, but it’s every time I load a new page. It does make me click on it, which I suppose is the point, but sometimes I want to leave stuff for later. Would it be too much trouble to turn off the flashing for me too please?
    3:08pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • I like the improvements to the stickerbook.
    4:45pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • @Angus :-)

    @Meglet I've done that for you too

    @Sigh :-)
    4:58pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • *mwah*
    Lizzie W
    5:02pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • Thanks for the Sticker page. I’ve rediscovered people that I’d forgotten I’d had stickers for 🙂
    Eynsham Red
    5:35pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • Could you turn the flashing off for me too? Otherwise keep up the cool stuff! :-)
    5:56pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • Thank you x
    6:01pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • I'm sorry, I REALLY don't like the flashing notifications!

    I would love a way of clearing selected notifications though - rather than only being able to clear all.
    Wine Legs
    8:01pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • Can it flash once when site is opened?
    8:19pm, 15th Mar 2019
  • +1 Wine Legs + Colinglen. It's really annoying that it flashes every time you navigate to a new page in Fetch. Just once when you open the site would be enough.
    9:25am, 16th Mar 2019
  • I like the new stickerbook, but is there some reason why I can add some Fetchies to it, e.g. Marigold fetcheveryone.com/userprofile.php?id=13093 who's never here but who's training still seems to upload, but not my friend Shortcut Cam fetcheveryone.com/userprofile.php?id=25418 , who's here quite a lot and plays some of the games? Perhaps the list of '...representing the most active and current members of the site...' needs updating?
    9:45am, 16th Mar 2019
  • If you go to Cam's profile, there's an 'Add to stickerbook' link: fetcheveryone.com/userprofile.php?id=25418
    9:51am, 16th Mar 2019
  • I like the flashing, and feel like a mere three times on page load does the job while being unobtrusive. Maybe it's because I'm a web dev myself, but it's amazing how wildly opinions can differ. I suppose you could store a flag in SessionStorage when the bell is clicked, so that it won't flash again (even if the notifications aren't cleared) unless more new ones come along. Or just put a number-of-notifications badge on the bell instead, à la Facebook. ...or all of the above and have a user preference setting to determine which method gets used
    12:08pm, 16th Mar 2019
  • OK, I am dumb. Thanks @fetcheveryone
    12:46pm, 16th Mar 2019
  • The flashing has been driving me mad. Sorry. I thought at first it was telling me there were new ones since I last opened it but I do look at my notifications several times a day.
    I love the sticker book changes; it's way better on a mobile now.
    1:47pm, 16th Mar 2019
  • I like it. The flashing bell thing that is.
    10:40pm, 16th Mar 2019

Keep me in the loop!

12 Mar 2019

What's your unit of measurement?

1:07pm | 656 views | 32 Comments
This week's list of awesome folks either setting up a small monthly donation, or simply making a one-off contribution to the running costs of the site:


If you're one of the people who says "I must get round to doing that", then now would be great. A standing order (which is what most people do) is NOT like a direct debit, in that it doesn't give me the right to increase your payments or anything nasty like that.

Consider it the equivalent of buying me a coffee or a pint* each month, as your way of supporting the site, and helping us stay strong in the face of corporate might.

Here's the link if you need to know how to contribute: fetcheveryone.com/invite.php

*do you think about it in these terms? If not, what units of measurement do/did you use when assessing your contribution? Leave me a comment :-)
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • In my case: How much will come out and not be in danger of bouncing? answer £2.
    1:10pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • My unit is the "value" and "community" of this site ;-) :-)
    1:10pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Hmmm ... off to cancel the payment and set up deliveries of Doom Bar & Whitstable Bay.
    Pints is a good measure, but now I come to think of it ... how about (for me, annually) 'less than a pair of running shoes' or 'less than a tankful of petrol/diesel'
    1:12pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • So we can change the amount we pay?
    1:14pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • You can, Mandy, but I can't :-)
    1:16pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • A botttle of wine
    1:18pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Tbh, I have no idea how much a pint is but it must be more than my current s/o. Have just upped the amount a bit Fetch, let me know if you can buy a pint with it yet.
    1:30pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Less than Netflix but more informative AND entertaining? Two very large toblerone bars. I def shouldn't have two of them a month. :-) G
    1:38pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I have just upped the amount I pay a month.

    I also have no idea if it buys a pint these days but it should help keep you in fuji milkshake until that sponsorship deal goes through. :)
    1:39pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • A balance between what it's worth to me and what I can afford.
    1:42pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Given the recent upgrade that allows Fitbit data to be imported, and the use of this data by Ian to allow detailed analysis, I am happy to increase my monthly contribution from half a pint to a full pint. Cheers.
    2:16pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • My unit is, "What would S****a charge?"
    2:35pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I it based on how much a magazine would be per month.
    2:42pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • The value of all the friends I've made via this site (actually I probably couldn't afford that every month, so as Linds says, as much as I can afford towards that)
    3:18pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I give you 10 standard galactic credits each month....
    3:21pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Have amended mine :-)
    3:22pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • It started off as the equivalent of a magazine per month, at £5. (I did actually stop buying the running magazines as well!) Last year I increased it to £6; but since then I've not had a pay rise, and much as though I'd like to increase it again, equally I didn't want it to get to the stage where it became unaffordable, so sticking with £6 seemed better than initially going higher but ultimately cancelling :-(
    3:30pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • This is effectively my running club (and my therapist! ;-) ). Value therefore=immeasurable!
    Unit of measure - ought therefore be club subs and couch fees. :-o
    3:44pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Err, Stroova is actually free for the main bits. I mean, it's totally rubbish too, obv and I'm not even on it, well, only accidentally, cos the club I've recently joined have a group and I have to see what they're all doing, but not really. And you can't write rubbish like *this* and have someone maybe actually read it. :-) G
    4:17pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I give the same as 2 gin and tonics at my local pub.
    Elsie Too
    4:23pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Mine was the same as MazH,
    6:01pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I was moved to give by the power & sincerity of a blog.
    6:35pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I usually make an annual donation because my income is a bit too hit and miss to be able to give the same amount each month - and this is one place where I can say that - the mortgage and credit card companies tend to disregard hit and miss as a reason..... but when the annual thing comes up again I shall check that it would cover a pint a month in our local pub pint :-)
    7:31pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I'm with Linds, a balance between what it's worth (priceless) and what I can afford (not a lot right now)
    8:01pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Income hit and miss here too. Looking at the possible occasional one off. Not thought about units.....
    Wriggling Snake
    9:28pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • I cancelled my subscription to a certain running mag and then made it a nice round number 😀
    11:04pm, 12th Mar 2019
  • Things are always tight here, but I justify my contribution to fetch as a second claim club.
    6:23am, 13th Mar 2019
  • Just out of interest Fetch, would it help / be any benefit to you if we *all* joined FERC as 2nd claim (or 3rd in my case) club? If you had a membership of 5,000 (my estimate of the number of active Fetchies?) would that make you "the biggest running club in UK" or anything headline worthy like that? :-) G
    9:03am, 13th Mar 2019
  • ^^ what Rosehip says :-)
    10:56pm, 13th Mar 2019
  • Good question from the Happy one!
    11:48pm, 13th Mar 2019
  • Less of the beer (cracks whip). 😀🍻🍸
    8:12pm, 14th Mar 2019
  • If I paid what I think membership of the site is worth then I would be sitting in the dark, so at the moment it's the most I can afford (very little) and will go up as soon as I actually have any income.
    1:49pm, 16th Mar 2019

Keep me in the loop!

11 Mar 2019

Ciderthon competition

10:38am | 304 views | 14 Comments
If you'd like to win two places to The Ciderthon, enter your email address here:


We'll pick a winner next Monday.

The Ciderthon is a half marathon in Taunton, Somerset - and you get the option of a cider taster every mile. You don't HAVE to drink all the cider, but it sounds like it'd appeal to some of you :-)
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • If I don't win I would selflessly accompany the person who does to the event and drink any cider they didn't want....... :-)
    10:57am, 11th Mar 2019
  • Cider, yum
    The Mighty Fleecy
    10:58am, 11th Mar 2019
  • I would absolutely love this - I'm a cider drinker, it's near my sister etc etc - but we'll hopefully be walking coast to coast in early May, so good luck everyone else
    11:36am, 11th Mar 2019
  • I always enter competitions like this and pass my email address on, even if I don't have much of an interest in winning. It's another easy and free way to support Fetch!

    Obviously, if I win I reluctantly drink the cider...
    11:36am, 11th Mar 2019
  • You're all taking one for the team here folks ;-)
    11:41am, 11th Mar 2019
  • I'd be all over this like a koala on a eucalyptus 🌲 were it not about 400 miles too far away. Good luck, imbibers!
    11:53am, 11th Mar 2019
  • I loves a drop of scrumpy!
    12:14pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • I am willing to drink cider. Sorry, was there some sort of run involved as well?
    12:25pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • Well, I've done the "other" Taunton Half Marathon, so it'd be a shame not to try this one ...
    ♪♫ ♪♫ Synge ♪♫ ♪♫
    1:57pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • Oh gawd! I hope Jubear doesn't see this!
    4:37pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • Well helllooooo 😝
    4:50pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • Hahahahaha! Well, There. You. Are.
    6:14pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • :)
    7:23pm, 11th Mar 2019
  • Winning would mean missing the mighty Royals last game of the season....... Oh well :-)
    9:24pm, 11th Mar 2019

Keep me in the loop!

08 Mar 2019

Fix It Friday: Stroopwafels of Doom!

1:16pm | 366 views | 8 Comments
I've been focusing on two interesting issues this week.

1) Route Matching. I've halted the algorithm I was using, because I wasn't happy with some of the matches / not-matches that it was producing when I let it loose on a wider data set. Am currently looking at the drawing board - but I'm still enjoying myself :-) Those of you who use this feature, thank you for patience. More news in the week, hopefully. I've also had contact from a Fetchie who is also a student, so we might be doing some sort of data project - either on this subject or something else that might be useful for us :-)

2) An increasing number of Fetchpoint players were getting in touch to say that they weren't getting their daily dose of bugs, jewels, etc.

When Fetchpoint attempts to spawn an item in a random position, it checks whether there's something in that space already. If so, it will pick a new random position repeatedly until it gets lucky.

The overnight process that adds new items was falling over - consistently on the same player. The bit of code that picks random locations was literally running out of ideas.

I plotted all the places that had been marked inaccessible on a map. Each bad spot is marked by a little flame icon. Here's a screenshot that shows what I found as I scrolled around the UK:

At the top of the pic, you can see some 'organic' inaccessible points, where folks have clicked to say they can't access a point. But those two stroopwafels straddling Glasgow, and the third off to the east were new on me. Either through methodical compulsion or subterfuge, someone has marked the whole of a playing circle inaccessible. It's not even a good strategy, because it means you don't get any nice items to chase down.

It's a bit like finding crop circles (©DocMoye)

I've made the 'mark inaccessible' warning a little bit more sinister, and I've put some stuff in place that will show me exactly how many inaccessible points each player is generating. On top of that, I've put some code in place that will start to clean up some of these areas. Basically, if you visit an inaccessible point, it will become available again.

Have a great weekend, lovely Fetchies :-)
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • You are some kind of genius with all your clever stuff that just works so well seemingly straight out of the little brainbox. It is only us pesky users who mess it all up.
    1:27pm, 8th Mar 2019
  • "stroopwafel". Every day's a school day on here :-)

    Do you know who the stroopwafeler was? I'd like to hear their story.
    paul the builder
    1:32pm, 8th Mar 2019
  • How very odd. I'm also intrigued. I suspect that the area to north and south were stroopwafels in progress. Which would also suggest it was being done manually? A strange if barkingly misguided degree of diligence in doing that. Looking at the map, I can see that people were still able to plant flowers in the affected areas.

    I would quite like some stroopwafelen now :-)
    3:30pm, 8th Mar 2019
  • I nearly picked Stroopwaffel for my username years ago... :)
    9:20pm, 8th Mar 2019
  • To be fair there are a lot of places there you probably wouldnt want to visit anyway
    11:16pm, 8th Mar 2019
  • I’d like to be able to unlock some areas that were previously inaccessible. We’ve just had a big area locally opened up & it will be a new housing estate, so possible to run round. Is there a way to do this?
    9:39pm, 10th Mar 2019
  • Yes, just run through the area.
    10:04pm, 10th Mar 2019
  • I'm almost nervous to ask, but I would be interested to see what "my" circle looks like when represented like this. I know I have an awful lot of woods and farmland and suchlike that I have marked as inaccessible. Too complicated to make some sort of toggle button on our own FetchPoint maps, I expect?
    ♪♫ ♪♫ Synge ♪♫ ♪♫
    1:59pm, 11th Mar 2019

Keep me in the loop!

06 Mar 2019

Route Matching - Update

11:20am | 787 views | 3 Comments
On your training entries, the bit that says "You ran this route X times, and it's been run by Y people" or somesuch is currently in hiding.

I'm re-indexing all the runs and routes using my new matching algorithm (see last week's blogs for geeky updates on how that works).

It will hopefully do a much better job of matching stuff up. I've been testing it against data from various races around the UK, and it's hitting a 90%+ match rate for a lot of them. The worst I've seen it do so far is 72%, but in that particular case, I wasn't sure whether the race route had changed from one year to the next.

There are about 4.8 million runs and rides to index, and about 0.6 million plotted routes. I'm keeping it on a low heat - it's processing about 700 runs and rides per minute, and about 150 routes, so by my reckoning, it should have caught up in about 5 days.

Over that time, you should start to see the "You ran this route..." start reappearing gradually - and hopefully with better matching.
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • sounds good, keep up the good work!
    4:58pm, 6th Mar 2019
  • Does sound good.
    7:12pm, 6th Mar 2019
  • Presumably there will always be some mismatches, for example where someone forgets to switch their Garmin off at the finish line and their track continues to the car park or the pub. Also in a race like VLM, where buildings do odd things to tracks. One year, my Garmin decided to send me from the Embankment tunnel to somewhere on the South Bank and back again.
    ♪♫ ♪♫ Synge ♪♫ ♪♫
    11:33pm, 14th Mar 2019

Keep me in the loop!

06 Mar 2019

This week's cool list

7:44am | 148 views | 2 Comments
Here's another set of Fetchies who've made a donation (either a monthly amount or a one-off) to help support the website. Thank you everyone, you're helping to make this all happen.

Yorkshire Pie
Zimbo zoom zoom
Pb Buzz
Yvonne H
Running on the spot
♪♫ ♪♫ Synge ♪♫ ♪♫

Your donations help pay for our web server and for me to earn money so I can focus on Fetchies full time. If you clicked 'ask me in a month' during February, how about March? March is good, right? :-) Here's the link to the donation info: fetcheveryone.com/invite.php

Thanks :-)
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


Keep me in the loop!

05 Mar 2019

Me in the river

12:16pm | 398 views | 16 Comments
Here I am, walking very slowly and carefully into the River Great Ouse:

Listeners to the Fetcheveryone Podcast (which is surely everyone, right?) will know that Katie and I chose some forfeits to spice up the Wales vs England rugby a couple of weeks ago. Not that it needed spicing up. My heart was beating like an egg with ten minutes to go :-)

Katie's forfeit was to get out cycling again, after a bit of a struggle on our last proper bike ride a couple of years back. Mine was to try open water skin swimming.

Wales won (yay, I'm still buzzing about that), but Silvershadow pointed out that the English women beat the Welsh women. I pointed out (a) the disparity between the centrally contracted English players and the amateur Welsh team; (b) the fact that the Welsh U20's beat the English U20's; and (c) that this was a potential rule change after the event. But I also said that I'd give my forfeit a go, as I think that women's sport should be on an equal footing with men. Not that anyone other than you lot will be listening to me :-)

I borrowed some neoprene gloves and socks from Nightjar, because my hands struggle with Reynauds in the cold weather. Katie and the other regular swimmers also wear this stuff, as it helps them to stay in for a bit longer.

It was a nice barrier between me and the sludgy bottom of the river. I inched my way forward, as the coldness of the water (it was about 9 degrees C I seem to remember?) felt like it was kind of crushing / burning my legs.

I was having to concentrate on keeping my breathing relaxed - so I was focusing on some good solid out-breaths (Katie's excellent advice). After quite a bit of faffing, I managed to get to the point where I got my shoulders under, and managed to do just a few flaps of breast stroke. I think I was a bit nervous about getting a sudden cramp, it was that cold (plus we'd cycled for a couple of hours that morning), so I made the decision to get out. This also meant that Katie could swim away (she'd stuck with me to offer support and encouragement) and enjoy her swim.

Clambering out, I was relieved to find that the sun was very warming. I towelled off quickly, and then stuck Nightjar's borrowed dryrobe on, so I could get changed. My fingers were fine at that point, but I could NOT get the zip to do up. I didn't want to yank it in case it broke, or jammed - so I just had to try to hold it closed around me, and hope there was no-one about to come round the corner to see my chilly bits (they'd have needed to get pretty close!).

I didn't get the post-swim euphoria that the other swimmers got, but then I don't feel that I was properly relaxed, plus I was only in the water for 3-4 minutes in total, with not a lot of actual swimming either. I did get one white finger though, but not too painful.

I don't think I'll be doing more OWS in the near future. Generally speaking, I find that being face down in the water on any sort of swim feels a bit claustrophobic. For me even if I was swimming in some unique places, I think I'd much prefer to run around the banks and drink in the atmosphere that way. But it's lovely seeing the grin it puts on Katie's face, so I fully expect to be accompanying her on more adventures in the future.

Podcast: fetcheveryone.com/podcast
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • That looks like the Washing Up version of Extreme Ironing.
    Wriggling Snake
    12:20pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Rather you than me. I didn't even know post-swim euphoria existed and I doubt I will ever experience it either. Well done swim
    12:21pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • My friend's family and neighbours went in the sea on Boxing Day. They all run in together 3 times and stay in properly on the 3rd go.
    12:29pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Post-swim euphoria is definitely A Thing. But you do need to be in for a while. Goodonyer for giving it a go though. MrsC gets Reynauds fingers so she can’t do OW unless we’re in the Balearics! :)
    Angus Clydesdale
    12:53pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Oooh the buzz I get after swimming in the lake lasts for ages. I’ve been swimming over the winter in a wet suit but left it off on Saturday. I’d swum all last summer without n it’s a great feeling. The panicy breathing can be helped by blowing slow bubbles into the water n then I just took a few mins to acclimatise. I stayed in for a total of 15 mins so was pleased as The water was only about 7 degrees. Our ‘club’ I have to say would not advise starting open water swimming by a newbie until about may so perhaps try again then.

    I love it but there again I love swimming
    12:59pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Hats off, Fetch, it's far too cold for me to forego my wetsuit except on the very warmest of summer days!
    1:19pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Might summer work a bit better for you? 9C! Ridiculous. I had my first swim in a river for probably thirty years in the summer and it was excellent fun and something I'll try to repeat, given a suitable river and the weather. (I was in the Tweed, so not that handy. But conveniently shallow.)
    1:40pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • I like OW swimming here santorinidave.com or here
    :-) G
    1:49pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • swim
    Derby Tup
    2:17pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • what a fine figure of a man!
    2:52pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Brrrrr! :)
    2:53pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • What a lovely photo :-)
    4:14pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Well done!
    4:28pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • I'd say you did pretty well there. I don't get the euphoria after but I do enjoy being out there in the middle of the river - the equivalent of running in the open countryside (rivers etc also tend to be in the countryside which helps).
    6:16pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • You look to be enjoying yourself :-)
    Alice the Camel
    6:51pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • I'm feeling cold just looking at the photo.
    8:06pm, 5th Mar 2019

Keep me in the loop!

04 Mar 2019

Big Fetch Miles 2019

11:38am | 844 views | 24 Comments
We are looking at doing three Big Fetch Mile events this year. We'd love to see a nice BIG attendance at all of them. One will definitely be in the Manchester area, because we missed out on doing this one in 2018.

There are two things I need you to do if you're interested in attending...

1) Register your interest here:


This just gives us an idea of numbers, and (if you've supplied your location) where you are, so we know which venues might work best.

2) Ideally, we'd like to be able to cover our costs (track hire is anything from £50-£150 in our experience; and travel costs are dependent on how far it is, obviously - that's pretty much it) - so I've created a poll to whether you'd be up for bunging us £2-3 on the day. Click the green 'Vote' buttons in the poll below:

We'll look at your responses, and work out our plans for the year. Thanks :-)
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • As before, the condition is that it will have to be fairly close by.
    Wriggling Snake
    11:49am, 4th Mar 2019
  • Don't mind travelling a bit, happy to give a contribution. It's not as if races, or the use of a running track, don't normally incur a fee.
    12:19pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Longford Stadium in south Manchester - which might or might not be a 3 minute walk from my house - charges £3 per person for use of the track. Just saying.
    12:23pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • What if someone is an incurable clicker, and hit the link above ("register interest") thinking there would be another button. And then it turns out that *is* the button. And they actually wouldn't come to a Fetch mile (due to water being in the way).?

    Asking for a friend ;-)
    paul the builder
    12:24pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • lol @ ptb :)
    1:15pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Sportscity/Manchester Regional Arena would be a fantastic place for a Fetch Mile (and might, or might not, be my nearest track) but I guess it would be costly. Happy to contribute to costs, and bring cake.
    1:58pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Not only would I pay £2-£3, I'd also purchase a tech tee/vest with "Big Fetch Mile 2019" on the back :-)
    2:41pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Happy to eat cake...
    3:17pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • I like Sigh's idea of a tee/vest/hoodie.

    And cake.... :)
    4:05pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Did someone say cake?
    4:33pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • PtB, would that be your non running friend ?
    7:57pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Like that idea Sigh :)
    Manchester would be good for me
    8:23pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Please come to Aberdeen! Love a long term Fetchie x
    mrs shanksi
    8:29pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Nothing says Christmas like the Jingle Mile in Cambridge
    9:22pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Yes could we make the jingle mike “official”
    9:55pm, 4th Mar 2019
  • Another vote for Aberdeen - nice to have one up north for a change
    Old Croc
    8:33am, 5th Mar 2019
  • Kings Park Athletics track in Bournemouth. Run & sea swim (plus ice cream and/or cake) on the same day!
    Wendolene Wobbler
    9:10am, 5th Mar 2019
  • Another Bedford mile would be fab - quite a few of us round here, and I welcome any excuse to make (and eat) cake 😁
    9:41am, 5th Mar 2019
  • Anywhere around Manchester - Sportcity is nice (but I'd think busy), Longford is nice (but probably quite busy), Stockport's track is nice and probably a bit quieter. Warrington is nice as it's blue. Sportcity probably easiest for everyone to get to with public transport as it's on the Metrolink.

    Crewe is quite nice, and quite accessible(ish) too.
    3:19pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Can Warrington and Crewe be classed as Manchester? :)

    There is also Radclyffe track in Chadderton (Oldham) a few miles up the road from SportsCity (https://oclactive.co.uk/leisure_centres/radclyffe-athletics-centre) might be quieter and cheaper?
    4:18pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • Ashford in Kent has a great track and great transportation links.
    10:43pm, 5th Mar 2019
  • I'm in East Yorkshire...
    10:00am, 6th Mar 2019
  • Something in the north and East of the Pennines - preferably Leeds/York but Newcastle would be good too.
    Jovi Runner
    11:13pm, 7th Mar 2019
  • I would love to come but even Manchester would be a bit far for me to travel to run a mile (based in East Yorkshire /Hull )
    9:05pm, 12th Mar 2019

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01 Mar 2019

Fix It Friday: Fingerprints!

3:59pm | 463 views | 15 Comments
There's no big list of fixes this week.

I took Wednesday off, and we did some cycling for Katie's forfeit, and then I tried getting into the river. There are pictures still to come - so I'll wait on those before blogging about that.

Warning - what follows is a geeky blog, but I've tried to explain my thinking.

I've been trying to wrap my head around the problem of route matching (see also my previous blog). It goes: "in a database with several million training entries, how do you determine which of those were on the same route?"

I took a stab at this back in October, with reasonable success. But every now and then, I get a feedback from someone that says "your matching code isn't picking up all my attempts at this route".

My code works like this:
1) for each latitude/longitude pair, round the values to 'snap' to a grid of large squares.
2) list all the squares visited in order, in one long string.
3) run these through a hash generator (md5) to generate an abstract 'fingerprint' for the route.

For example, my Abingdon Marathon 2018 is currently represented by the very memorable b16ac827dabd9d892b8e8a3a67b01b8c

In theory, if another route generates the same fingerprint, it's the 'same' route.

But it doesn't work out like that.

The problem is in the rounding in step 1. If you're running through the middle of one of our imaginary grid of large squares, there's no problem at all. But what happens if you run along the boundaries of one of the squares? Because GPS data is a bit fuzzy at the best of times, running along the boundary between squares will put you in square A one day, and square B the next day. This means that we provide a slightly different list of squares for step 2, and as a result, the fingerprint we generate in step 3 will be *completely* different.

I did some analysis to see how bad the problem was. I looked at all the runners who did Abingdon 2018. There were 20 runners with GPS traces. Under the current system, these produced 14 different fingerprints! I know I was weaving a bit by the end, but this is taking it a bit too far.

I looked at the Yorkshire Marathon too. The last six years of the Yorkshire Marathon produced 197 GPS traces, which in turn generated 37 different fingerprints. I don't think the route has changed.

If you've not worked it out already, longer races are more prone to this error. The further you run, the more likely it is that you'll have an unfortunate encounter with a square boundary. So marathons are a useful test of any improved system.

Right then, let's try to fix this shower of sh*t.

It occurred to me that there are alternatives to rounding. If you've used Excel, you might have come across FLOOR() and CEILING() - two functions which always round down and up respectively.

I updated my 'snap to square' code in step 1 of my algorithm to use FLOOR() to always round down to establish our 'current' square. Rather than rounding, which can go up or down, let's try to get a bit more consistency, by always choosing down. But this in itself does nothing more than shift the problem. When rounding, our problem occurs in the XX.49 to XX.51 region. When flooring, the problem just moves to the XX.99 to XX.01 region.

But here's the trick. When we floor our numbers, we throw in an extra check that says "how much did you have to move that point to make it fit?" If it's only a little jump i.e. within the normal range of error that you might expect from a GPS, then we let it happen. But if it's a big jump, we undo the FLOOR() and go with CEILING() instead.

Well done if you're still following this :-) I am still having to re-read my method just to convince myself that it makes sense - it's the sort of thing that hurts my brain, but I'm absolutely loving it.

The acid test is to check this updated algorithm against some data. I tried it against Abingdon 2018. It reduced the number of fingerprints from 14 down to 4. And 16 of the 20 runners were all on the same one.

I repeated this for the Yorkshire Marathon. Remember we had 197 different GPS traces across six years of racing.

Old Algorithm = 37 different fingerprints; most popular fingerprint accounted for just 26% of the runners.
New Algorithm = 17 different fingerprints; most popular fingerprint accounted for 79% of the runners :-)

I tried again with the Great North Run (677 GPS traces across 11 years):

Old Algorithm = 101 fingerprints; most popular one accounted for 35% of runners
New Algorithm = 18 fingerprints; most popular one got 92% :-) :-)

Just to see how it did on a shorter route, I tried Bedford parkrun (661 traces):

Old Algorithm = 42 fingerprints; most popular accounted for 55% of runners.
New Algorithm = 23 fingerprints; most popular got 93% of runners!!

It's all pointing at a nice improvement in accuracy, but before I process several million training entries to generate their new fingerprints, I want to look at the exceptions to see whether I can improve it just a little bit more. It may be that the size of the grid we are 'snapping' to is having an impact - or it might be that a very short-term GPS spasm is generating sufficient difference.

I've also been talking about our 'abstract fingerprint' - that hash of random-looking letters and numbers bears no resemblance to the actual route. It'd be great to replace the hashes with some sort of meaningful fingerprint that might be usefully scrutinised.

Here's a list of squares (in lat/lng notation) from a short imaginary route:


Keeping the first square, we can represent the rest in terms of their relative position to their predecessors. So our list of squares visited might be more compactly written using compass bearings:


That gives us a unique fingerprint for this route that actually means something. There will be occasions when we need to account for NW, NE, SW and SE - but those can also be represented as single letters - so it's a nice compact notation.

I should like to thank all the Fetchies who put some very thought-provoking comments on my last blog. I followed up flanker's suggestion, and have emailed my old university to see if they think it might be a good computer science project for someone. And I've been conversing with um over fmail about various different techniques - he's very helpful and knowledgeable.

Have a great weekend one and all.
Click here to suggest this blog for today's highlights.


  • Really interesting - my eldest son has just started at Uni doing GIS, so whilst he's still in his infancy in that subject I'm sure he'd be interested in where things go with this. And be careful not to let too much out in the open, this could be valuable IP one day!
    4:12pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • All this sounds good. Can I check, the changes are all still in the pipeline and nothing visible on the production server yet?
    4:15pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • @philip - nothing live yet - although I did check it against your seven runs, and it matched them all ;-)
    4:16pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Another suggestion to add: In the routes page, you've got a feature that snaps routes to roads. Could you do anything similar to clean the GPS traces up before generating the fingerprints? I'd imagine that this would help a lot for most marathon routes, but if there wasn't something to guess when a person was actually offroad then a lot of parkrun routes might get less accurate.
    4:58pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Ian, 7 out of 7 gets a thumbs up.
    5:10pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Nice thought Dan. And now the mapping uses OSM vector data it should be possible to map to paths and tracks too, which would pick up most off-road runs. I guess the issue with it could be a amount of processing power.
    5:13pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • I love geeky posts :)
    5:15pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Great post.
    5:55pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Sounds ultimately like a job for machine learning, to try and make more tweaks of the ilk using floor() sometimes ceiling() others, that you can't naturally infer, but an algorithm might be able to looking at the data sets.
    6:16pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Why is there only 2 decimal points?
    Wriggling Snake
    6:25pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Very interesting. Great blog and equally great comments (bar mine).
    8:21pm, 1st Mar 2019
  • Pales into insignificance compared to the stuff above (which sounded very complicated) but could you have a look at this at some point.
    Training entries on my calendar appear in the order that they are input onto the site, and not in the time order that they show. Example is the 26th of Feb where I input the cycle first, and even though that is chronologically after the two cross-training entries, it shows first on the calendar. Minor issue, but a bit jarring to an OCD freak like me.

    "Just put them on in order then" I hear you shout. I usually do, but occasionally I mess up, so please devote hours of your time sorting this out so my calendar looks correct. Thanks very much :-)
    Dave W
    8:28am, 2nd Mar 2019
  • That's really interesting and easy to understand for someone like me who isn't terribly clued up on this programming stuff.
    3:31pm, 2nd Mar 2019
  • Clever. I'll let you know whether it works on the Yorkshire Marathon in October!
    2:55pm, 3rd Mar 2019
  • Please please don't make the notification bell flash again x
    Lizzie W
    11:03am, 14th Mar 2019

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