I started an odd holiday tradition a few years ago. Strava art is using your GPS on your tracking device to draw a picture by turning your body into a drawing tool that records your movements.
In 2020 I thought it would be cool to make a Marietta-sized Christmas tree. Part of the challenge of Strava Art is you have to plan and you have to make sure you can actually travel your complete route.
Before my wife Lori and I ever headed out I mapped out my intended route using a website called MapmyRun.com. The starting point was the riverside parking lot next to the Lafayette Hotel. We would use the streets and alleys to stair step up the left side of the tree. All was going well until we got to the alley between Second and Third streets and Washington and Wooster streets. I had forgotten that it dead ends in the back of several backyards. We had to retreat and reroute up Third Street.
The star of the tree was to be Camp Tupper, the park between Third and Fourth Streets. The wide-open space would be perfect to “draw” the freestyle star. Perfect except for the fact that there was a flag football tournament going on right where the left spike of the star needed to be.
I waited for a time out in the game and, trying to not look like a complete fool, then walked out on the field to make the spike. The right spike is actually on top of the Native American mound in the park.
The rest of the tree was fairly easy except for the fact that it required changing directions every couple of hundred feet.
I posted the image of the route on social media. High school classmates that once lived on either side of the dead-end alley both told me I should have cut through the yards. They of course moved away decades ago.
The professional race timer that we use for the News and Sentinel Half Marathon told me I should turn it into an actual race. Closing streets is one of the hardest parts of organizing a race, and this one would require a lot of street closings.
There are actual websites devoted to people who have made very intricate drawings with their tracking software. Visit www.strav.art to view some incredible examples. Most of the really intricate ones fall into one of two groups. They are drawn on a much large canvas, using the street grids of cities like New York or San Fransico to get more options. The other option is to use a wide-open area, such as the desert of the American west to travel any direction needed.
We are somewhat limited in Marietta because effectively the city is only about 10 blocks wide and 7 blocks high. It’s hard to get too much detail in such a small area. In 2021 I used the streets again to make a giant 2022.
People exercising are not the only ones to use gps to draw. Pilots testing new aircraft will sometimes use the tracking line of the plane to draw giant, country-wide artwork in the sky.
Sometimes a “drawing” occurs without really trying. The Rudolph Farm trail network that recently became part of the Broughton trails, has a score of switchbacks, I have always felt it looks like a witch riding a sea horse. Judge for yourself.
Sports tracking devices are very common, built not only into smartphone apps but wearable technology like watches. Using them as drawing tools will create works of art that will never hang in a museum, but are fun to “draw.”
Art Smith is online manager for The Times, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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