Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles Gene Lu uses GPS to map his runs on a phone. These days, that's pretty normal. But the way he does it, isn't like most people. Gene is drawing something here. Before he runs, Gene spends hours mapping a route to create an elaborate drawing. He then traces it on the ground using GPS during the run. Sometimes I try to remember not the next turn, but maybe two or three turns ahead. Sort of, like, a way to distract myself on the run. Turning your run into a doodle isn't an easy way to train. But something else he's doing is. Using GPS can make you into a better runner, no matter what route follow. In the 1970s, the US military created the Global Positioning System, or GPS, by launching a network of satellites into orbit. Transmitting precise, jam-resistant radio navigational signals. A GPS receiver measures its distance from multiple satellites in order to pinpoint where you are on Earth. By the year 2000, the government made the system fully available for public use, and around that time the first GPS watches were released for consumers. Clunky design and high prices meant only hardcore data nerds were using them for exercise. But over time, devices became cheaper and sleeker and eventually, mobile apps made GPS tracking widely accessible. These days, it's commonly used by casual runners. I've become very accustomed to running with technology on me... When I go running without my stuff, I sort of feel like... Almost like drowning a little bit. Performance in running is measured by just a few variables: distance, time, and speed. GPS makes it easy to monitor those elements. In 2016, Runner's World conducted a survey of their global audience and found that 80% of runners used GPS to track their runs. I go for a run, I track my run, and I am given that data about that run. So based on that, I can now do it again and either up my distance, lower it, so on so forth. Using GPS to collect data about your runs makes it easy to track your accomplishments. But there's another reason GPS tracking is gaining popularity. Putting your run on a map with a time and pace, gives runners a better story -- to tell on social media. What's missing from it is, I think, the narrative to that run. Like, what was that run about? Where did you run? Was it hard? Was it easy? I think social media has sort of changed how people approach running. For me one of the big factors or one of the big motivations for running these shapes is to be able to share it. To a lot of people, this looks like bragging. I'm going to share it to social media, I'm going to get all these likes and then I'm going to do more. But, it turns out, sharing your runs on social media actually makes you a better runner. This visualization comes from researchers at MIT that analyzed GPS data from millions of runners and correlated it to social network sharing. They found that when runners share their accomplishments, they run farther, faster and longer. According to their research, “an additional kilometer run by friends can inspire someone to run an additional three-tenths of a kilometer and an additional ten minutes.” Gene isn't your average example, but sharing his runs has made him a better runner. With social media being at the forefront of everything, there's this social media feedback loop that sort of merges with the sport of running. Everytime I did the run I would post it onto social media and my friends would just sort of freak out and say, “Whoa! I didn't know that there was the Dire Wolf in Queens!” And so because of that, I started to do more and more. Did the lion in Minneapolis. The octopus. The bear in Jackson Heights. C-3PO. Darth Vader. Storm Trooper. TIE Fighter. AT-AT Walker. AT-ST Walker. At some point, it started to go into ten-plus miles. And for me that was sort of an achievement because at the time I was only doing five miles. There is, however, a downside. Using GPS to track our runs has raised privacy concerns. When the popular fitness tracking app Strava released their global heatmap showing data collected from runners around the world, they unknowingly revealed detailed military information from locations where users had been tracking their jogging routes. While you might not be stationed on a secret military base, sharing information about your run can make your daily routine and home address publicly available. But it's a tradeoff. The same technology that's driving people to share their progress and location, at the cost of their privacy, it's also helping them stay active. At least we are getting more people to run. We're getting more people to run because of GPS and, on top of that, social media. I think with all this tracking, I think you just need to be able to turn it on and off.