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Last year was my first River Run working at The Florida Times-Union. Being the online sports editor at the time and knowing the River Run is by far our biggest day of traffic on jacksonville.com, Joe Allen-Black, myself and Matt Kirk got together to put together a running site. The site would focus on the huge community of runners in Jacksonville and the races that occur every weekend. We put the design of the site together just before the 2008 River Run using Caspio to power the search.
Going into it we knew Caspio was a temporary solution. After posting results from a couple races last year the site basically died from lack of updating. Manually updating everything wasn't going to cut it. From the web development background I have I refuse to manually update pages when you can let the scripting do that for you. For 2009 we decided to revamp the entire backend of runningjacksonville.com so it was fully dynamic.
A couple weeks before the 26.2 with Donna race I sat down and rebuilt a backend system that would serve up races dynamically. I've built plenty of these type projects before but never had much traffic to deal with. Knowing this was the biggest day of the year this had to scale.
Putting together the system (MySQL DB and PHP front) I focused on ensuring to keep content, presentation and logic as separated as possible. I feel I did a pretty good job at it compared to many of the other projects I worked on. I don't have the exact number of queries but there are no more than 10 queries per page view. I keep all the data stored in arrays for use rather than continually retrieving from the database.
I'll be the first to admit that the code could be better but I feel this is the best system I've put together to date. Why was I able to make it this way? Planning.
Most projects I am a part of are planned as they go. We have a rough idea and go with it. This project already had a very simple yet amazing design by Matt Kirk (now at the Charlotte Observer). I knew the data sources and knew all the variables going in. From having a test run last year I also knew what variables and problems we would need to solve. Knowing all this before I was able to put together the project without surprises. With an awesome design to start with Joe was able to take my raw data results and make them what you see today.
After getting the site up we launched a Jax2Go.com search for mobile users for the Gate River Run which will continue for all races as well. Integrated into the site is sharing options as well so runners can share their times over popular social networking sites, grab a quick link to their results or embed the entire search for the current race on their own site.
The goal now is to get every ChampionChip Run in the system for 2009 and scan in River Run data prior to 1998 so we get the entire history of the Gate River Run online and searchable. Of course without the awesome support of the running leader of Jacksonville, Doug Alred and 1st Place Sports none of this would have happened. Let me know what you think and if you participated in the run search the results below and see how you did.