It’s a marathon effort to put on the TCS London Marathon
3 MINS READ
It’s February 2023, two months out from the TCS London Marathon, and its Event Director, Hugh Brasher, just had a meeting about the 2029 event.
Meanwhile, planning for the 2030 Mini London Marathon — the new event for children and young people — is also underway.
That probably gives you some idea of the amount of organisation that goes into putting on an event of the scale of the TCS London Marathon.
Even as runners triumphantly crossed the finish line at this year’s event on Sunday April 23, Brasher and his team will be working out what more could be done to improve the experience in coming years.
Alongside him will be Mark Bogaerts, Director Brand & Sponsorship Europe/UK, who is responsible for overseeing TCS’ relationship with the London Marathon Events team.
They both share a common goal: To make the event even better than it has ever been before.
Built on the success of partnerships
On a day-to-day basis, the core London Marathon Events team of 120 work with many different partners, many of them unsung heroes, to plan and deliver the TCS London Marathon.
Who is in charge of erecting the marquees?
What happens if there’s a blocked drain on the planned route?
Everything from catering to media relations with charities is hugely important to the overall success of the big day. And it all matters when it comes to the overall experience of the runners themselves.
Strategic long-term planning is essential, and so is adjusting quickly to last-minute changes such as road works that can pop up and mean the course must be tweaked.
Many organisations are involved, from the BBC, which has broadcast the event since it began in 1981, to the Royal Parks and Transport for London.
For nearly a decade, TCS has been working with the London Marathon Events team on developing the event’s technology. Now, as the title partner, it is keen to make sure that technology continues to be truly inspirational and people centric.
Technology – the invisible glue
Technology allows people to tell their stories and share their enthusiasm for the event.
Digital technology creates excitement and enhances the experience of both runners and their supporters. It’s also the invisible glue that holds the whole experience together, allowing people to share their stories.
The Official TCS London Marathon app and the tech-enabled gantry at the finish line are central to bringing fans and runners together.
“People don’t realise the technology that’s going on all around them,” says Brasher. “They want the storytelling, the connection, and that is delivered seamlessly with technology. Technology is the glue that you hopefully don’t even notice.”
“Digital technology is pretty much the heart of any society nowadays, and the same goes for sports,” explains Bogaerts.
“The technology revolution in marathon running started with sports watches – that democratisation of data that allowed people to access their training data. Now it has moved from a nice-to-have to a must-have, and our app is where we bring it all together for fans and participants in London or anywhere else in the world.”
The app came into its own during the pandemic, when it enabled connections between tens and thousands of participants, all running in their own locations. Nearly 40,000 people took part in the world’s first virtual marathon — something that simply would not have been possible without the right technology.
Behind the scenes
Even less visible to participants is the technology that goes into managing all the behind-the-scenes logistics.
This includes organising the 4,000 race-day volunteers, doctors, physiotherapists, and podiatrists. It also involves analysing, processing, and securely storing data for more than 400,000 applicants and streamlining communications in the run-up to the big day.
The TCS-built app Rescore allows event organisers to evaluate their event’s sustainability credentials, as well as equity, diversity, and inclusion measures.
Previously, sporting event organisers had to fill out spreadsheets that were not always properly monitored or evaluated. TCS is now collaborating with the Council for Responsible Sport in the US to explore how advanced technology can bring about significant progress in these crucial areas.
TCS also worked with London Marathon Events to create a data lake, which integrated all of their data into one digital space. This allowed the organisation to better understand their past events and the enhancements that could be made to future ones, improving the overall marathon experience.
Data will continue to drive improvements in all these areas, meaning the marathon has a positive impact on individuals, society and the planet.
For both Brasher and Bogaerts, the hard work is all worth it when they get to hear the individual tales of success each year — how the marathon has helped people to challenge themselves, improve mental health and change lives.
The crowd is one of the most special things about the TCS London Marathon, providing unparalleled support to runners.
“I always say that if you’re running the London Marathon, put your name on your t-shirt,” says Brasher. “At that 26-mile point, you will have people shouting and cheering your name and you will feel as though you are Andy Murray on Wimbledon’s Centre Court, or Harry Kane scoring a goal at Wembley. You get this feeling of people wanting you to be successful and, my God, that is going to bring a smile to your face. And that’s what you get in London, I think, more than anything else.”
While, on the surface, TCS and London Marathon Events are two very different businesses, their values are very much aligned. Through technology, storytelling, and shared experiences they are helping build connected societies focused on health and wellbeing. The two organisations also share a common goal of inspiring people and empowering them to give something back to their communities.
Both businesses put people — and the connections between them — at the heart of their mission. The technology that TCS delivers may not even be noticed, but it is critical to allowing fans and runners alike to feel like they are a part of something bigger, something that is creating a better world where people come together. That’s why it’s such a fantastic partnership.