From tracking to supporting, how tech has changed marathons
7 MINS READ
A tech-enabled marathon
On a wet and dull day in March 1981 over 7,000 runners lined up in South London. They were the lucky ones to make it to the first-ever London Marathon, chosen to compete from over 20,000 applicants. The two winners, American Dick Beardsley and Norwegian Inge Simonsen, clocked 2:11:48 as they crossed the finish line holding hands amid cheers from the crowd. That moment captured the essence of the marathon — the collective spirit of healthy competition and unity.
The event marked one of the earliest examples of modern mass participation in a sport. A year later, over 90,000 people from all over the world would apply to join, cementing its place as one of the most popular and long-standing events for runners globally.
In the 42 years since the first London Marathon, much has changed in the world of marathons. One such change is the use of digital technologies now available to track, train, encourage and share in the success of those taking part.
Here’s how technology has helped the London Marathon evolve into the event we know today.
One of the biggest breakthroughs in amateur sports is the development of training applications. Unlike Beardsley and Simonsen, today’s marathon participants can access training plans, routes, and diet regimens at the touch of a button.
And then there’s the raft of high-precision training watches and other wearable gadgets that have opened up a new world of personalised training assistance and accurate tracking for participants to maximise the effectiveness of their training. Add to this the rise in popularity of heart rate monitors offering advanced performance assessments, and today’s marathon participants have more tools to unlock their potential than ever before.
Even before you reach the start line, the Official TCS London Marathon App, powered by Tata Consultancy Services, offers people the chance to view the route and allows virtual participants to track their performance in practice events.
Enabling virtual participation
After the pandemic, when the event returned in October 2020, the London Marathon set a world record for the most people to compete in a virtual marathon in 24 hours. Around 40,000 people completed the marathon distance on their own routes.
Thousands of virtual participants, who are expected to compete in 2023, would be able to plot their progress against a virtual map of the route. Up to three spectators can track a virtual participant’s live location thanks to the upgraded Official TCS London Marathon App.
Virtual participants can also share feedback once they have completed their route.
With over 410,000 people applying for this year’s event, competition for places was fierce. Virtual participation offers a way of getting involved even if you aren’t lucky enough to get a place in the list of runners, as well as opening up the field to competitors around the world.
Allowing supporters to get involved
After the initial adrenaline buzz has passed, any marathon participant knows the value of supporters to help get them through the difficult miles. Today, it is easier than ever to track how your friends and family are doing and offer that little boost of belief to them when they need it the most.
Supporters can monitor where participants are on the route, ensuring they can be in the best viewing spot at the right time. The Official TCS London Marathon App also allows them to send messages and virtual cheers of support through the belief booster function, which last year alone boasted 163,000 messages of belief during the event.
Reshaping race day
The technology that helps participants get to the starting line is only part of the picture. On event day itself, participants can enjoy a host of tech-aided extras to boost their experience.
Before you start, checking event details and collecting your bib is now simple using the Official TCS London Marathon App’s QR code.
When you are underway, accurate tracking and timing help ensure jitters don’t throw off your pace. GPS tracking means it’s easy to see how far you have to go – and how far you’ve already come.
And when you finally reach the finish line, you can check your results and revel in your success with finish-line selfies and digital medals.