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The New York City Marathon. | Courtesy of NYRR.
The New York City Marathon. | Courtesy of NYRR.
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The Tech Behind The New York City Marathon

Picture of Peter Ward
Tech Editor
Updated: 7 November 2016
Whether you’re running or watching the New York City Marathon, technology is performing a crucial role in the race.

Look at the wrist of almost any New York City Marathon runner and you’ll find technology. Runners use apps and gadgets to track their speed and tailor their pace to maximize their performance on the big day. But even before the first runner has crossed the start line, an abundance of technology is already in use behind the scenes.

The NYC Marathon app is built by TATA Consultancy Services, one of the world’s largest technology consultancy firms and the main sponsor of the race. For the 2015 marathon, the app was downloaded 275,000 times and was the top sports app in the App Store the week leading up to the event. The app is as much for spectators as it is for runners. This year it will allow users to track up to 20 runners as they battle through 26.2 miles of New York’s streets and parks on Sunday, November 6.

“The tracking lets you see where they’ll be at what time,” Benjamin Trounson, head of North America corporate communications at TCS tells Culture Trip. “The phone vibrates when they finish.”

The app also overlays a city map on top of the race map, helping users plan the easiest way to get to the best vantage point and cheer on friends and loved ones in the race.

TCS is also providing technology to the Marathon Expo, which runs the week of the race. The company will be showcasing a giant augmented reality map of the race, which attendees can scan with an iPad, revealing buildings coming out of the ground and the course in more detail.

The Augmented Reality Course Map.
The Augmented Reality Course Map. | Courtesy TCS,

Racers and others attending the expo will be able to sample what it’s like to start and finish the race through a virtual reality experience.

“It’s fun; you can immerse yourself in the race,” Trounson said.

The VR experience at the Expo.
The VR experience at the Expo. | Courtesy TCS.

This year the marathon has introduced ‘Smile Markers’, pin-shaped markers that have been placed around the city and allow racers and spectators to learn more about the marathon and New York city, through quizzes, videos, slideshows and timelines.

“Smile Markers give special insight into the TCS New York City Marathon, celebrating the people, partners and locations that make it the most popular marathon in the world,” Ronnie Tucker, vice president of marketing and digital at New York Road Runners, said in a press release. “Whether you are down the block or across the globe, our TCS New York City Marathon Mobile App will allow runners and fans everywhere to play along and explore New York City.”

A Smile Marker
A Smile Marker | Courtesy TCS.

For runners in the marathon, technology is getting more advanced. This year TCS is testing the use of biometric sensors on 10 competitors in the race. These small devices will sit on the shirts of the runners and will send back data on heart rate, running cadence, breathing rate and more.

The data collected by the sensors will be monitored in real time and used in the race day broadcast. The sensors will be trialed by elite runners, wheelchair participants and a few regular racers, with a view to expanding the program next year.

The performance metrics.
The performance metrics. | Courtesy TCS.

Prior to the race, many runners use technology to aid their training, either through wearable devices like Fitbits or apps that motivate and organize training schedules.

“Training for this marathon has been really exciting for myself as well as my family. I convinced everyone to buy a FitBit. We all compete every day — I’m going against my brothers and parents to get our steps going,” Aja Carter, 29 from Queens tells Culture Trip. “Because I’m training for a marathon, I’m kicking everyone’s butts and they get to see that. In the same way, it’s motivating for me because I see them behind me, supporting me.”