Over the last decade, marathons and other racing events have turned to high-tech timing systems and an array of other tech tools to manage races more effectively. A prime example of this is the recent New York City Marathon, one of the leading long-distance athletic events in the world, which integrated information technology into the race in innovative ways.
The New York Road Runners club, which manages the event, has signed an eight-year sponsorship agreement with Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), which is headquartered in Mumbai, India.
According to John Lenzen, TCS global chief marketing officer, the two organizations are exploring new ways to expand the use of social tools and mobility, including mobile apps that TCS developed for the New York City Marathon. They will also look for ways to expand the footprint of the New York Road Runners club, which has a presence at more than 50 races and events each year, including the Oakley New York Mini 10K, the Fifth Avenue Mile and the Midnight Run.
New and improved tools, including the apps, will provide spectator information, the ability to track runners during the race, and a variety of programs that promote wellness and running. “The goal is to develop technology that supports a broader effort to make wellness and running more compelling,” Lenzen explains. “We hope to connect with individuals, but also to use technology to develop broader communities.”
In addition, he sees opportunities to tap big data and analytics to create new tools and services for runners. This includes using archived data from the New York Road Runners to create new statistical insights about health impacts and municipal impacts, as well as to develop new tools that will help runners better prepare for events and to help health officials understand demographic trends and correlations between different groups and results.
“Although we have only begun to lay out the technology vision, it’s clear that tremendous opportunities exist,” Lenzen notes. “Races such as the New York Marathon have only begun to scratch the surface in terms of what’s possible.”
Natarajan Chandrasekaran, CEO and managing director of TCS, is a marathoner himself. In fact, that was part of the impetus for the sponsorship program. “Starting in 2014, we aspire to make the TCS New York City Marathon a more technology-enriched and socially engaged experience for all participants and fans across the world,” he says.
Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of the New York Road Runners, is confident that the partnership will unlock the “infinite potential in front of us to jointly help and inspire people through running.”