Technology on the run: the race for connection

The loneliness of the long-distance runner is becoming a thing of the past, as tech innovation means competitors are more connected to the wider world than ever before.

Wearable fitness devices and apps have revolutionized the way professional and amateur athletes train for, and take part in, endurance events.

According to a survey by Tata Consultancy Services, more than a third of British people now use fitness or health and wellbeing technology, while 58% of people in the US have downloaded a fitness app at some point in their phone’s lifetime.

Not only does this type of technology benefit runners by allowing them to monitor their timings and set training goals, it also enables friends and family to track their progress during races.

This year, at the largest cross-country event in the world – Lidingöloppet – technology will be at the heart of the action.


Thousands of runners

Lidingöloppet is an annual cross-country competition held in Lidingö, Sweden. The 30km run attracts around 15,000 participants each year, while shorter races at the event bring in thousands more.

This will be the 52nd year that runners from around the world descend on the island-suburb east of Stockholm to take part in an event that boasts spectacular forest and coastal settings.

Organisers believe the scenery is the secret to Lidingöloppet’s success, with a recent survey showing that three out of four Swedes prefer to run in nature.

This year’s event will be sponsored by TCS, which also backs the Amsterdam and New York marathons. And the company is set to provide a technological boost to the competition.


Spectators to get closer to the action

TCS’ dedicated app will connect runners with the people cheering them on. The app features a tracking system that allows family, friends and other spectators to locate runners and keep up-to-date with their progress.

It also comes with a function that allows users to auto-track elite athletes – both during the race and via push notifications of their finish times.

As Tomas Hoszek, Lidingöloppet’s General Secretary, puts it: “The introduction of TCS’ dedicated app, that connects the runners and their performance with spectators, adds a whole new digital dimension to the race.”


Tracker apps popular around the world

Lidingöloppet is not the first endurance event to introduce an app so that spectators can get closer to the action.

Crowds at this year’s London Marathon also benefited from an app that was designed and created by TCS in its capacity as the marathon’s technology partner.

The London Marathon app was downloaded to more than 292,116 devices – that’s more than one in 30 Londoners – with more than 73,000 concurrent users at peak times during the race.

As runners continue to look to technology to give them a competitive edge, and spectators request new means of engagement, innovation is having to speed up just to keep pace.