The psychology of a marathon runner has a great role to play in how they manage the long distances without quitting or slowing down. These runners have to train their mind to cope with the tiring effort in different weather and terrain. Setting a target is part and parcel of being a marathon runner. Breaking the time record of 2 hours is the male marathon runners dream. To achieve this fete in the 21st Century one will have to train using appropriate technology to help you achieve your target even more efficiently, and effectively. Technology has transformed the way professional and recreational athletes prepare for and take part in marathons – from wearable devices that enable runners to train effectively, to apps that offer accurate route tracking capabilities. Below are some of the tech that are being used by the great African Marathoners in the pursuit of greatness on the track.
A smartwatch is a touchscreen wearable computer in the form of a wristwatch. While early models could perform basic tasks, such as calculations, digital time telling, translations, and game-playing, 2010s smartwatches have more general functionality closer to smartphones, including mobile apps, a mobile operating system and Bluetooth connectivity. Some smartwatches function as portable media players, with FM radio and playback of digital audio and video files via a Bluetooth or USB headset. Some models, called ‘watch phones’ (or vice versa), have complete functionality of a typical smartphone using LTE technology. These days it’s not just about using GPS to track pace and distance, either. Good running watches now offer a huge range of features to help you improve your performance and chase personal bests. On April 21st this year in Central China’s Qianjiang Marathon, they made use of this tech and issued a smartwatch to competitors that could monitor their blood pressure and heart rate but also help emergency services locate any athlete who needed assistance. If need be, the athletes could press a button on the watch and receive help.
The concept of putting sensors into running shoes isn’t new. Back in 2012, Nike launched a smart shoe – the Nike+ Training Shoe – that was capable of reading a range of foot-based data including how many times your feet hit the ground, how long each foot was off the ground and where the contact was made. Since then we’ve seen the Under Armour Speedform Gemini 2 & 3 and the Altra Running IQ follow suit, attempting to popularise form and performance-tracking running shoes.
The advantage of purchasing trackers that are located on your feet are that these devices improve not just how far and how fast you run, but also how well you run. They do this through parameters related to your running form such as foot landing, cadence and time on the ground – metrics which you cannot get from wrist based trackers. While this market is still in its infancy, there are a few players that have already come out with intelligent trackers for your feet.
Late 2014 Microsoft released the Band. A Smart Watch and fitness tracker all rolled into one package. Fitness trackers were the in thing early 2015 and already market saturation was at peak capacity when this little gadget came out but it’s efficiency helped it hold it’s own in the market. The Band does a lot of things that other smart watches do. It’s got a microphone you can use to issue voice commands to your phone’s digital assistant (Cortana, Siri, Google Now). It will vibrate to alert you to things happening on your phone. It does the basics and does them well. It even features an on-screen QWERTY keyboard. That seems absurd given the size of the screen, but it works. It works well. And not just well considering the limitations, but genuinely well.
We could fill this entire list with devices that feature data tracking, stats and apps if we wanted to, but then we would be missing the brilliant FlipBelt. It’s one of the simplest pieces of running kit around, but seriously, this thing is indispensable.All you have to do is simply pull the fabric tube up around your waist, fill it with anything and everything you may need on a run – credit card, phone, energy gels, emergency change – then flip it over. Just like that you have everything you need conveniently tucked around your waist. The FlipBelt isn’t like a fanny pack with all its adjustable straps and buckles, it sits flush against your skin so that you don’t have to worry about it bouncing around. And the lack of zips or latches means there’s no chafing, and assuming you get the correct size – there are five to choose from, ranging from a 23- to 41-inch waist – it won’t ride up either. You can even get water bottles designed to fit inside the belt, so it’s ‘goodbye’ to that sloshing lopsided gait.
There’s a reason these headphones look like they’re going to tweak your brain – they are. Part of a rising trend for applying advanced neuroscience to sport and fitness, Halo Sport employs clever, and somewhat complex, brain science to make you run faster. Worn before your workout, Halo delivers a tingling electrical stimulation over a 20-minute warm up period known as ‘neuropriming’. The idea is that electric signals help the movement-controlling neurons in your brain fire more easily. Your brain learns to repeat movements such as the strides you make when running through a process called plasticity, but neuropriming is intended to get your brain into a state of ‘hyper-plasticity’ so it reaches its fine-tuning state more quickly and you get greater muscle control and better results from your workout. Small-scale studies with baseball team San Francisco Giants showed improvements in speed and explosiveness and there’s a weight of scientific research to back up their effectiveness. However, unless you really, really care about shaving that elusive minute off your Parkrun time, then this might be a trend to monitor rather than dive in to at this stage.