Association of International Marathons and Distance Races

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AIMS Marathon Symposium

09 November 2019, 4pm

AIMS Marathon Symposium in Athens discusses technology and mass running events

340 million runners in China take part in “online marathons”

An astonishing 340 million runners in just the last four years have taken part in ‘online marathon’ events in China.

Ms Sheng Lan Yang of the CAA (Chinese Athletics Association) cited this number on 9 November at the 13th Marathon Symposium in Athens, Greece, organised by AIMS.

The vice-director of marketing at the CAA, in her talk on ‘Technology applications in Chinese marathon races’, said that in 1997, China had fewer than 10 marathons. By 2011 there were 39 events but just seven years later in 2018 there were 1,581 races with 5.83 million runners taking part.

Ms Yang went on to explain about the creation of a special ‘online marathon’ initiative set up four years ago in conjunction with CAA and AIMS member the Xiamen Marathon, where runners signed up to running the race in their own local location through an app called “Joyrun”.

Runners register online and then run the marathon in their own location wherever they may be. The app includes virtual crowd cheers – “come on” and “you are the best”. Once the runner has completed their route, followed by GPS, they then receive a physical medal and certificate sent to them to mark their achievement.

Since that first ‘event’ 340 million people have taken part in the Joyrun app online marathons. In 2018 alone 32.5 million people participated in online marathons. Individual ‘events’ have drawn entries of an astonishing 300,000 runners.

One other innovation mentioned by Ms Yang was a heart rate safety monitoring system where runners heart rate is fed into an algorithm which can monitor the runner’s health during the race and warn if it is getting to a dangerous level and intervene in extreme cases. This is an excellent method of monitoring the runner’s health and enables the data to be analysed in large numbers by health professionals using the knowledge obtained to inform medical support and policies. As an example, Ms Yang revealed that the maximum heart rate level during marathons in China arises between the 35-40 kilometre stage in the 42.2 km event.

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