Admit it, we’ve all sniggered slightly at the sight of a bobsleigh pilot mentally visualizing the track before he and his teammates hurl themselves down the ice.
But with speeds approaching 90 mph and medals decided by a fraction of a second, its an important part of their preparation. After all, it’s up them to navigate the ice quickly and safely and ensure the months and years of training – especially before a Winter Olympics – isn’t all in vain.
Virtual Reality (VR) applications are already being used to assist with the process, so athletes can train without the risk of injury and don’t have to travel the world to try out different tracks.
But professional-grade tools such as VR, GPS and analytics are increasingly finding their way into amateur sport too. And it should come as no surprise that the San Francisco Marathon in the heart of Silicon Valley should be among the events to promote their use.
Last weekend more than 27,500 runners participated in the 42nd staging of the race, with the route taking in iconic landmarks like Fisherman’s Wharf, AT&T Park and Golden Gate Bridge. Participants could choose to take on the full course, the first or second halves of it or even to complete it twice in an ultra-marathon.
Technology plays a significant part for many people’s race day, with wearables increasingly used to track speed and distance, but runners in the San Francisco Marathon were able to use a dedicated application to prepare for the big day.
Neurun allows runners to join a community of like-minded athletes who share similar goals and to access tips from professional coaches and runners in a particular group. However, the most intriguing aspect of the application is the ability to visualize the entire course beforehand.
Users can check terrain, elevation and other variables such as the wideness of roads and the location street furniture that might hinder progress. If a tricky section of the route is identified, then it’s possible to take a screenshot and make a note of its location on the timeline.
Neurun also shows the location of key amenities like water and nutrition stations, first aiders, public toilets, emergency phones and even photographer locations. These can also be added to the timeline so runners can plan breaks ahead of time or if they need to take an impromptu pit stop should they find themselves in need of assistance.
And all these notes can be shared with your groups too, enhancing the community aspect of the platform.
With many people hoping to achieve personal bests, the little details can make a difference over a distance as long as 26 miles. That’s why Team Sky make such a big deal about ‘marginal gains’ when competing in the Tour de France.
It will be interesting to see how the application expands given the popularity of long-distance races held around the world and whether other famous marathons follow suit. Could we see competitors in the London Marathon be able to use this technology for example?
Although runners in the marathon had access to the application over the race weekend, the firm’s official website says the public version is still unavailable.
You can sign up to find out when it will be released or you can check out the video of the course below. The footage was captured by a cyclist and the full route can be viewed in 35 minutes below – much faster than it would take to cycle the route, never mind to actually run it!