Technology and the Modern Marathon

Over the centuries, the technologies invented by engineers and scientists have changed the way we experience the world. Even the way we play sports has been significantly impacted by the marvels of technology. I participated in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon on Sunday and observed how people used technology to do things that weren’t possible in the days of the original marathon.

According to several internet sites (I used modern technology to find this out in just minutes) the first marathon was not for sport, but for war. Athenian generals sent a professional runner to Sparta in 490 B.C. to ask for help in their war against the Persians. So only one guy ran in this marathon, and he died from it, however he had already run 280 miles before the final 26 mile journey. Too bad the warriors hadn’t been engineers and scientists. Instead of inventing a sporting event, perhaps they could have invented cell phones, eliminating the slow response time of sending a runner to deliver messages.

For about 2386 years, nobody else (except for the Tarahumara Indians) wanted to run such a ridiculous distance until the marathon became an event in the Olympics in 1896. Athletes came from all over the world to compete in Athens. In the 21st century, due to advances in transportation and information technology and affordable costs, amateurs like me come from all over the world to participate in marathons just to see if they can do it.

Technology made the theme of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon possible. Although some improvements in technology could have made the acoustics better, there were a few bands that needed improvements in areas that technology would have done little help.

For me, the best purpose of modern technology with regards to the marathon was the ability of family and friends in all parts of the globe to see my split times and finish time within hours of completing the event. The day before the marathon, I received a computer chip to attach to my shoe. At the start, 10k, ½ marathon, 20 mile, and finish line, I passed scanners that read the chip and recorded my times, which were sent to a web site where people could query my name and find out how well I performed. I received several notes of congratulations by email and cell phone from family and friends all over the country.

Possibly the most interesting use of technology during the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon was the use of cell phones to transmit images of the participants and the bands across the airwaves to who-knows-where. While transportation technology has brought people away from loved ones to far-off lands, information technology brings them back together by allowing people across the globe to share in each other’s experiences.

Lisa Schaefer snarls at the camera

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1 Response to Technology and the Modern Marathon

  1. BOB!! says:

    I’ve heard of at least one race using the chips to put only slightly time-late data up on the web while the race was in progress. Technology is an amazing thing.

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