How Tech Will Change the Future of Running

Jennifer Purdie
by Jennifer Purdie
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How Tech Will Change the Future of Running

We experience technological advancements almost daily — from apps like Pokemon Go on our smartphones to virtual reality experiences — we can only wonder what comes next.

For endurance athletes, here’s a sneak peek at the future of running:

AUGMENTED REALITY GLASSES

Slip on a pair of augmented reality glasses and you could transform your running experience completely. Virtual reality has the potential to turn running into a game, getting more people into the sport.

“These semi-transparent glasses could show virtual elements over the real world to improve the experience of the runner,” says Antonio Vitillo, an augmented reality and virtual reality expert.

Picture yourself running the Rome Marathon and seeing what the city looked like during ancient times as you run past historical monuments or watch tango dancers flit and float next to you in the Buenos Aires Marathon — all by simply slipping on a pair of glasses.

You could also use these glasses in your daily training for a “rich, immersive augmented reality experience,” says Saagar Govil, CEO of Cemtrex, a technology company that expanded into the virtual and augmented reality sectors with CemtrexVR. “Imagine a virtual reality-based Peloton equivalent for runners that frees you from the restrictive limitations of a tablet screen and teleports you and your classmates to an interactive and immersive class on the French Riviera.”

DATA TO ENHANCE PERFORMANCE

Vitillo says augmented reality glasses could provide biometric data, like heart rate and hydration levels right in front of your eyes; information about the race you’re running, such as who is in the lead, the distance you’ve completed, how far back you are from the lead; and communication with your coach/trainer. For example, your coach could give you advice right on your glasses.

But that’s not all. Jane McConnell, marketing executive of EON Reality, an organization that provides augmented and virtual reality software, says augmented reality smart glasses “could be used to eye-track and analyze an athlete’s distractions or serve performance reminders.”

They could also provide valuable contextual information, according to Cortney Harding of Friends With Holograms, a virtual and augmented reality agency. This includes the distance to the next aid station and bathroom, which allows you to plan your race strategy better.  

Think of what this information could do for setting new world records at both the professional and amateur levels.

DIGITAL RACING

Not everyone can qualify for the Boston Marathon or travel to international events. But digital marathons “allow anyone from across the globe to remotely participate in a race,” says Anthony Baldini, senior account executive of Sterling Communications. This racing form started in 2015 when the London Marathon began offering a virtual-reality experience mirroring the iconic course. (In 2016, an astronaut ran the virtual course on board the International Space Station.)

But runners should expect more to come. Baldini says future iterations of virtual races will see an elevated level of immersion for users.

For example, virtual reality glasses will allow you to look to your right and left as you run and see the same crowd, views and aid stations as runners on the course that day. You will also be able to turn on a headset and hear the exact sounds of the crowd and announcers as the runners in the race.  

According to Govil, “component technology is not yet scalable for both technological and economical reasons.” But it will get here. In the future, Govil says manufacturers and designers will create lighter, less isolating, less clumsy and more powerful devices capable of active use. Right now, “virtual reality headsets are the equivalent of early PCs.”   

But you will not need to wait long. Virtual reality experts are working to build an early majority of users before the technology explodes on the market. Govil says, “We are confident [this] will occur in the next 2–4 years.”

Get your running shoes ready.

About the Author

Jennifer Purdie
Jennifer Purdie

Jennifer is a Southern California-based freelance writer who covers topics such as health, fitness, lifestyle and travel for both national and regional publications. She runs marathons across the world and is an Ironman finisher. She is also a certified personal trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. You can follow her on Twitter @jenpurdie.

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