13th AIMS Marathon Symposium held in Athens, Greece

340 Million Runners in China Take Part in ‘Online Marathon’ Events in the last 4 years

Today, (9 November 2019) at the 13th AIMS (The Association of Marathons and Distance Races including 473 races in 124 countries and territories) Marathon Symposium in the Greek City of Athens , under the symposium theme of ‘Technology & Mass Running Events’, it was revealed by Ms Shirley Yang of the CAA (Chinese Athletic Association) that an astonishing 340 Million Runners in just the last four years have taken part in an ‘online marathon’ event in China.

Sheng Lan Yang (Shirley Yang), Vice-Director Marketing Dept. Chinese Athletics Association in her talk on ‘Technology applications in Chinese Marathon Races’ gave a highly impressive presentation of the incredible scale of development of running in China and how technology innovation has been central to developing running opportunities for the people of China.

The scale of achievement attracting participation in traditional running events in China and the level of growth is amazing. In 1997, China had fewer than 10 marathons. By 2011 there were 39 events but just 7 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 4 years ago in conjunction with CAA and AIMS member event: The Xiamen Marathon where runners signed up to running the race in their own local location through an app called the ‘Joyrun app’.

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.

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.

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 Kilometre event.

‘Using CRM and Data to Increase Participation, Revenue and Engagement’

Fiona Green, Author of ‘Winning with Data-CRM and Analytics for the Business of Sports’ gave a fascinating insight of the modern world and how attention span has changed over the years to the point that the average adult’s current day attention span is 8 seconds, (Ms Green informed ‘a goldfish is 9 seconds!’) for the younger generation 6 seconds and young children under 5 years old: 4 seconds.

Ms Green quoted Microsoft Founder Bill Gates from 1999 saying ‘How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.’

Ms Green said: ‘we live in a world that is competing for time, money and attention and if you want to gain any of those you have 8 seconds or less to gain them before that person’s attention is off somewhere else.’

Ms Green talked about CRM (Customer Relationship Management) in the modern world and the key of ‘getting the right message to the right person at the right time’ and how technology and its ability to collect and analyse data enables you to do that.

‘How Technology may support the Safety and Security program of your race’

Michael Nishi, General Manager of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon gave a very impressive presentation on technology’s central role in enabling the quality of decision making when managing a group of 45,000 people and all the variables that can involve.

The Chicago Marathon has a sophisticated command centre where all the services of police, traffic, fire, medical and expert decision makers are gathered where their decision making is informed by data and technology.

One example given was how the weather temperature is monitored from long before and during the race. The race uses various channels including digital and social media to inform, educate and advise runners and most importantly aim to keep them safe.

In 2017 the Chicago Marathon had to cancel its event due to extreme heat. Where of course such actions bring disappointment, they are essential in the interests of the health of participants and the complex process has to be managed and access to data, analysis and communication is central to that process. The use of technology is a key component in effective decision making that in turn can saves lives.

Horst Milde Chairman of AIMS Marathon Symposium & Founder of The Berlin Marathon-Germany commented when opening the event: ‘It is wonderful to see the growth and success of The Athens Marathon The Authentic. This Sunday will see 60,000 runners from around the world come to run the historic authentic marathon. I remember many years ago that the famous English sports journalist Pat Butcher said: “One day, I believe The Athens Marathon will be the biggest in the world”. It is great to see that prediction moving towards reality.’

Paco Borao President of AIMS commented: ‘One of AIMS’ goals is to exchange knowledge and expertise and the AIMS Symposium is an excellent platform for enabling that to happen. Always with the goal of creating a better experience for the true actors of our show: the runners.’

‘Artificial Intelligence in Marathon Races’

Vaggelis Vlachos, Softwear Developer-Electronics Engineer & Eleni Vlachou Market Researcher & Business Consultant-Greece. Ms Vlachou gave an insightful talk about a system that is being developed to identify rogue runners who use false numbers to take part in the race without officially entering and how technology van be used to identify them and help avoid cheating and potential disruption to the event.

Other speakers included the three Chairpeople of AIMS’ 3 new commissions started this year:

Martha Morales, Chairperson of the ‘AIMS Women’s Commission’ talked about the planned initiatives that AIMS is developing around the world such as ‘empowerment for girls’ through running.

Michael Nishi Chairperson of ‘AIMS Safety & Security Commission’ spoke about the considerable work being developed by AIMS to create models of good practice and test cases to help event organisers improve safety for runners, volunteers and staff and spectators.

George Kazantzopoulos Chairperson of ‘AIMS Sustainability Commission’ talked about the models of good practice being developed by AIMS looking at examples of excellence in ensuring events are organised in a way that respects the environment. Looking for example at areas of air quality, climate change and waste management.

The 23rd World Congress of AIMS to be held in Batumi, Georgia from 23 to 26 April 2020.
For information and AIMS Member registration visit: https://aimsworldcongress2020.ge/en/home

To apply for AIMS membership today click here. To find out more about AIMS and the benefits of being part of our organisation please visit our website.

About AIMS

AIMS is a member based organisation and since being established in 1982 has grown to a membership of more than 470 of the world’s leading distance races, from 124 countries and territories. AIMS Members come from every continent on the planet and include the ‘Athens Marathon. The Authentic’ formed on the legend of Pheidippides, the Greek soldier-runner who ran from the town of Marathon to Athens in 490 BC to announce the Persians had been defeated in the ‘Battle of Marathon’. Other AIMS members include many of the world’s greatest distance races in history such as the Beijing, Berlin, Boston, Chicago, Comrades, New York, Paris & Tokyo Marathons. The three key objectives of AIMS are:

To foster and promote distance running throughout the world
To work with the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) on all matters relating to international road races.
To exchange information, knowledge and expertise among members of the association
For further information, please contact:

Peter McLean, Director of Public Relations
Association of International Marathons & Distance Races
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Windsor House, 15 Kirklee Terrace,
Kelvinside, Glasgow, Scotland, G12 0TJ
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