Technology

With New App, 2014 Boston Marathon Will Go Virtual

By / Feb 12, 2014 (bostonmarathonworldrun.org screenshot)

Community—and the Boston Athletic Association’s mission to promote health and wellness through sports—is at the heart of a new app that will allow runners everywhere to run their own virtual Boston Marathon.

Nearly a year after the Boston Marathon became a target of terrorism, runners are racing to apply for the 2014 event. Not every marathon hopeful will qualify or be able to travel to the city to compete, so organizers at the Boston Athletic Association are enlisting technology to spread the spirit of the 2014 Boston Marathon around the world.

For this year’s event, 36,000 runners will be invited, up from 27,000 last year, making it the second-largest Boston Marathon ever. “We’ve seen a tremendous outpouring of support and a high level of interest in participating this year,” Tom Grilk, BAA’s executive director, said in a statement. “We can only physically accommodate so many runners on the course, and we were nowhere near meeting demand.”

BAA’s solution: the new Boston Marathon World Run app.

“We wanted to create something through technology where we could allow people of any ability to run any distance, anywhere in the world, and, in some way, be connected with the Boston Marathon,” said T.K. Skenderian, marketing and sponsorship manager at BAA.

Through the app and a corresponding website, users will be able to share photos, set mileage goals, track their progress, and connect with other amateur and elite runners across the globe. Runners will be assigned their own virtual bib number, and when they reach their goal on Patriots Day—Monday, April 21, the day of the Boston Marathon—they will be able to print a finisher’s certificate and share a virtual medal, similar to the ones marathon runners receive, on social media.

“We’ll never be able to replicate the feeling of turning onto Boylston Street and crossing that finish line, but if we can motivate one or two people out there to set a goal and then hit that goal, and also feel connected with our race, then I think we’re succeeding,” Skenderian said. “Our mission at the BAA is to promote health and wellness through sports, especially running, and if we can do that through this technology, then I think we’re doing right by our mission.”

Skenderian credits the app’s early success—it has already been downloaded in more than 50 countries—to the “incredible running community” worldwide.

“We’ve got a great running community here in Boston, and people around the world want to be involved within our community this spring,” he said. “This app is a mechanism by which they can feel connected to the race and experience that sense of community, and we’re more than thrilled about it.”

The app is available for free in the iTunes and Google Play stores, and on the World Run website.

Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. More »

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