London Marathon uses wearable devices to ensure social distancing

By Ellen Daniel

Wearable devices will be used to ensure athletes remain socially distanced and monitor interactions during the run-up to the London Marathon this Saturday.

The London Marathon was due to take place on 26 April before being postponed until 4 October. This weekend, the event will go ahead but as an elite-only race in a secure biosphere environment, with changes to the usual route and no in-person spectators.

It is the first major marathon to take place globally since the start of the pandemic.

In order to ensure their safety, the 100 athletes taking part have been tested for Covid-19 before the race, but they will also be wearing wearable devices during the run-up to the event.

The devices will be provided by robotics company Tharsus, which has developed a wearable called Bump designed to alert the wearer if they are too close to another person, and also monitor which individuals have interacted with eachother in the event of an outbreak.

The devices were originally developed for workplaces, but through the partnership with the Virgin Money London Marathon they will allow marathon organisers to monitor how often and for how the athletes and staff spend within a pre-defined distance of one another.

As well as athletes, Bump devices will also be worn by members of the marathon’s operational team.

According to Tharsus, this could highlight the benefits of using wearable devices during sporting events for athletes, spectators and event organisers.

Hugh Brasher, event director, The Virgin Money London Marathon, said that the technology was originally going to be supplied to all runners during the original mass participation event.

“This weekend’s event is the culmination of months of planning around how to deliver a socially distanced 2020 Virgin Money London Marathon that is safe for all participants and stakeholders. Tharsus’ Bump technology has played an important role, giving our athletes and internal teams extra confidence to engage with the event safely,” he said.

“We have been working with Tharsus for many months and, when we were still hoping to deliver the mass participation event on its usual route, we were planning to supply all participants with the Bump technology in order to hold a socially-distanced mass event. It shows how important a role technology can play in the current situation.”

The London Marathon is also hosting a virtual event on Sunday, with participants having 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds to complete 26.2 miles remotely.

Read more: Bump: Could a wearable device be the answer to workplace social distancing?