Though it has always seemed to be something of a cottage industry in this sport, personally I am always loath to criticize how others may cover the sport of track and field. Having covered the sport myself for many years, I am fully aware that mistakes are part of the game. But I jump to give a nod of approval when it’s deserved.
Today’s NBC coverage of the London Diamond League meet was notable for several reasons. First, the commentary by Paul Swangard, Ato Boldon , and Josh Cox was concise and drew attention to the athletes rather than themselves. But more than that, there was finally a technical level of proficiency that merited attention (though, as pointed out in a response below, the video feed was provided to NBC by the Diamond League organizers, to which they added the commentary of Paul, Ato, and Josh).
I have long said you could make a 44-second 400 look unusually pedestrian by shooting it with the stationary camera positioned high in the stands looking down at the track. But today there was temendous gator-mounted tracking camera footage utilized to bring the power and speed of the sport into America’s living rooms (or wherever one may have watched). (more…)
People watch foot races for the same reasons they watch other sports: to root for the home team, see how the drama plays out (especially if the stakes are high), and to be inspired by those who do it exceedingly well. At times, like at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, it is especially riveting when both hearts and minds become entwined in the outcome. Caring who wins matters.
But over the last generation we have witnessed what was once a robust gathering of eagles from all parts of the globe be winnowed to a very small aerie in East Africa. In that sense, we don’t have to wait and see who is going to win a major marathon or road race anymore, or how; we know before the starter’s horn ever sounds what will happen. And when all (or vast majority) of the winners from the same region express the same reluctance to fill the spotlight from a marketing or media standpoint — in order to overcome the public’s inability to differentiate one from the other while helping generate sponsor interest — we see the potential end-game, as with CGI’s elimination of their entire North American elite athlete budget, reportedly $1 million U.S.
Yet in the wake of that announcement, even as the chat rooms and social media have lit up with either support for or condemnation of CGI, the only two athletes who have spoken out on the issue publicly that I’ve seen have been Josh Cox and today Ryan Vail of the U.S. Perhaps I have missed others, but not one word has emerged from any of the world’s greatest runners, or their representatives. Nothing. And yet the CGI decision affects them more than anyone. Perhaps there is a fear of speaking out, but even in that light do we wonder why CGI makes this kind of call?! (more…)
One week from today the 39th BMW Berlin Marathon will kick off the post-Olympic fall major marathon season. Part of the week’s menu in Berlin will be the announcement of the destination for the Mystery Marathon, the new adventure marathon event helmed by Elite Racing and Rock `n` Roll Marathon founder Tim Murphy.
While the official unveil of the Mystery Marathon’s destination isn’t scheduled until next Thursday, I have the inside track (disclaimer: I’m part of the MM team!) As such, I’ll have an exclusive sneak peak at the new Mystery Marathonwebsite next Tuesday September 25th. Look for that here on the blog. The Mystery Marathon promises to be a unique and first-rate operation, without doubt!
Now to the Berlin Marathon itself. American 50K record holder Josh Cox and I will man the booth for Universal Sports TV coverage of Berlin next Sunday September 30 from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. Pacific. And since the last four men’s marathon world records have been set in the German capital, the 39th Berlin Marathon portends mighty possibilities. (more…)
Though it is the most basic of all sports, running has always had a pretty high Geek factor, especially among its more serious adherents. Whether it’s in shoe design, the latest moisture-wicking apparel, or the most sophisticated GPS or heart rate monitor, runners are always searching for that Holy Grail that might help get them from point A to point B even faster than before.
Over the years, the Los Angeles Marathon has ushered in a number of technological firsts for the sport. In 1996, LA was the first major U.S. marathon to utilize a field-wide chip timing system. Then in 2009, LA became the first big city 26-miler to fully adopt social media outlets such as Facebook, YouTube, RSS, Flickr and Twitter. Now again in 2012 L.A. will showcase another new technology. But this development, rather than being ancillary to the sport, is focused on directly on it. What’s more, it has the potential to unlock long hidden secret chambers that, once opened, could change the very nature of how runners train, avoid injury, while at the same time illuminate the competition for a television audience in a way never before possible.
This Sunday at the 27thHonda LA Marathon, wireless sensor technology will be utilized to monitor and analyze the stride characteristics of several runners, both elite and local, as they move from the start line at Dodger Stadium 26.2 miles to the finish line in Santa Monica.
Small motion-detecting sensors, weighing less than an ounce each, will be worn atop the shoe laces of the runners. Then, using a smartphone transmission, three distinct characteristics of their strides – Cadence, Ground Contact Time, and Kick Dynamic – will be uploaded to KTLA-TV which will then broadcast those metrics in real time via an on-screen dashboard for analysis and comparison.
“Through this technology, we can identify the changes in a runner’s stride dynamic over the course of the marathon,” explained Bill Kaiser, co-director of the UCLA Wireless Health Institute, and one of the inventors of the technology now licensed by Pegasus Sports Performance.“We can then analyze those changes to evaluate their efficiency as fatigue begins to take its toll, but which might yet be too subtle for the human eye, alone, to pick up.”
Cadence (strides per minute), Ground Contact Time, and Kick Dynamic (called distal leg lift) will be monitored on a continuous basis at a rate of 60-100Hz per second. These metrics will then be shown to the TV audience in real time on a graphic dashboard throughout the race – no different than how NASCAR illustrates the internal workings of their race cars on TV via dashboard displays.
Josh Cox Laces Up
“I’ve trained with the sensors several times, and competed in them once,” said Josh Cox, American 50K record holder who beta tested the sensors at last fall’s Rock `n’ Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon. “The advantages for the athlete are twofold. One, you can analyze the data post-race or post-workout, and fine tune your workouts according to what you’ve learned about your stride mechanics. But it’s a real eye-in-the-sky for the coach, who is able to coordinate and monitor an athlete’s stride characteristics during the workout itself. And while an athlete might have previously given his coach feedback like ‘maybe I went out a little too hard, but I felt okay on that last interval’, now the coach can just look at his smartphone and say, ‘Hey, your heart rate is up, your stride is beginning to change. You’re doing more harm than good. You’re done for the day’.”
Perhaps more impressive is the ability to actually monitor a workout in real-time off site. Say Meb Keflezighi was in Mammoth, California doing a tempo run, but his coach Bob Larsen was back home L.A. Bob could still monitor Meb’s workout in real time via his smartphone or computer as he watches Meb’s heart rate, cadence, ground contact time, kick dynamic, pronation, and supination 300 miles to the north. Then, with an escort alongside in a car or on a bike – as Meb so often has – coach Larsen could communicate his observations and instructions to Meb on the fly. (more…)