Irish researchers have launched a new app, Pace-Man, which will help marathon runners predict and pace their marathon. The app leverages the peer-reviewed literature on marathon running and massive datasets of marathon race times to act as a personal coach throughout the race and help runners hit their marathon targets.

Pace-Man works by harvesting your work-out details from other fitness apps (including Strava), to identify the characteristics of your training (for instance, your weekly running distance or your average training pace). It then generates a realistic marathon finish timeframe that you can use to plan your race. During the race, Pace-Man administers audio and vibration feedback via your phone to let you know your target pace and when you are going too fast or too slow.

Dr Cailbhe Doherty of the SFI-funded Insight Centre for Data Analytics leads the team at Pace-Man. He outlined the vision:

“Our hope is that by providing runners with a personalised pacing strategy, they can run their best marathon: improving their race performances and avoiding the dreaded wall. Pace-Man devises a pacing strategy for your upcoming marathon, based on your predicted finish time. This pacing strategy is event-specific. For example, if you are running the Dublin Marathon, the pacing strategy that is developed will be designed for that marathon.”

The app is free to download and has already been used by runners in the 2017 London Marathon.

In recent years the race records for numerous marathon events have become publicly available. This data has enabled the researchers at Pace-Man to examine these races, thus giving new insights into the splits and overall finish times for different race events. In this way, it is possible to examine how a runner’s pacing strategy influences their end-result. In conjunction with this, peer-reviewed research in marathon training points to a variety of factors (like your age, gender, training habits and previous race performances) that can be used to predict eventual finish time. These datasets have been integrated into a single platform via the Pace-Man app.

Through this app, runners can input their personal information, training habits and race results, and receive both an evidence-based prediction for their finish time, and a personal pacing strategy that will help them to complete the marathon in that time.

The Pace-Man team is seeking to evaluate whether their technology is effective in supporting runners to run their best marathon – reaching their target finish time and helping them avoid hitting the dreaded wall for example. The app provides live audio feedback to runners in-race, alerting them as to whether they should speed up or slow down to help them reach their target.

“The idea is that it will act as your own personal coach, both before and during the race itself. We are looking for runners to use our app in the Dublin marathon. The app is free to download on iTunes, and runners would need to run the marathon with either their phone or their Apple Watch on them. What we want to see is whether those who use our app achieve their target times more than those who do not use it. We know running with a phone may be strange so to help runners get used to it, it is free to download and can be used while training.”

Doherty and his team are keen to not limit their research to those that simply use the app however. Doherty himself has been inspired by this research to undertake the Dublin marathon in October and is documenting his journey week by week on their website and social media platforms. Each week the team tackle a new topic and link it to Doherty’s own experiences. The team at Pace-Man are currently looking to recruit interested runners for their study, while their weekly articles are also available through their website. If you are interested in reading these articles, or would like to know more about the study, you can contact them at www.pace-man.com, at [email protected] or through their twitter and Instagram pages @PaceManApp.

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