Sunday October 9th is the day of the Eindhoven Marathon. Eindhoven has the ambition to become the ‘smartest marathon in the world’. Runners can test a variety of high-tech products and services and universities are using the marathon as a field lab. What can we expect this year?
By Hidde Tangerman
Nowadays a marathon is so much more than just the 42 kilometres or 26 miles of asphalt that separates the runner from the finish. Running has become a lifestyle, an experience, a way to measure, challenge and improve yourself. The Eindhoven Marathon wants to optimize that experience by offering runners a host of innovative technologies they can use or test before, during and after the race.
“Our goal is to become the most innovative marathon in Europe and eventually in the world,” says Edgar de Veer from Golazo Sports, organizer of the Eindhoven Marathon. Since three years De Veer has reached out to knowledge institutes and high-tech companies in the Brainport region Eindhoven to use his marathon as a field lab for research and product testing. “Among runners the willingness to participate in these tests is really high,” he says.
De Veer is often found recruiting at the High Tech Campus Eindhoven, as three out of the four tech companies testing products at the Eindhoven Marathon have their roots here. SportTech is an up and coming market for high tech. At the Campus Philips has just developed its Health Watch and the Holst Center is looking for ways to deploy their brain wave analysis and sweat sensors into smartwatches. And the famous cycling brand Shimano has recently chosen to set up a lab at the Campus as well.
So who are the 4 high-tech startups participating in the Eindhoven Marathon and what do they have to offer?
- ProbeFix S: ultrasound on the run
The Eindhoven based startup Usono has developed a device that makes it possible to use ultrasound on a moving muscle. Normally, ultrasound scanners are hand-held devices, deployed by doctors in the fixed setting of a hospital room. Usono’s ProbeFix S is a kind of high-tech strap that fixes an ultrasound scanner to any part of the body, while the scanned patient can move or, in this case, run around.
The Eindhoven Marathon is the first time the technology is tested for such a long stretch of continuous exercise. Strapped to an athlete’s leg the ProbeFix S will continuously scan the leg muscles as the athlete is running. Doctors have never before seen a muscle in movement, so Eindhoven has a medical world premier.
“This is so innovative, we really don’t know what we can expect to see,” says co-founder Victor Donker. “It could be muscle strain, muscle fatigue indicators or muscle tears. We’re actually still looking for an expert that can draw conclusion from these images.”
- Carin: smart underwear
After pregnancy one out of three women suffers from urine loss, which is caused by a loss of flexibility in the pelvic muscles. The Carin ‘smart panties’ are a piece of underwear made from the fastest drying textile in the world, combined with several absorbing layers. A sensor is fitted in at the front to track the urine loss. Design and technology complement each other, as the Carin has the look and feel of fancy women’s underwear.
A prototype was tested during last year’s marathon. “The women told us they didn’t feel the sensor at all,” says marketing manager Eline van Uden. “And they were thrilled that they didn’t have to use pantyliners.”
Van Uden calls urine loss “the last taboo in women’s health”, as only 10% of the women suffering from it actively seek help. “We want to bring the issue out into the open, which is also why we market Carin as a sporting product. It makes it easier to accept.”
The Carin panties also come with an app that provides exercises to train the core and pelvic muscles. The sensor measuring the urine loss is connected with the app through bluetooth and gives updates on the progress made every three days.
- Fysio24: the injury prevention and recovery app
Injuries: arch enemy number one for runners. The tech startup Fysio24 has developed an app that enables runners to prevent or recover from injuries. The app is like a library of do-it-yourself programs that offer information, exercises, challenges and motivation to deal with injuries and other running related health issues.
“We know from research that 70% of all injured runners consult the internet to find solutions for their injuries,” says founder Janno Barlage. “Our app is targeted to that group.” Barlage has consulted with experts in sports therapy, nutrition, medicine and psychology, as well as top trainers and Olympic athletes to develop tailor-made programs based on the latest research and experience-based evidence. “Our programs include both physical, mental and nutritional information and instructions,” says Barlage.
For the Eindhoven Marathon Fysio24 designed two programs that runners can download for free. One offers a 7-day preparation program, the other is geared to proper recovery from the marathon and lasts for 5 days. Barlage: “Innovations like these are a great way for runners to increase ownership over their own running health. The Eindhoven Marathon is unique in this respect.”
- Arion: the world’s smallest and smartest insole
ATO-Gear is one of the exciting new startups in the running world. With their 2mm superthin and sensor-loaded insoles called Arion, the company provides runners with unprecedentedly detailed information on their running form.
The Arion slips underneath the existing shoe insole and offers a whole range of previously unmeasurable parameters, like strike index (where your foot strikes the ground), contact time, pronation and stride length. The data is communicated to a phone or smartwatch, providing real-time feedback. It’s like having an extra coach to finetune your running technique, with the aim to run better and faster with less injuries.
“There is a trend in the market for electronic devices to add more features related to running technique, coaching and smart training approaches,” says founder Andrew Statham. “We fully support that trend.” Last year Arion tested a prototype of the insole on 3 participants of the Eindhoven Marathon. All successfully finished inside their expected race times.
In the meantime the Arion has moved from prototype to product. At the Eindhoven Marathon Expo runners can try our the insoles and receive a detailed gait analysis on the spot, providing insights into both running technique and their shoe selection.
Pushing the limits
With its emphasis on high-tech exercise technology the Eindhoven Marathon is setting a trend in the running community. “We see innovation as a way to get people running more frequently, more enjoyably and more safely,” says Edgar de Veer. In his view technology provides a way to push the limits even further. “Innovation means looking differently at the existing situation and searching for alternatives instead of surrendering to the status quo.”
The Eindhoven Marathon starts this coming Sunday at 10 a.m. on the Mathildelaan.
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