Posts Tagged ‘Tokyo Marathon’

Tech for keeping pace with the marathon trendsetters

Friday, February 24th, 2012

A participant in last year's Tokyo Marathon takes the rat race literally. (Mark Thompson photo)

It’s been two years since the Japanese press got all out of breath announcing an “unprecedented running boom,” and yet the spandex-clad pack of joggers shows no sign of slowing down. Though the numbers are down from last year, this Sunday’s Tokyo Marathon still had almost 10 times as many applicants as the 35,500 spots in the race. The increase in women running put the phrase “beautiful jogger” onto the shortlist of top buzz words for 2011. As the marathoners get in their final practice runs and the spectators stake out their spots, we bring you a few of the tech trends that are going the distance for runners in Japan.

Sites like Run Net and Sports Entry make it easy to apply online for the growing number of races held all over the country. Popular races can fill up the same day they’re announced, leaving many would-be entrants hovering over their computer screens like they’re waiting for a starting gun. In addition to dedicated sites like these, runners in Japan are using Twitter to find running partners and groups with hashtags like #run_jp and #running (in both English and katakana).

Running rings around the Imperial Palace

The American fitness app RunKeeper has a loyal following among runners in Japan, even though the interface is only in English. A similar Japanese app called Tweet Runners also maps and shares completed runs on social media and is sponsored by pharmaceutical and supplement company Otsuka. Maybe not surprising for an app from a company better known for products like CalorieMate bars and the sports drink Pocari Sweat than its software, runners find its functions less robust than RunKeeper’s.

While not a role model for every runner, Tokyo Marathon veteran Joseph Tame is showing exactly what is possible when mobile tech is applied to the marathon course. Over the past few years, Tame has made an international name for himself by broadcasting his Tokyo Marathon runs via a wearable Ustream studio cobbled together from various mobile-tech devices. He keeps in shape between races and sharpens his tech capabilities at the same time with his “Art of Running” project: His meticulously plotted routes draw pictures or Japanese characters on the Tokyo map when he’s done. This year, he’ll be broadcasting a live interview with a fellow runner every kilometer of the race.

Continue reading about tech at the Tokyo Marathon →

Music makes bananas fit for the long run

Monday, February 21st, 2011

Blasting an early ’90s J-pop song on repeat for a week straight might sound like a dubious military tactic. But Dole is just doing it to give its bananas a little extra pep for the Tokyo Marathon.

Banana power

Banana power

A variety of banana called Lakatan will arrive green from the Philippines and then be ripened for eight days in a storage facility after arrival in the Tokyo area. Various companies in Japan have experimented with giving their foods and beverages a bit of culture by letting them mature to Mozart, with “Mozart bananas” getting the most attention. While the Mozart pieces were chosen for frequency profiles that are reported to increase taste quality, the music for the marathon bananas was chosen a bit less scientifically: Dole asked former marathon runners via Twitter what songs they’d most like to hear at different points in the race. The inspirational song “Makenaide! (Don’t Give Up!)” by Zard was the hands-down winner, so that’s what the bananas are being serenaded with, 24 hours a day, for the eight days leading up to the marathon.

Some 78,000 bananas will be given out throughout the race to the 32,000 marathon runners at four spots along the 42.2-km route. The soundness of the science behind the singing seems to be a minor point. The company alludes to it only by having a slightly skeptical “Chief Quality Officer Alberto” of the plantation say in the promotional video clip that he “heard somewhere that playing music for the fruit  increases the sugar content . . . They’re nutritious either way, so why not give it a shot.”

With or without music, the Lakatan bananas have about twice the citric acid as the more commonly eaten Cavendish variety. Citric acid is popular as a diet and sports nutrition ingredient in Japan, and these little guys will continue to be sold as “sports bananas” once the race is over. They’re quite a bit smaller than the bananas usually sold in Japan, with a slightly tarter taste and denser, slightly orangey flesh. They’ll be available in grocery stores for about ¥300 a bunch, and sports shops will also be selling them experimentally for the month after the marathon.

Dentsu, Young & Rubicam is the PR company behind the marathon campaign, as well as those memorable spots with Shingo Katori sprouting bananas from his face. Just us, but we find the music thing a lot less disturbing.

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