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Vodafone joins attempt to break two hour marathon barrier

25 Apr 2017Technology news
3 minute read

Vodafone has joined an innovative project that aims to help an athlete to run a marathon in under two hours, one of the greatest challenges in sport.

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Elite runner, Kenenisa Bekele tests the Vodafone SUB2 app at his training camp in Ethiopia. Credit: Kurat Pictures

Vodafone has added its expertise to a group of specialist scientists, the world’s best marathon runners, and other industry partners in a project called SUB2 ( that is demonstrating how science and technology can fairly help athletes improve their performance.

Engineers from Vodafone Group’s Networks Centre of Excellence team have developed an innovative SUB2 mobile application that serves as a ‘hub’ to aggregate a range of data feeds to assist runners and their support team.

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(l-r) Kenenisa and Kyriakos Exadaktylos, Vodafone Group’s Head of Network Standards, testing the app in Ethiopia. Credit: Kurat Pictures

The Vodafone SUB2 app is designed to run on smart watches with the Android Wear 2.0 operating system and standalone connectivity, meaning that the smart watch does not need to be paired to a smartphone.

Kenenisa Bekele has been using the Vodafone SUB2 mobile app as his digital pacemaker in training and marathon races.

Kenenisa is the current world and Olympic record holder for the 5,000 and 10,000 metres and in September 2016 ran the second fastest marathon of all time.

The SUB2 app provides Kenenisa and his support team with highly precise real time measures of distance run and speed using an algorithm created by Vodafone.

In testing the algorithm has been shown to make GPS location data up to 10 times more accurate.

The app will soon be able to integrate sensors to measure heart rate, running economy, skin and core temperature and numerous other essential physiological parameters.

The app will additionally provide a live data feed of land and air temperature based on satellite information.

The Vodafone SUB2 app connects to a Cloud-based portal so that the athlete’s training team can view the data on a desktop, tablet or a smartphone in real time.

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(l-r) Professor Yannis Pitsiladis, Kyriakos Exadaktylos and Mersha Asrat Woldemeskel, Kenenisa’s coach examine performance data collected by the Vodafone.SUB2 app. Credit: Kurat Pictures Plc

The SUB2 team wants to use the mobile network to communicate with their elite athletes to optimise their training and improve the team’s understanding of the limits of human performance.

Santiago Tenorio, Vodafone Group’s Head of Network Strategy & Architecture, said:

"As the SUB2 project’s technology partner, Vodafone is empowering elite athletes to make some of the marginal gains needed to break the two hour marathon barrier. This project showcases Vodafone’s ability to provide connectivity and innovative services for standalone wearable devices."

The SUB2 project was founded by Yannis Pitsiladis, who is a Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Brighton and is a member of the International Olympic Committee’s Medical and Scientific Commission.

Professor Pitsiladis said:

"SUB2 is the first dedicated international research initiative made up of specialist multidisciplinary scientists from academia, elite athletes and strategic industry partners with the aim to promote clean sports. This innovative running project is envisaged to create a lasting positive legacy for sport. We want to work with Vodafone to harness their extensive knowledge to quickly, reliably and accurately deliver essential data to help our athletes train better and race faster."

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