The connection between Enschede Marathon and the university isn’t completely new, says professor Joost Kok, the dean of the UT’s faculty of Electrical Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science (EEMCS). ‘Scientists from EEMCS and from Roessingh Research and Development have collaborated with the Enschede Marathon for several years. Last year we focused on getting detailed personal data about individual runners, who were wearing sensors. This year we are putting in extra effort to collect data on a larger scale. In a way, this could become the smartest marathon in the country.’
People as dots
The researchers will place various sensors throughout the running track and on a few selected runners. This will allow them to see how many people pass and how fast they are moving at each given moment. ‘We are not interested in the individuals, but in their running strategies. We will only see people as dots, almost as ants running through the city,’ says Kok.
One of the main goals of the data collection is establishing successful pacing strategies for the marathon, but there could be many other uses for the data. ‘We could, for instance, look into the possibility of predicting when and why injuries occur. It can also help runners to deal with the heat, because that is often an issue,’ explains Joost Kok. ‘But we like to keep the goals open. We can apply AI or data science and see what we find. You can often be surprised what is in the data.’
Tip of the iceberg
The cooperation with Enschede Marathon is only one example of ‘sports data’ projects at EEMCS, stresses the dean. ‘Sport is one of the themes that combines expertise from all of our disciplines. We are working on many projects on the topic of sport and safety. For example, we look into safety of sport facilities and at large events. People are generally happy to share their data related to sport activities, which gives us the opportunity to collect knowledge that could be used for other disciplines as well. The marathon is only the tip of the iceberg.’
The UT’s cooperation with the Enschede Marathon also includes a congress ‘Get Ready!’. Organized on the 16th of April, just a few days before the marathon, it will feature lectures that can help runners prepare. Among the speakers will be UT researchers Marijke Schotanus and Joost Kok.