Virtual reality opens London Marathon to all

Fri Apr 11, 2014 12:37pm EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - "You're virtually there" is a common shout of encouragement to ailing runners in the London marathon but thanks to a new "interactive 3D experience" athletes the world over will be able to navigate the course from the comfort of their own treadmill.

Marathon organizers have combined with established treadmill video producers Paofit to create the new system that combines HD video of the entire 26.2 mile, icon-studded route with virtual reality avatars.

Over 30,000 people will run the actual race on Sunday but more than 130,000 others were unsuccessful in the ballot for places that closed after nine hours. Since the inaugural event in 1981 almost 900,000 people have completed the race but almost two million have been rejected.

Now, people training for the race, as well as those who missed out, can get a taste of the course.

"It's a fantastic innovation," race director Hugh Brasher told Reuters on Friday shortly before running a treadmill mile as part of the system's official launch.

"You can see the famous landmarks of the Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace and even experience the thrill of the finish on The Mall.

"It's certainly the next-best thing to doing the race and turns what could be a dull treadmill run into a really exciting experience.

"With the interactive technology you can even race against a friend on the same part of the course, even if they are in another town or even another country."   Continued...

A police officer observes runners and crowd during the London Marathon April 21, 2013. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor