The Blind Man Who Used Tech to Run the New York City Marathon
Running the New York marathon is an enormous feat for anyone, but particularly for American runner Simon Wheatcroft.
After steadily losing his eyesight from age 17 due to a rare disorder, his passion for running never diminished.
A seasoned long distance runner, this was Wheatcroft's third New York Marathon but his first time running unassisted. Instead of running with guides, he used technology called corrective navigation.
He wore an armband by company WearWorks, it connects via Bluetooth to a smartphone and utilises information gathered from Google Maps, OpenStreetMap and other technologies. It then guides the user to their destination by emitting vibrations to signal the runner which way to go.
He also wore an ultra-sonic sensor that alerted him to obstacles and other runners in his path. Wheatcroft also used his iPhone combined with a GPS to stay on track.
This was the first time this type of technology had been used in a race environment and the developers were nervous for Simon and the runners around him.
Unfortunately the digital compass on his iPhone stopped working at mile 15 and he began to struggle to navigate as his chest sensor gave out as well. With ten miles to go Simon was relying purely on his running guides to alert him to other runners, turns, potholes and water stops.
Amazingly Wheatcroft finished the New York City Marathon in a time of 5 hours 17 minutes and 40 seconds, half of that completely unassisted.
From his experience with the WearWorks gear he hopes to improve the technology for future runners and for everyday use for vision impaired people.
Before Simon ran the New York Marathon he ran from Boston to New York and you can watch his amazing journey here:
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