Brighton Marathon
Written by Andy Ferrett
Apr 16, 2013

Brighton Marathon App

Brightec created an app for the Brighton Marathon that increased competitor support and spectator engagment

The UK's second biggest running event

The inaugural Brighton Marathon took place in April 2010 with just under 8,000 participants, which had more than doubled by 2012.

After the London marathon, Brighton now ranks as the UK’s #2 running event and is considered the 11th best running event in Europe. As a result of growing interest in the event, the 2013 marathon was broadcast live on Channel 4.

The brief

In 2010 whilst Brighton Marathon was in its infancy, Brightec pitched to build an iPhone app to support the race and in 2013, we also introduced an Android app.

During the run-up, the Brighton marathon app would provide a countdown clock, live news and a list of all participants. During the event and on the day it would serve both runners and spectators by providing live statistics, mapping each runner’s progress over five marker points throughout the course and estimating their current position and finish time.

Technically, the app would need to be sufficiently robust to support thousands of concurrent users and a continuous stream of live updates on the race day. Most users would be experiencing the app over 3G rather than wifi, so it would need be lightweight, fast and responsive in order to maintain optimum usability.

"My friends knew where I was & I knew my finish time instantly"

What we delivered

In 2013, the Brighton Marathon app supported a database of 15,000 runners and 370 charities.

Pre-race news

During the race run-up, a news feed on the app was constantly updated via the marathon’s Twitter feed. The app listed all supported charities and named their runners, increasing pre-race engagement by allowing supporters to find and cheer on runners for their chosen charity.

On the day engagement

Spectators could use the app to look up runners by name or by number and add their friends to a list of ‘favourites’ to be tracked during the race.

In 2013, we worked with the timing company HS Sports to record each runner’s position and relay their timings to the app. For the first time, we measured position at five different locations along the course, allowing app users to see more accurate estimated positions for each runner before they crossed the finish line marker.

Social buzz

The app is designed so that runner times and performance metrics can easily be shared over Facebook and Twitter so that all achievements could be enjoyed, celebrated and shared – instantly.

The buzz created by multiple social media mentions helped heighten awareness and interest in both the event and the app itself – in 2013, of the 24,000 app downloads, 10,000 were made on race day.

"The Brighton Marathon app must be the finest example of using a smartphone at its best - Richard Brown, spectator"

How we did it

Each runner had a small RFID tag attached to their shoe to mark their position as they were detected crossing the start, 10k, half way, 30k and finish points. We published this data to the app in real time, so that spectators could see runner positions within a few minutes.

Once each runner had completed the course, the app displayed their marker point times, race position and finishing line time, then created an overall leaderboard of results.

Measures of success

Every version of the app has been an acclaimed success both by our client, and from the app store reviews.

In 2013, a huge number of on-the-day downloads saw our app peak at #2 in the UK app store’s sports category and in 2012, it featured on the iTunes home page under ‘New and Noteworthy’.

In 2013, 86% of runners were tracked by at least one supporter using the app.

"the app peaked at #2 in the UK app store’s sports category"

Technology we used

Building on what we’ve learned over several years about how the app is used on race days, we’ve made improvements which have moved the apps from strength to strength.

In 2012, we redesigned the app to perform faster when a user’s 3G or wifi signal is low, and in 2013 we plotted estimated positions for each runner (based on their marker timings) and added pacer positions. These improvements made the app experience more seamless for those following the race.

For greater technical detail on the Brighton Marathon app, read Erik’s blog post.

Praise for the Brighton Marathon app

"Brighton Marathon are over the moon with the app Brightec created for us. They instantly understood the sort of application that would bring benefit to an event such as ours and with very short time frames created a fantastic service.

We look forward to building on our relationship for the 2013 event and long into the future. I have already recommended Brightec to anyone who is looking for a forward-thinking application."

Tom Naylor, Managing Director, Grounded Events

What the app users say

“I don’t normally review apps but was so impressed with this. Free, slick and great for friends to see how I was getting on.”

“Really useful on race day, results available really quickly and able to see how much time had lapsed! Great app and a great event.”

“Terrific little app. I got my time straight away and before the results were available on the web.”

“Excellent well done, iPhone app… So now we have all the gadgets, just need to run the 26.2 miles now!”

“Such a step up from last year. Brilliant being able to track friends around the course and to see which charities people are running for.”

“Easy to search for runners by number of by name. Maps of the route. Alerts you when your runners pass the half way with this time and expected finish time and alerts when they finish. Was fantastic until the phone network got too busy, but we couldn’t text or make calls, so that’s not the app’s fault!”