Four years in a row
Given this is our 4th year working with the Brighton Marathon and that we have virtually the whole team done at the finishing line working on various elements, we thought it appropriate to live blog the day from our perspective.
Here we are 7:30am ready to go at this year's Brighton Marathon, an event we have been involved with since the first year in 2010. The event has been growing since the first year and is now the UK's 2nd largest marathon.
Our involvement has also grown through the years; the first year we produced a simple iPhone app with basic result data whilst this year we are running the raceday website, iPhone & Android apps with full runner tracking and post race we have produced their 2014 website.
So here we are in the Media Tent by the finish line, preparing the website monitoring the servers and liaising with the timing company (HS Sports) regarding receiving the data. Traditionally this is when things start to get busy as more and more people download the app and “favourite” their friends.
Making sure the servers are able to handle the massive load in a short period has always been tricky. There is no opportunity for proper beta testing as the event only happens on one day and really only over just the morning. It has to work under a large load with 1000s of people hitting the servers every few seconds.
This year we have made significant changes to the iPhone app and server backend, that limits the number of requests and will ensure everything stays reliable through the day.
With the race about to start we're being sent some initial test data to check the connection between HS Sports and ourselves. With 15000 (12000 iPhone, 3000 Android) devices now registered with us, things are going smoothly. Race news is also starting to come into to us and we're pulling out related tweets to keep the social media machine going.
Biggest news is the bacon sandwiches have been purchased and consumed although the media tent is feeling pretty chilly.
A slight pause whilst we wait for the race timing data to be sent to us. As we're dependent on the timing data there is always a slight delay whilst this process happens. It is a very involved process from a timing point of view with thousands of runners all passing over electronic mats, data being stored into a database and then various 3rd parties (including ourselves) being sent the data.
In the meantime we have activated the pacer pins within the apps so people can see roughly where their friends might be.
Race data now all coming in from timing company and so our servers are now working through a backlog of initial push notifications, 200 every 10seconds. Now we have the timing data the apps will also now be showing runner locations, assuming they have gone through the 2nd timing mat (at 10k). From this point we can use their initial times to approximate where they should be on the course map and when they might finish.
In other news the iPhone app has now reached number 40 in the free apps section of the AppStore, number 2 in the Sports category after The Masters Golf.
We've reached 18400 apps downloads (14400 iPhone and 4000 Android) and all going smoothly. Looks like our backend changes have been successful at keeping on top of the load. We're making a few changes to the backend queries to keep things running well, but all in all going well at the moment.
Apart from being absolutely freezing, all going well technically on the website and apps. Looks like in about 20mins the Elite runners will start coming through the finish. Incredible speed these guys and girls run at.
Looking back through previous years here are the stats:
Total Downloads: 3263
Total times used: 33818
Overall it peaked at number 13 in the AppStore Sports category and 450th overall in the UK
Total Downloads: 9428
Total times used: 48548
The app reached number 6 in the Sports section of the AppStore
Total Downloads: 12700
Total times used: 270000
The app hit number 50 in the Top Free Apps listing on iTunes
Total Downloads: 19800
Android – 4400
The app has reached number 27 overall and number 2 in the Sports section of the AppStore
Server load getting pretty high, but all holding together nicely. We've moved the search results element to an Amazon instance to take some of the load off of the main server.
Also now that all the data is in and been validated we're just checking the results we received with the official results that have been published. All looking ok at the moment.
Fully moved over onto our Amazon EC2 instance for the vast majority of the services we're hosting for the event. Allows for massive capacity and scale. Our dedicated server was doing well and for Brighton Marathon is just about enough, moving to Amazon allows us to test for larger events. We were running the two servers in parallel so switching was just a matter of changing a DNS entry and waiting for it to propagate around. Over 21,000 apps being used, plus the website and live raceday news feed and all on around 12% of the server power.
Things are running smoothly so time to pop out for food and to watch some of the race. Hopefully by the time we come back the photographers will have finished using the internet connection so we'll have some bandwidth back.
With competitors still arriving at the finish but with most people having come through and gone home, it is time for us to pack up our makeshift office and head out. It has been a massively successful day all round.
We'll post up the final app and website figures in the next day or so, once we've got our heads around things. For now though we're heading home to crack open the beers and enjoy the final hours of the first afternoon of sun in 2013.