Northumberland robotics company designs app for social distancing

100 elite athletes complete a COVID-secure London marathon course.

Lily Holbrook
19th October 2020

Over 45 000 runners took part in the London Marathon on 4th October 2020. Elite athletes completed an official course, with non-elite athletes completing a virtual course and logging their progress on an app.

100 elite runners ran 19.6 laps of a 'covid-secure' course around London St James' Park, finishing on The Mall as per tradition. Other participants had a 24-hour window to complete the event.

Participants in the official event used 'Bump', a bluetooth tracking device which notified staff and runners when they were in close proximity of one another. If anyone tested positive for up to 2 weeks before the race, those they were in contact with were notified. This app, which facilitated the first marathon to take place anywhere in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic, was designed by Tharsus, a robotics manufacturing company based in Blyth, Northumberland.

The Blyth robotics company is also beginning trials of the 'Bump' device in the NHS to potentially protect immunocompromised patients in hospitals. An audio and visual cue may make vulnerable patients, such as those suffering from cancer, to remain safe. As well as this, Tharsus is keen to expand in workplaces.

Although operational staff and runners were required to wear the Bump device around their necks in the build-up to the race, athletes were allowed to remove the device shortly before the start line.

"Everything has been so negative with COVID-19, but doing something positive with 45,000 people around the world was just so lovely"

Event director, Hugh Brasher, said of the event, “I am really proud that we’ve been agile enough to put this race on and have been given the support to do it. I hope we can be a beacon of light in the darkness and that this event will show the power of the family of mankind coming together."

Ms Silverthorn ran her 11th marathon remotely from Penzance. She tells the BBC: "Everything has been so negative with COVID-19, but doing something positive with 45 000 people around the world was just so lovely".

"It's not like previous marathons with the loud crowds. There came a point where I needed a few shouts and some car horns to keep me going."

In a shock result, reigning champion Eliud Kipchoge was beaten to the finish line by 24 year old Ethiopian Shura Kitata, who took the win with a time of 2 hours, 5 minutes and 41 seconds.

The use of radio-frequency technology shows promise for Covid-secure events in the future. However, the 2021 London Marathon has already been postponed from the usual April date to October as a precaution.

Featured Image: Twitter (@Tharsusltd)

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AUTHOR: Lily Holbrook
MA Media & Journalism student and science sub-editor for the 20/21 academic year.

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