Blind Runner’s Wearable Technology Gets Off to Complicated Start

Even for sighted runners in New York, a marathon march is a plea over perfect mileage. It requires regulating in thick bunches and maneuvering delicately to a side of a highway during H2O stations, where a cement is soppy and dirty with paper cups.

Wheatcroft was regulating new record that had not been tested in a race. He accepted that many things could go wrong. The steel girders of bridges along a march scrambled a digital compass on his iPhone. He disturbed about other probable maritime glitches caused by Bluetooth interference.

What if someone stopped in front of him to take a selfie? How would he refill his H2O bottle? Could he sojourn on march as a competition incited off Fifth Avenue and funneled into Central Park during Mile 24, curling around a reservoir, that had seemed to perplex his GPS on some exam runs?

He had used technology, such as Runkeeper, an app that gave his gait and stretch with voice commands. But visual navigation for visually marred runners was in a infancy. As Sunday’s competition approached, Wheatcroft described himself as excited, nervous, a small fearful.


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“It’s a difficult course, there’s a lot of people, we can’t means to make mistakes,” he said. “Reaction times need to be sharp.”

His biggest concern, he said, was rightly interpreting a patterns of vibrations on his arm and chest. If he became confused, he designed to do what marathon runners mostly did in times of stress: delayed down.

Wheatcroft was a seasoned stretch runner, carrying finished a Boston Marathon 3 times and ultramarathons as prolonged as 83 miles. In 2014, he ran from Boston to New York as a warm-up, afterwards ran a New York City Marathon. He hoped to finish in 4 and a half hours on Sunday, some-more than 40 mins faster than his prior best in New York.

Wheatcroft and Kevin Yoo, one of 3 founders of WearWorks, had been contrast a Wayband record given April. As with any prototypes, there were advances and setbacks. On Friday afternoon in Central Park, and again Saturday, last-minute enlightening continued with a chest sensor.


A motivational orator who is posterior a master’s grade in mechanism science, Wheatcroft, 35, picked adult his competition bib.

Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Keith Kirkland, another owner of WearWorks, joked about regulating along a march during a competition and job out, “Anyone have a soldering iron?”

On Sunday, Yoo started his initial marathon, anticipating to accompany Wheatcroft for as prolonged as he could. The Wayband device was incited off for a initial dual miles of a competition on a climb and skirmish of a Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Too many runners packaged together. Too most risk of technological overload.

“Could we ask everybody to be demure and greatfully not use their cellphones?” Yoo joked before a race.

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Crosswinds floating over a chest sensor gave treacherous signals to Wheatcroft on a bridge, though a alley was far-reaching and he had copiousness of open space to run. Neil Bacon, a crony who has mostly accompanied Wheatcroft, reminded him not to get too exuberant.

“You’re doing 26 miles,” Bacon said. “Don’t go off like it’s a half-marathon.”

At a initial H2O stop, about dual and a half miles into a race, a beam for another curtain stopped in front of Wheatcroft. His chest sensor was set to warning him when an barrier was 7 feet away. He did not have adequate time to stop and clipped a lady from behind, though conjunction was hurt. At a second H2O stop, he slowed and changed to a core of a road.


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Just after Mile 3, a Wayband device signaled wrongly that Wheatcroft was headed in a wrong direction. He stopped and walked for a minute, afterwards renewed his pace. Tall and thin, wearing a white top on his shaved head, he had run 4 miles but any assistance.

Taking in a savoury scents of late-morning cooking in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, Wheatcroft said, “I could run this thing on smell.”

But he would have to be prepared if his digital compass went haywire after in a competition — while on a Pulaski Bridge during a median point, a Queensboro Bridge between Miles 15 and 16 or a Willis Avenue Bridge during Mile 20 — and a vibrations from his armband signaled wrongly that he was veering off course.

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