When thousands of marathon runners crossed the starting line of the 19th Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon in October this year, it was the culmination of months of preparation by both the athletes and the organizers – and, for the latter, an increasingly technology-based approach.

For the fifth year running, Dimension Data partnered with Standard Chartered and the organizers of Kenya’s largest single-day sports event to provide the connectivity that linked all the efforts to prepare for and manage the hybrid race, which had a target of 15,000 runners in the physical race and 10,000 competing in a virtual marathon.

The marathon secretariat – the central body in charge – oversees a complicated logistics plan that covers all aspects of the race, from providing thousands of kits to participants beforehand to safely reuniting children and parents at care areas after the race. They also gather large volumes of data on competitors, route changes, race conditions and more.

Connected to the cloud

To keep track of their progress and milestones, members of the secretariat use a logistics application. Once again, Dimension Data hosted the application in a local cloud environment and provided the required computing resources.

We also provided connectivity to the back-end application – for example, at the various locations where runners arrived and signed in on marathon day – and enough redundant connectivity and backup power to prevent a break in this all-important service. This also supported the secretariat’s other duties, such as printing race vouchers and other documents on location.

An on-site Dimension Data engineer helped the marathon’s information technology team manage their back-end application servers. Security was configured within the secretariat’s application itself, but there was also a layer of security in both our back-end and cloud environment and in the secretariat’s Wi-Fi network.

New technology, new opportunities

Our role as the official connectivity partner to the marathon showcases our ability to provide world-class connectivity and reliable cloud infrastructure that support even the most demanding scenarios across multiple locations.

But how will the evolution of networking technology support such events in future? The Internet of Things (IoT) connects many devices – monitors worn by marathon runners, for example – to provide real-time data from which many insights can be gathered. Now, private 5G offered by NTT, our parent company, offers the superfast and highly reliable connectivity needed to realize the full potential of IoT.

Imagine a race where each runner’s vital data – such as their heart rate, their breathing, their speed, even their hydration levels – is transmitted from a monitoring device in real time via private 5G to show the runner, organizers and fans alike how they are performing in the race so far, where they have accelerated, how well they are coping with hills and what their estimated finish time is. And, after the race, the runners can obtain a detailed analysis of their full race performance within seconds.

Many current applications of private 5G and IoT are found in high-value and high-productivity industrial environments, but this is an example of how our latest technology can also digitally transform other industries and events.

Nairobi Marathon representatives holding tree sappling

An estimated 25,000 trees will be planted as part of the Nairobi Marathon’s sustainability efforts this year

Sustainability is key

Our partnership not only allows us to explore new ways of using technology but also supports our sustainability ambitions.

Standard Chartered has referred to the event as “the world’s most sustainable marathon”. This goes beyond cutting back on single-use water bottles to raising funds for community initiatives, all of which also aligns with our own sustainability goals.

Funds from this year’s marathon will be used to plant one tree for every runner who took part – equivalent to the birth of a new forest of 25,000 trees in Kenya.

Then, Standard Chartered’s Futuremakers program funds young entrepreneurs and new enterprises across East Africa to help address unemployment in the region. The bank has committed to raising USD 50 million by 2023 to address inequality and improve economic inclusion among young people across its markets, and funds raised by the marathon have already contributed to a range of initiatives.

These initiatives make us proud of our involvement with the Standard Chartered Nairobi Marathon as we work toward another important finish line: saving our planet.

Samuel Wanduga is Senior Technical Architecture Team Lead at Dimension Data.

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