TCS NYC Marathon Partners With Runna for AI-Powered Training

    Runners training for the TCS NYC Marathon this year will have access to some new high-tech help as they gear up for the big race.

    New York Road Runners, the nonprofit organization behind the iconic race, on Thursday announced a new three-year partnership with Runna, one of the world’s top online running coaching apps.

    As part of the deal, NYC Marathon runners will be able to sign up for specialized Runna subscriptions that will help them train for the Nov. 3 race. Plans will also be offered for next year’s United Airlines NYC Half and RBC Brooklyn Half. At the heart of the marathon subscription is a personalized training plan geared toward each runner’s abilities and goals.

    Each runner’s plan will adjust over time with the help of AI, based on data gathered during workouts. Runners will also be able to chat with coaches online, attend virtual course-strategy sessions and in-person events the week of the race. They’ll also be able to connect with other marathoners through the app and social media.

    “We wanted something that we felt was state of the art, that incorporated the most current technology including AI, to make it the most personalized experience that a runner could have,” Road Runners CEO Rob Simmelkjaer said in an interview with CNET.

    He added that it also was important for the platform to be affordable for the vast majority of runners. While the Runna plans aren’t cheap, costing between $55 and $110 depending on the number of weeks covered and whether the runner is a NYRR member, they’re considerably less expensive than what you might spend to hire a professional running coach.

    Images of Runna app.

    A look at the Runna app.

    Runna/New York Road Runners

    While runners still have the option of going low-tech and just printing out a static plan from the Road Runners website or elsewhere on the internet, those plans can’t be customized to an individual runner’s needs or change with them as they move through their training cycle.

    The need to create an affordable middle ground was what prompted Runna’s creators to launch the app a little over two years ago, said Ben Parker, the company’s head coach who also competes in marathons, ultra marathons and Ironman events.

    While there were other training apps already out there, Parker said the company just didn’t offer the kind of personalized experience runners need to be successful. So it set out to create a platform that would provide each runner with a “mathematically perfect workout” regardless of their abilities.

    And those workouts need to be fun and accountable, he said.

    “I think it’s that combination, the knowing that what we’re setting is perfect from a training perspective but it’s also fun, motivating and easy to follow,” Parker said.

    And runners have responded to that. The app now boasts hundreds of thousands of subscribers in about 180 countries. 

    The addition of AI to the mix is new. It’s just been rolled out to a small number of subscribers and will be coming soon to the rest, he said. It will be used to analyze a runner’s most recent three to four weeks of workout data, then recommend changes to their training plan if needed.

    And the app itself is constantly being updated and expanded. The ultimate goal is to eventually give every runner the same experience that a Western world olympian gets, offering coaching advice that covers everything from data science to strength training, nutrition and sports psychology, Parker said.

    Admittedly, much of that remains well down the road, at least for now. But Parker is optimistic about the future of the platform.

    “We’re well on the way to delivering that experience for every runner, no matter who you are or where you are in the world, in a super affordable and accessible package,” he said.

    Editors’ note: CNET used an AI engine to help create several dozen stories, which are labeled accordingly. The note you’re reading is attached to articles that deal substantively with the topic of AI but are created entirely by our expert editors and writers. For more, see our AI policy.

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