A Marathon Effort Driven by Data

6 min read

Today's guest post is written by Amanda Fennell, Marketing Director, EMEA. This is it! The unmistakable beep of GPS watches mingle with the cheers of the crowd as I cross the starting line of the 2016 London Marathon in Greenwich Park on a chilly Sunday April morning. Time to test four months of training. Did I really have what it takes to run 26.2 miles to the other side of London? London is one of 500 Marathons that takes place each year, with the vast majority of runners putting themselves through their paces to raise valuable funds for deserving charities. This was the focus that held me to my training schedule on dark, cold winter evenings. As I crossed the starting line my focus became a battle between me and the roads of London. Thanks to a small, but powerful, tag secured to my shoelaces, friends and family were able to track my progress from the comfort of their homes - lucky them! The power of that data certainly motivated me to succeed. My watch clocked off the miles with a reassuring beep just moments before each distinctive official mile mark. I relied on the data from my watch to help me keep a steady pace throughout the race. Despite the fatigue of running for over 4 hours I kept my pace to the end, crossing the line in a respectable 4:41:42.  In my post- Marathon euphoria I examined the data posted from my timing tag. While I was pounding the London streets, it shared an update at each 5km mark, showing that I clocked each one off at a steady 33 minutes. The website then provided a more detailed, powerful breakdown of my performance, offering me a range of data. Of the 39,001 runners who finished that day, my overall placing of 24,825, and 7,373rd of the 15,059 women. Also, over the final 7.2km I passed 1597 runners and just 10 passed me, which confirmed my steady pace throughout. Digging further into the data allowed me to compare myself to my peers and revealed my finishing time was in the lower 50% of runners in my age group and positioned me outside the median of 4:20:42. Furthermore, one of the interactive maps pinpoints me at the 11 mile mark when the overall winner broke the tape at 2:03:05. I had set myself a target finish time of 4:45 and kept focused on this goal relying on my watch to keep me at a steady pace.  I was running alone, albeit surrounded by thousands of others, but at no stage felt I was competing against them. However, my post- Marathon analysis got me wondering. Could I have run faster and scored a higher ranking in my category?  If I’d had had access to  live data from my timing tag, would I have been able to put more effort in on the day?  Would it have provided me the incentive to go the extra mile? Taking the analogy into the business of sales compensation, my GPS watch is the equivalent of Excel, a simple tool that provides a snapshot of sales performance. Salespeople can track their own deals over a period, but don’t get access to the performance of their peers until the end of a month or quarter. Business applications like Xactly offer the level of detail on sales in real time that serve to motivate employees and inform management. Regular updates, leader boards and reports feed data to help incentivize and drive performance in the field. It’s the business equivalent of the Marathon tracking website. I’ve no doubt that sport will catch up with business. Before long, recreational runners like me will have access to live data feeds through wearable technology, consigning my trusty GPS watch to history, and boosting the incentive to compete!

In the meantime, here’s  a few takeaways from from my London Marathon experience:

  • It pays to put in place the right preparation and keep a steady pace
  • Decide on a goal for success and focus on it throughout to help drive for success
  • Make use of the all the tools available to help bring you over the line in good shape and reap the rewards
  • Finally, enjoy the experience!