Could virtual marathons become as popular as the real thing?

Life Fitness and Paofit team up to bring a virtual treadmill race of the Virgin Money London Marathon.
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Ever wonder if you could stack up against the pros on some of the world’s grandest marathon courses?

Fitness equipment brands are increasingly teaming up with technology gurus to bring the real races to runners on their treadmills.

First-person, high-definition video captures of marathon courses and landscapes have been around for several years, but the latest rendition from Life Fitness and Paofit allows runners to virtually rub elbows with the pros on the course and experience the cheering crowds from the actual races.

The first virtual race will be the Virgin Money London Marathon as filmed from a first-person perspective in 2013. A free, one-mile sample — starting around mile 12, just before the iconic Tower Bridge — is available for download through the Paofit iPad app, with the full course expected by October.

DigitalLondonMarathon

When connected to a Life Fitness treadmill with a Track+ or Discover Tablet Console (Paofit plans to release an independent treadmill sensor in the next few months), the runners' speed will be accurately recorded in addition to adjusting incline to reflect the course terrain. An avatar of the runner will run alongside those who actually ran the race in 2013.

Organizers plan to take things a step further in 2015 by organizing an official Digital Virgin Money London Marathon on the same day and time of the real race — April 26, 2015 at 10 a.m. GMT — with anyone being able to register.

"Many runners dream of being able to run this legendary race, and it is now accessible to everyone through our partnership with the Virgin Money London Marathon," said Marc Hardy, CEO of Paofit. "We're excited to be able to give any indoor runner the chance to experience part of the course, from novice runners to experienced racers."

"Paofit's introduction of marathon courses into the app is a brilliant example of how creativity and collaboration can change the way people exercise through technology," said Dan Wille, ‎vice president of marketing and product and business development at Life Fitness.

Tablets and fitness trackers are likely to continue making inroads with fitness equipment, in many cases, replacing machine consoles with the devices consumers are flocking to and can update easily with apps.

--David Clucas

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