Bloomsday newbies searching for race details, participants tracking their times and onlookers wondering about their loved ones’ grueling ascent of Doomsday Hill have two new tools to help them come Sunday.
A pair of applications, one designed by a company in Austin, Texas, and the other a class project from some brainy seniors at Gonzaga University, are available now for tech-minded Bloomies. Both seek to enhance the experience of the 40th annual road race, but they take different approaches. The students created their officially sanctioned application with social media in mind.
“Let’s just say, you’re at the event, and you see your friend at the start, and you have to wait two hours or so for them to cross the finish line,” Sarah Prata, one of the Gonzaga students behind Bloomsday Connect, said. “You don’t know exactly when they’re going to do it.”
A lot of people might think this app is a little creepy, because any one of your Facebook friends can see your location. But it only works when you are racing.
Sarah Prata, Gonzaga University student
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By opting to broadcast locations via GPS, and connecting with Facebook friends via the app, users can follow runners in real time, and runners can calculate their average pace, as well as receive a visualization of their run along the Bloomsday route, or any other run they choose. Routes appear as lines on a Google map, with a color code showing where the user slowed down or sped up.
“A lot of people might think this app is a little creepy, because any one of your Facebook friends can see your location,” Prata said. “But it only works when you are racing.”
A four-member team including Prata, Kaitlin Anderson, Martin Johnson and Chauncy Cullitan built the app as their final senior project before graduation. They approached Bloomsday organizers, who already had been eying creating their own app, in-house, to celebrate the massive race’s 40th anniversary.
“We were already following through on finding a vendor, when they came forward,” said Tim Fuchs, a Bloomsday board member who worked with the students on their application. “They’ve used us as advisers.”
The official Bloomsday app, created by AVAI Ventures, Inc., was created primarily to answer the myriad questions runners have, Fuchs said.
The Gonzaga students said they’re unsure how their software will hold up once thousands of runners hit the pavement, cellphones in tow. But the servers were set up to accommodate more users based on greater demand.
“It gives a lot of Bloomsday answers at people’s fingertips,” Fuchs said.
The official app has a tracking feature, but it’s based on the chip system race organizers use to provide splits for participants. That means instant results are published only at the bottom of Doomsday, at the top and at the finish line.
The Gonzaga students said they’re unsure how their software will hold up once thousands of runners hit the pavement Sunday morning, cellphones in tow. But Johnson said the servers were set up to accommodate more users based on greater demand.
“We couldn’t stress test the cell towers, because that’s illegal, and it would cost a ridiculous amount of money for all that data,” Prata said.
Anderson demonstrated the app to fellow seniors Kenzie Fuller and Shannon Noson at a presentation in the Herak Center at Gonzaga on Wednesday. Fuller, who’s running Sunday, downloaded the app after the demonstration.
“Today’s my last run, so I’m going to use it to train,” she said.
Bloomsday organizers and the students have high hopes for their applications. Fuchs said the board hopes to continue updating the application throughout the year, giving users a reason to keep it on their phones in anticipation of next year’s race. He said there had been no discussions about whether the official team would incorporate some of the features from the Gonzaga students’ project.
“We’re going to evaluate afterwards, see how it all went, and go from there,” Fuchs said.
The student team is hoping their hard work is reflected in their grades. But they also have a specific goal in mind: Reaching a greater audience than any other student-produced app at Gonzaga.
“The school record is 600 downloads, and we want to beat that,” Prata said. “We’re hoping that, with an audience of 70,000, we can get maybe 5,000 downloads or something like that.”