University’s crowd science expertise helps Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run

Home town race uses Start Right algorithm to plan more efficiently

The Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run is using Manchester Metropolitan's crowd science algorithm Start Right to help improve planning for this year's event

The Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run is using Manchester Metropolitan's crowd science algorithm Start Right to help improve planning for this year's event

Runners and organisers of the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run will benefit for the first time from the crowd science expertise of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Thousands are expected to hit the city’s streets for its annual 10K and half marathon event, taking place on Sunday and broadcast live on BBC One, which is being planned with the help of a mathematical algorithm called Start Right.

The algorithm crunches 8.6million calculations – everything from the dimensions of the entire course to the locations of water stations and availability of public transport – to let race directors understand at any point on the route how many participants are passing through, and the required level of support.

Being able to appreciate the precise flow and behaviour of the mass of runners in such detail allows the organisers to allocate volunteers, water stations and other resources exactly when and where they are needed, thereby helping the race elapse as smoothly as possible.

Start Right was developed by Marcel Altenburg, Senior Lecturer in Crowd Science at Manchester Metropolitan, and has been deployed at most of the globe’s top marathons and long distance races.

But this time around there is added excitement at being able to demonstrate the University’s expertise on its own doorstep.

Marcel Altenburg, Senior Lecturer in Crowd Science

'Being involved is an excellent opportunity'

Altenburg said: "After we used the algorithm around the world and in the biggest races on the planet, we are thrilled to apply it just down the road at the start of the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run in Portland Street, Manchester.

“Being involved with this particular race is an excellent opportunity. Manchester can be proud to have such a race.”

The University will be represented during the 10K itself for the third time by Team Orange, made up of an anticipated hundreds of staff and students clad in bright orange T-shirts and running for a variety of good causes.

Altenburg’s involvement with the analysis means the University has a presence both in the race itself and behind the scenes in the inner workings of the large and popular family event.

The power of Start Right on the planning of the logistics of a race, including the capacity to model the consequences of adjustments without any real world risk, will help ensure Team Orange and the other runners on the day have as enjoyable and seamless time as possible without even realising it.

Read more about how Start Right has cracked the marathon code in the latest edition of Met Magazine, the University's magazine

Working with Great Run 'a privilege'

Altenburg said: “Working with the organiser Great Run Company is a privilege. Their great relationship with Manchester Metropolitan and their vast experience is incredibly valuable and allows us to support them while learning so much ourselves along the way.

“We are working on this event and others with the same organiser and we see great developments based on this trustful and professional cooperation, and this will benefit the running industry beyond those single events.

“But this cooperation goes beyond practical support on race day.

“It also stretches teaching, research and everything crowd science at Manchester Metropolitan – Great Manchester Run’s Senior Operations Manager, Charlie Mussett, is a regular guest lecturer at the University.

“The Great Run Company is an industry leader and we are happy to have such a beneficial relationship with them."

Opening up improvements

Charlie Mussett, event manager at the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run, said: “Working with the Manchester Met crowd science team has been a great addition to the planning process for the Simplyhealth Great Manchester Run.

“Marcel’s knowledge of the mass running market and the ways that the Start Right flow software has been used around the world opened up a number of new ways for us to look at improvements here in Manchester.

“In a changing city like Manchester there will always be works to pass through or go around, and Start Right has allowed us to adapt our flow rates over the line and be confident that we can deliver a great running experience out on course.”

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