Erika Engle

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Marathoners and triathletes
to star in their own shows

jim Barahal wishes he had a video of his participation in the Boston Marathon and he's not alone.

Not that everybody else wants to see Barahal's performance the race, but many if not most participants in such events wish they had a video of themselves crossing that finish line.

He and a new partnership will make that wish a reality on digital video disc for Ironman Triathlon participants in Kona later this month and for the Honolulu Marathon in December.

"We've known for years that people like to see themselves finish the marathon ... the problem was, it wasn't feasible to produce a video for each person," said Barahal, president of the Honolulu Marathon Association.

Wants can be perceived as needs. Need is another word for necessity, which is of course the mother of invention. Invention often makes its mother lots of money.

Technology has advanced to the point that data from chips worn by runners to track time and course position, can be integrated with video taken at several points along a course and, of course, at the finish line.

Barahal and the principals of Island InfoTech, the marathon's Web developer, formed Sports Media Productions LLC and copyrighted software they developed that does just that. The Ironman will be the first race where the product is offered.

Barahal, the Marathon Association, Holly Huber and Mitchell Kahle, have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in development, but Barahal did not divulge a figure. A patent is being sought and SMP will also apply for Act 221 high-tech tax credits.

Editors will prepare 20- to 30-minute specials for each event and use the technology to intersperse coverage of individual participants into it, showing their faces and times alongside the world's marathoning elite.

"You can't be on the same court with a pro tennis player or on the same field with a pro football player, but you can be on the same course with a world-class professional runner," Barahal said.

"The software links the system and drives the automatic editing portion of it," Barahal said.

"If you look at a marathon with 25,000 runners and use 18 cameras as we plan on doing, you're really looking at 400,000 video files."

Punching in a runner's name and number should place sequential images of the participant in the right spots within the special. The DVD will contain other features as well, which can be selected from a menu.

Ironman merchandising official Vik Watumull is constantly pitched with potential products.

"This is the fist one that really made my eyes bug out. Wow, this is something that is not just a very salable item but it's exciting to be able to offer it to the participants," he said.

He doesn't believe the availability of such DVDs will diminish the broadcast networks' interest in covering such events. Such specials generally focus on three or four athletes with a special story to tell. A regular athlete would never be featured, Watumull said.

Separate Web sites marketing the DVD for each race are up and running at and Because of the differing number of participants, prices start at $79.95 for Ironman DVDs and $49.95 for the much larger Honolulu Marathon.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Erika Engle is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4302, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at:


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