How will we run in the future?

One of the things that we rarely do in recent years is to imagine the future. We all have memories of how we imagined it as children, and when it became present, that future seemed very different from what we imagined it. No teleportation, no flying cars, no interstellar travels.

Why did we stop imagining and dreaming? Perhaps it is because we were too optimistic at the time, but perhaps it was also because we were looking in the wrong direction: to space, to infinity, to supersonic speed.

The future, at least in the words of Frank Diana, “futurologist” at TCS (Tata Consulting Services, the same people who sponsor the NYC Marathon) is much smaller but no less revolutionary.

How small? Microscopic, even subatomic. The future-or at least one of the possible futures-is already at an advanced stage of research and is largely based on the so-called “nanobots,” which are molecular- or even subatomic-sized particles programmed to be instructed with commands to perform certain actions. The fields of application in sports are many and involve not only the tools we use for running (shoes and apparel) but also our own bodies. Let’s start with the latter.

A very special diet

Nanobots are so microscopic that they can travel in the bloodstream. Once in the circle, they won’t give us superpowers but they will help us get to know us better. Imagine them as devices that can understand our physical state to an almost infinitesimal degree of detail. What will they do once in our blood? They will be able to perform precise and “real time” analysis of the overall state and our energy level, so as to study a milligram-accurate diet. Therefore, we will no longer rely on diets that-no matter how precise-are always approximate: the diets and especially the foods we eat will have the perfect balance of nutrients to give us the energy we need for athletic exertion.

New tools. Infinitesimal

The wonders of these microscopic assistants do not stop there: just as they can travel in our bloodstream, they can also be integrated into smart, very smart materials.

Think of shoes with a midsole so intelligent that it varies mechanical and dynamic buoyancy depending not only on your physical state but also on external parameters, such as temperature, humidity and surface type.

Or think about lenses that not only allow you to see through but also to receive information such as environmental parameters, your time, position in the race, etc. It’s like having a digital control panel that weighs nothing and adheres to your eye, allowing you to get a readout of the race-and at the same time giving you the ability to change your pace-as a function of many more indices, collected in real time.

It may not be in the near future and, as is always the case, the first to use it will be a few runners, chosen for their extraordinary attributes. But like any great invention, little by little nanotechnology applied to sports and running will spread. The great thing is that they will do this in a way that is not at all invasive, not affecting the most beautiful aspect of running: the extraordinary spontaneity with which it can be practiced.

(Main image credits: Abidal on – Via Athletics Weekly)


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