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Posted on: Sunday, March 22, 2009
Twitter Search Brings Local Marathon Online
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By Michael Dorausch, D.C.

There's been much discussion the past few weeks regarding the micro blogging service Twitter as a real time search engine. While the debate continues (I say it's a human powered search help tool) I'll keep "searching" the real-time events I'm interested in. For me, Twitter has become the first place I go to find the latest up to date information, and a runners marathon in Pasadena, CA, provides an excellent localized example, of why I love it so much.

Yesterday, Planet Chiropractic featured news regarding the 2009 Pasadena Marathon & Bike Tour, and in that post was a tip to follow realtime discussion surrounding the marathon using a combination of keywords.

Following dialog for events like marathons on Twitter may not be something new but I believe there's special value in this case. This was the first, or inaugural marathon for the city of Pasadena, which means there's few relevant results when searching via traditional methods. Searching Twitter changes that, as a stream of race related "tweets" have appeared fairly regularly, giving us a glimpse at everything from weather conditions to who's blocking parking in front of Starbucks.

Pasadena Marathon Finishers Pasadena Marathon Results - Here's a sampling, 5 random tweets (of many), related to finishing the 26.2 mile and 1/2 marathon events.

5 varying personalities all telling us something about the Sunday event...

"Just completed the Pasadena Marathon. 4 hours and 56 minutes (fastest time, PR). Now I've run 14 marathons."

"finished the pasadena marathon in wet rainy weather but safe! celebrated with tamales and mimosas!"

"straight chillin' after running hard in the cold and rain this morning for the Pasadena half marathon. Now for the next race..."

"Drying off from finishing Pasadena 1/2 Marathon in the pouring rain."

"Finished Pasadena marathon - clock time 4:53. Not sure of actual time but still a personal best."

The dialog on Twitter also let's people (including event organizers) know the mood of an event, a great opportunity for reputation management and planning improvements for 2010. The screenshot below shows a number of what could be considered unhappy tweets, all from different times in the stream.

Thoughts on Pasadena Marathon 2009

Reading the above sampling of updates shows not everyone was excited about the event, yet to be fair, there are plenty of positive congratulatory marathon tweets in the stream as well. The important thing here is we are getting real feedback from real people. As a result of these 140 character or less updates, groups organizing marathons may come away with some good questions for future planning committees. Should the course be improved for 2010? Did organizers do all they could to notify residents regarding road closures? Will registration costs affect sign ups next year?

Pasadena Marathon Weather Twitter ReportIs it raining at the marathon? - That's a realtime search for sure. If you were running such a race you probably already were on location and have your answer, but what if you're coming to the area to take photos, interview participants, or cheer people on at the finish line?

Peeps on Twitter provided us with a steady stream of race/rain conditions throughout the morning, something traditional search just doesn't do effectively. Not only that, we were updated on local traffic, lines at signup stations, good locations for parking, and other information directly of interest to persons following the race.

So, thanks to real time searching on Twitter, we received updates on nearly everything related to the 2009 Pasadena Marathon. It wasn't the only marathon taking place in the US today (Similar results can be had for the Shamrock Marathon - except it was not an inaugural run) but it served well for an example of how local events can be followed and searched using Twitter.

There's terrific opportunity here for those willing to step in and join the conversation. Ideas ranging from simply congratulating locals on their participation, to event feedback, to posting marathon photos online and sharing them with everyone following the stream, are a few that come to mind. If I were organizing the 2010 Pasadena Marathon (or any other long distance running race) I'd have an official twitter account for the event, and I'd use it to engage with those participating in event activities.

You may not run marathons, or even enjoy running for that matter, but search on Twitter is growing, and knowing what people are doing locally (especially when it's your event) can prove to be an eye opener. A glimpse at the continuing Marathon Search Stream will show you that topic is the answer for many when it comes to the question... What are you doing?


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