Eighteen months ago, I spent three days walking in the sun and heat, pounding Powerade and water, during a trek that would take me 60 miles. I slept in a tent (in the rain), stood in line to shower (in a truck) and used a needle to extract fluid from blisters the size of golf balls. And I can’t wait to do it again.
I was just one of the 3,400 participants in last year’s Avon Breast Cancer 3-Day walk in Boston. As part of its Breast Cancer Crusade launched in 1993, New York City-based cosmetics and beauty products seller Avon Products annually hosts three-day walks in nine cities, each attracting about 3,000 participants. That’s a lot of people and miles and pledge sheets and blisters to keep straight.
Los Angeles-based Pallotta TeamWorks is a for-profit corporation that produces Avon’s three-day walks. (Pallotta also produces Tanqueray’s AIDS Rides and Pallotta TeamWorks AIDS Vaccine Rides.) Brian Pendleton, Pallotta’s vice president of IT, says his main goal is to improve safety and tracking at these events?and save a little time and money in the process. For example, an online pledge system will reduce back-end processing costs so that more money can go directly to the charities involved.
On the front end, Pendleton will beta test chip technology some time this year. Fifty participants will attach to their shoelace a chip that contains a transmitter and a link to a database holding their identification and medical information. The chips let event producers track participants along the routes and help in medical situations. For example, dehydrated participants stumbling into a medical tent will not need to recite their name, address and allergy information; volunteers and onsite doctors will have that information at their fingertips via the chip. “Pushing [technology] out into the wilderness is difficult,” Pendleton says, but he’s excited about the prospects.
As for me, I look forward to the day that technology will tell volunteers to hand me a snack along the route, because they’ve tracked my time and know I won’t make it to the lunch pit stop before 2 p.m.