FUN AND COMMUNITY AND IMPROVED results
Fun and community, and possibly a personal best, says Emily Mullen from Zwift. Zwift is the online training app you may have heard about from cyclists. Synced with your trainer, cyclists can ride certain routes, surrounded by other virtual cyclists from all over the world, and monitor the metrics on the screen. Zwift Running launched earlier this year and was quickly picked up by triathletes, half marathon and marathon trainees.
“Community is our biggest distinguisher,” says Mullen from the Long Beach, Calif., offices. “Anytime you log on, there will be someone to train with. We’ve heard of several married couples who met on Zwift. Zwift Running is still new, so maybe those couples are still in the dating stage at this point.”
The technology is called “mixed reality,” using video, 3d environments and live interaction. The runner uses specific tech accessories – stryd foot pod, bluetooth HR monitor and screen – in addition to their treadmill, which becomes a portal to other worlds, and other runners.
Zwift has three real-world routes, plus a fictional world set in the South Pacific. RunSocial, another app in the virtual field, has a global pick of routes, including an Australian beach, a hillside in Turkey and even a jungle course through Cambodia’s Angkor Wat ancient temples. You are represented as an avatar in the game and the live leaderboard shows other runners’ distance and speed relative to you. In April 2016, British astronaut Tim Peake raced the London Marathon while in orbit aboard the International Space Station (3 hours, 35 minutes and 21 seconds). Virtual runners say they find the experience more immersive and a good distraction – and encouraging since you can start and stop the race on your own pace. Also, running live against your friends proves more motivational for many than isolating indoor training.
The future of virtual running may include running against the greatest runners of all time from your home gym, or qualifying for your next race without leaving your home. New York Road Runners’ Virtual 6 program (with Strava) allows participants to receive an entry to the 2019 Popular Brooklyn Half and one Popular Brooklyn Half Virtual Training program to help them prepare for the race.
“TECHNOLOGY CAN’T REPLACE THE OUTDOORS AND FRESH AIR, OR BEING SURROUNDED BY FRIENDS .”
OPPOSITE Analyzing run metrics RIGHT RunSocial BELOW AND BOTTOM Zwift is now for runners