Dan O’Keefe: Right now, you could be waking up around the world and getting a chance to run and being like ‘hey, there’s an event to do and I wonder what Naperville running company is.’
Naperville Running Company is… by trade… a running apparel store. But it’s also a hub. A running mecca, if you will. It’s also the site of a new and innovative way to bring runners together…. Zwift.
Jacob Fraser: We’re the bridge between going outside or not working out at all. So if you’re time constrained, a lot of runners like to run 2-3 times a week, maybe you can’t make that third one but instead of skipping it, hop on a tread mill at home or at the gym.
Jacob Fraser is the Brand Manager at Zwift… a Southern California-based company that, as Fraser puts it – a massive multiplayer online training platform. Which sounds a lot like a mulit-player game… and for Naperville Running Co employee and former North Central College runner, Dan O’Keefe… that’s exactly how he sees it.
Dan O’Keefe: What Zwift is: is it’s an online virtual video game, but it’s really cool because the controller is you. So once the pod is in, it starts recording you running as you’re running. It does your speed at your speed. So where you’re going to utilize it is: when you have those winter days and you’re running on the treadmill and you want something to distract you instead of another season of The Office or the Godfather movie, you can actually watch your virtual self running
The pod is the newest addition for the 4 and a half-year-old Zwift… its first foray into hardware. A 30-dollar device that is laced on to your shoe to track a runners pace. And with it, as well as the app, a runner is connected with anyone in the world… a way to transform a solo run on a treadmill in to a shared experience.
Jacob Fraser: Our biggest aspect is the community to it – so you could do group runs, group rides, races, all sorts of different things. We’re one of the only platforms that has peer to peer communication so you can chat with one another, you can talk to one another.
Dan O’Keefe: If this means you don’t have to do it lonely, you can do it with someone else and you might not know them, you might not talk to them but even having that person next to you is a big thing.
Zwift, created by John Mayfield, originally started as a cycling app – but in recent years, began expanding into the running community. And creating smaller cells as part of the world-wide network is pivotal in connecting runners.
Jacob Fraser: We do have a global community, but at the same time we are really well built into the local market as well. What we saw in cycling three and a half years ago is: within the first year 73 Facebook groups started in local marketplaces; in Germany and Poland and places we had no official presence in as a company.
But the company does have a fairly large presence in a lot of individual’s lives…
Jacob Fraser: A couple of years ago we had a marriage proposal on the platform, we’ve had best friends from around the world come together for the first time in real life, there’s some really inspiring stories out there about people using our platforms, not only to stay active and stay fit, but to meet other people with the same goals.
The goal for O’Keefe on this night? Run three miles with some of his co-workers and demo for the in-store customers. An event he’d like to see happen again.
Dan O’Keefe: Tonight’s the first of hopefully many races and running events and they have a training plan you can follow and everything. It’s taking what you would do outside and taking it inside so you have something to look at.
Reporting for Sports Story Sunday, I’m Kevin Jackman