August 14th, 2007

Treadmill Racing

I was talking with Trevor and Caroline the other day, both of whom like to run long distances. They were discussing how they don’t like to run on treadmills. They listed a variety of reasons, all of which could be avoided by simply not running at all, but that’s not an option for them. Also not an option is running outside at certain times. The St. Louis weather plays heavily into this. It’s 9:30 at night as I write this, and it’s 115 degrees outside. You can’t run in temperatures like this. Trevor also doesn’t like to run at odd times of the day, such as early in the morning as Caroline often attempts to do before hitting turning off her alarm and rolling back into bed. So if both of these runners had their way, they’d basically never run.

One reason why they both like running outside in Forest Park is that there’s a constant supply of other runners to catch up to. These runners are carrots on a stick for these two rabbits; once they sight their competition, they up their pace until they pass them. And so on. On a treadmill, there are no other runners. You run at the exact same pace for the alloted time, avoiding eye contact with the people running to your right and left, praying that you don’t fall off your treadmill. Step after step, the monotony eats away at your will to continue.

Not any more.

My idea is this: Network all of the treadmills in the gym. On the front of each, place a little monitor—nothing fancy, just a little LCD screen—with a bird-eye-view of a track on it. You can turn off this monitor if you want, and your data won’t be projected on anyone else’s monitor. But if you’re the type of runner who is motivated by other people, turn on this little machine and you can watch everyone else who’s linked up run around the track. It’s a virtual track. You’re on there too, a little dot representing you. You can speed up the treadmill to catch up with someone else, or you can slow down and catch your breath if someone’s on the other side of the track. It even provides a conversation starter when you want to talk to the pretty girl on the other side of the room. “Hey there, Number 17,” you’ll say to her as you stretch on the yoga pads after your run, “good run today. I passed you on lap 3, but you came on hard at the end.”

“Do you come hard?” she’ll respond.

Game on.

Thus, on many levels, I think this idea could really work. Treadmill Racing.