Fun Run

New digital tools and initiatives gamify running

The importance of fitness isn’t lost on the Millennial generation, though despite the trendiness of boutique studios like SoulCycle and FlyWheel, not all are willing to shell out $35/class multiple times a week. A far more affordable alternative? Running. New apps enhance one’s runner’s high through tools that do everything from create GPS art to plant the runner in an action film.


No stranger to eccentric marketing efforts (see: The Old Spice Guy), Old Spice recently ran an unusual campaign that leveraged the current trend for mapping and sharing runs by tasking people to run a drawing of an item they’d like to win. The Dream Runner website invited participants to upload a picture of their unique GPS art and sent them the most fitting gift from their characteristically wacky prize arsenal. All submissions can be viewed in an online gallery: a rendering of a La-Z-Boy was awarded a “plush reclining chair,” a tricycle won an “adult-sized tricycle,” and an indeterminate cubist work received a flat bed trolley.


The Trace app flips the GPS art trend on its head by allowing users to draw an image on a smartphone that is then translated into a shareable map. Runners simple draw an image on a blank canvas within the app, and can add messages to points near the image’s outline, which will then appear at the specified location during the actual run. Developed by a team of 15 students and professors at the University of Washington in Seattle, the app seeks to provide an alternative to traditional running and walking tools that emphasize end goals, such as destination or step counts, instead motivating people through social interactions around the journey itself.


Many runners enjoy listening to narrative podcasts while getting in their cardio, but new running app Tracks puts runners themselves into stories. In fact, the exercise tool turns a standard run into an action film through a 15-episode series, called Growler, in which the runner is tasked with missions featuring sessions of sprints, shocking, intervals, and various running speeds. Blockbuster movie-caliber sound effects, which include heart-racing sonics like gunshots and collapsing buildings, allow runners to lose themselves to the story. Runners are further motivated by a ranking system that lets them collect points for completing challenges.