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Starting to Run Again: Challenging the Problematic Nike+ Challenges

July 6, 2009 3 comments

Now that I’ve started running again on a semi-regular basis, I know it’ll be at least 6 months before I could possibly be in marathon shape.  I need to lose a good amount of weight that has snuck back on over the last two years, and I’m basically starting from scratch with my running.  If I could run 1 or 2 miles every day this month, it would be a huge accomplishment and put me back on track to be where I want to be in the fall.  (I logged a couple of 20 mile runs in the fall of 2007 and want to do it again this year.)

So all of this said, I decided to give the “challenges” section of the Nike+ website a try.  It’s a great concept.  Basically, you can enter into competition or “virtual races” against other runners all over the world via the website and your Nike+ stats.  You don’t need to be in the same place or even run at the same time of day.  There is a start date and an end date for the competition and joining is free.

Here are some common competitions:

“Run 40 Miles in July!” = try to run a total of at least 40 miles

“4th of July 5K” = go out and run your own 5K on 7/4/09

“Run Every Day and Lose Weight” = a group of people trying to get in better shape

I believe, if you win, you get a virtual trophy for your Nike+ account.  You can even create your own competition if you don’t see one you like.  For example, if you wanted, you could create a “Run 40 Miles in 40 Days (Must Have Been Born Before 1940)”.  So your group should only have people over the age of 69.

Here’s the problem:

I joined several challenges for low milage runners (those who are overweight, starting out, older, etc) since it’s going to be a while until I can log more than 1 or 2 miles a day at the most.  I figured some kind of challenge — actually running “against” and “with” other people — would be a great motivator.

Sounds simple, right?

Except that every challenge I joined was “over” before it started.  Every single challenge had at least one person who was logging 10 or more miles a day.  No matter what the requirements to join were (old, slow, fat, no more than 10 miles per week currently, etc), there are people joining just for the “easy win”, which is pretty crappy if you ask me.

One challenge has a GREAT leader who is kicking those “cheaters” out left and right, but none of the other groups do, so it kind of defeats the purpose.  If there’s no chance of winning, doesn’t that yank away the virtual carrot we were chasing?

This is something the creators of the challenges should definitely take more seriously, especially in the beginner and low milage groups where people need every motivation they can get.

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