Escape To Watopia

Where’s Watopia I here you say?

Watopia is a virtual world within a game / training tool called Zwift in which you can run. Once the place for cyclists to sweat it out on their turbo trainers it is now for us runners on treadmills too, they even have a 400m running track! Best of all, at the moment it’s free for runners!

Ahhh not the dreadmill!

Yes, the treadmill, or as some of you call it, the dreadmill. Well hang on don’t dismiss it yet, I feel there are some reasons why doing some of your running on a treadmill is beneficial, here goes.

  • Less impact – treadmills have built in shock absorbers that limit the impact on your joints.
  • Better form – when running on a treadmill you don’t have to look for vehicles and pedestrians or potholes etc so you can concentrate on keeping good form and try to add more economy to your running style.
  • Pace control – if like me you always start to fast and get carried away a treadmill can stop this, especially when following a structured workout such as those on Zwift.
  • Good for busy parents – if like me you have young children and your partner works in the evenings then you can get your run in when the kids are in bed.
  • Run whatever the weather – yes we should just man up and get out but some days when the weather is wet and windy or it’s icy it’s nice to stay out of the elements.
  • Good for introverts – I love a group run but having and introverted personality means social situations are sometimes not just awkward but also wear me out. Treadmills mean I can save all that energy for training.

What is Zwift?

As mentioned above Zwift kind of brings gaming and running together. You run in a virtual world, either the made up world of Watopia with it’s beaches, town, beach path, volcanoes and of course the 400m track. Or you can run in London including the Prudential Ride London route, down The Mall is pretty cool and then there is Central Park in New York too. You can either run on your own with no structure and just have fun or you can meet for one of the many social runs where you’ll even find the likes of Sir Mo Farah joining in. There are group runs with people from all other the world with specific speed groups. Another option is to enrol on a training program or even create your own. It certainly takes the dread out of dreadmill!


To get started you need a treadmill (or you could use one at the gym) a PC, iPad or tablet etc. to run the Zwift program and a footpod. The foot pod is a little sensor that attaches to the laces on one of your running shoes and transmits data to the program to power your avatar forwards at the speed you are moving. The other optional but well recommended pieces of kit are a heart rate strap and a fan.


Zwift has over 1000 built in structured workouts ranging from 5k programs up to marathon training and everything in between, there are even triathlon programmes if that’s your thing. I’m currently trying out the half marathon plan and I’m really impressed. You run a 5k test and Zwift automatically sets the training to your pace, it then constantly updates as you improve to ensure you are always giving your best and pushing for more improvement. There is a mixture of training including intervals, tempo runs, long runs and also optional easy miles to do. The intervals really do push your limits and you find you are hitting treadmill speeds you’ve never tempted before. When the going does get tough there is loads of support though as other runners give you a ‘ride on’, a kind of thumbs up or Strava like kudos and there is chat too if you wanted it. It’s great seeing the big thumbs appearing above your running avatar and watching where in the world those people are and who they are, I’ve not had a ‘ride on’ from Mo Farah yet though!

Give it a go

So, what are you waiting for, get on Zwift and give it a go, you never know you might even overtake me, let’s be honest, it’s not hard!


3 thoughts on “Escape To Watopia

  1. Good article! More professional distance athletes are using treadmills today, we are still early in the evolution of design but a revolution is coming not only in performance but also analysis.

    Just imagine if you translated Zwift into outdoor running. Pop outside for a run and instantly find 10 people at your pace, spectators give you thumbs up and it’s all beautifully tracked with statistics.

    I was so excited when they announced the track, had been begging for it in the forums for a long time. Now just jazz up the graphics a little, add a virtual stadium crowd, create formal events (including relay races) and who knows maybe even an A.I. announcer?

    1. Thanks for the great comment!

      I really do love the treadmill. I once had a British Athletics coach tell me that treadmills are no good as they do all the work, it’s old school thinking in my opinion. I mean if it’s that easy why does my heart rate soar and why do I sweat buckets?

      The track really is fantastic, your ideas for the future sound great. Thank you for being one of the forerunners to push for this for us all.

      Happy running,


  2. Real good article. I run on Zwift now for more than 2 years (Run outside as well). I really enjoy it, Zwift offers so much that makes the TM not just less boring but a real nice tool with so much added value. Zwift running even got me to Zwift cycling now.

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