Almost everything we do can be done either as a singular or social experience. Including running. Solo runs are great, and social runs are great, but if it’s going to be a social event, dangit, it should be social, regardless of whether it’s actual or virtual.
If you don’t know where the runners hang out on Zwift, it can seem as if there’s not very many of us. But there’s more than you think. You just need to know where they congregate. And I don’t just mean in the weekly group events, such as the popular Monday and Wednesday group Zwift runs. A lot of us don’t live in time zones convenient for these runs. What I’m writing about is where more runners tend to hang out, at all times and on all days, regardless of when you want to lace 'em up and go.
You may well already know what I’m going to write. If so, great! It might seem intuitive to you. But in fact the typical Zwifter doesn’t make a choice. Unless we’ve joined an event, when we boot up Zwift there’s a default place onto which we’re plopped, and that default doesn’t change unless we take an affirmative act. That default location, if you’re a runner on Zwift, is “The Flat Route” inside of Watopia.
Zwifters know that Watopia is one of six “Worlds” (earlier this month our Travis Rassat showed us those Worlds) and every time you come to Zwift you’re given a choice of the day’s World or Watopia (see image below). Excluding the World Hack (covered elsewhere, and which is not available on the AppleTV I typically use to run the Game) you always have two Worlds to choose from on any given day, whether you're riding or running.
Let’s say you don’t want to just start running where Zwift chooses to place you. You can change Worlds (above, you have either Watopia or London available to you), and then change the Route inside of the World you choose to run in. The reason there’s a fair number of runners on The Flat Route is because it’s the default landing place for Zwift Runners. You’ve got to take matters into your own hands if you want to run where I and others are running.
Most of the time it’s best just to remain in Watopia, because this World is always available, yes, but also because there’s a number of run-only routes. Here is where our Zwiftmaster, Travis Rassat, was not fully comprehensive in his listing of Zwift routes. Yes, he listed them all. For cyclists. But if you select Zwift Run, there are routes available that you don’t see when you select Ride.
When you’re just getting ready to commence Zwifting – Run or Ride – you’re given a choice of Worlds, and when you select a World you’re given a choice of Routes. If you’ve chosen to Run on Zwift you have Routes available that you won’t see if you chose Ride.
Those run-only Routes include the 5K Loop, Jon’s Route, and several others. I believe there are 5 in Watopia, and each of these has offshoots (e.g., you can stay on the Main Road or turn onto the Beach Path, and here's a hint: I believe more runners choose the Beach Path). If you see a runner icon just after the name of the Route (as you’ll see above), it’s a run-only Route (no cyclists). This is where you’ll find a lot of those Zwift Runners you thought didn’t exist.
For example, on a recent weekday morning I chose the 5K Loop. There were so many runners on that loop, I was pretty much always in the process of either passing or getting passed. I found it interesting to change my camera view, to look behind me, and see the runners coming up. The entire sidebar was full of runners – I didn’t count but I think there were 15 or 20, all within reasonably close proximity of me (within 5 minutes in front or behind). Compare this to London (below), where I dropped in for a run on a mixed Ride/Run Course and I’m the only runner in sight.
The shorter the route, the more runners you’ll see, because the density increases. You might see folks on the second or third rounder of the 5K Loop. When New York is the World of the day, the Shuman Trail Loop is very popular with runners. But you won’t see it on our list of New York Routes because it only shows up if you elect Run.
When you look at the “Zwifters Nearby” sidebar on the right, you can easily tell how many runners there are. Obviously you can see who’s what, as in the image just above. If it’s a mixed route containing cyclists and runners that sidebar will show either a runner’s pace (8:45/mi) or a cyclist’s metric (2.0w/kg). That’s how you know who’s what in that sidebar, including a lot of people you can’t yet “see” on the road.
In the image above I’m a runner, bending over, doing my pre-run stretching (as we all do), and there’s a runner just in front of me, just logged on, ready to run. This is a mixed Route, cyclists and runners. Obviously there are many more cyclists, all of us getting ready to take off.
In the image below, I’m getting ready to run, but there are only runners around because it’s is a run-only Route. This was on a weekend day, and I don't know yet but I get the sense there are more runners on the weekdays on the Routes I run. I’m still learning about the run-only Routes, and the turn options on these routes, and the times of day, weekdays versus weekends, to see what Routes are the most populated by runners, and when. I'm still exploring; I'm glad I don't know all the answers.
What you’ll see on the run-only routes is that you often run within sight of roads with cyclists. The image below is taken by me with my handheld as I’m running on the treadmill, so, sorry if it’s a little blurry. I’ve chosen the Invisible Man viewpoint (where I don’t see myself in the Game). There are two runners in front of me, and if you squint you can see some cyclists on the road to the right. These riders appear (just by my observation) appear to be actually in the Game. Real time. Further, there are a number of "run-only" routes that aren't entirely run-only, but run-only part of the time, and then they merge onto a Route shared with cyclists. (You'll see which are which as you test these out.)
It seems to me I'm not only with a lot more runners in the run-only Routes, but a faster class of runners. There are a lot of folks running in the 6s and 7s per mile. Faster than I was running. I did find that having them around me bent the trajectory of my run a little bit. I sped up a little, or if I could sense somebody was trying to catch me as my run was ending I’d slow up a little, to give him or her a chance. We were all in it together.
And finally, I was called upon to fix my wife’s elliptical this morning after I finished my Zwift run. She doesn’t like running, but defaulted to the treadmill since the elliptical was down for repairs. She wanted to see what I’ve been running to, so I set her up via my Zwift account. Now she’s hooked, immediately texting all her workout friends about Zwift, none of whom are triathletes or committed runners (or runners at all… yet). I've created a Zwiftmonster, and now she and I have to share time on the mill. You and I are jaded. Multiplayer activations like Zwift are old hat to us, but the social workout experience without leaving the home is powerful and I got reminded of it today.
I live in nature, by choice, but "in nature" means I run alone. Well, the dogs and I. My "social" runs are overwhelmingly on Zwift. Having a bunch of cyclists around is fine, but it's only a social run if there are other runners around. Zwift runs are where I get my social workout fix. Now you know where to find more of us.