When you’ve wrapped up your weekend long run but are still aching to log some miles on rest day, a video game can be just the thing to scratch that itch. Check out these options for virtual workouts, and let your fingers do the running.
You’ll have a leg up over the competition when playing this side-scroller, whether you want to or not. QWOP (named for the keyboard inputs that control your movement) boasts intentionally unintuitive game mechanics that more often than not will leave you head over heels with your head twisted backward. Just finishing the game at any point past the starting line is enough to earn your bragging rights. Launched in 2008 in the abandoned Adobe Flash format, the game has been updated to HTML5 and can still be played for free online. Paid mobile versions of QWOP are also available for iPhone and Android.
Developed by former University of Wisconsin runner Ryan Craven as a project to help him hone his coding skills during the height of the pandemic, XC puts the excitement of cross-country racing right at your fingertips. Unlike QWOP’s focus on co-ordination, stamina is the name of the game in XC, as players must conserve their energy through drafting and pacing strategies to earn their place on the podium. Paid mobile versions of XC are also available for iPhone and Android and name-your-own-price versions are available for Windows and Mac.
While no running-focused VR games are currently available on Meta’s official store for the Facebook parent company’s popular Quest series VR headsets, there are a few titles in the works and available through the SideQuest sideloading app and website. The most downloaded of these to date, Happy Run, allows you to “run” in place by using the movement of your hands to propel you along a scenic virtual trail lined with towering trees and mountains. The app has been popular among outdoor enthusiasts who are physically unable to run anymore, and new features are frequently being added.
Not a video game per se, the popular virtual cycling and running app is packed with plenty of features that are sure to appeal to gamers. By using a Zwift-compatible treadmill or running with Stryd or another compatible foot pod, users can join users from around the world, for companionship or competition, in real-time runs through a variety of fantastical landscapes. Primarily geared at cyclists as a paid service with a free trial, access to Zwift remains free to those who use it strictly for running.
Honorable mention: Beer Mile All-Stars 2018
Sadly, it seems the pioneering Canadian-made video game that brought the beer mile to small screens has gone flat and is no longer available from the Apple or Android stores. Featuring cameos from real-life beer-mile stars including Canada’s Corey Bellemore, the game challenged players to guzzle a digital beer and properly pace themselves four times around a track without puking. It was created by Hunter Andrina former runner with the Western University Mustangs.
Honorable mention: Janey Thomson’s Marathon
A contemporary of QWOP, Janey Thomson’s Marathon didn’t survive the demise of the Adobe Flash platform and is no longer available online. This might be both a blessing and a curse, as the game’s biggest selling point was its hilarious monotony. Players would move their avatar along a full marathon course, with one keypress producing one single stride. Completing a game would require hours of incessantly tapping two keys in succession. While you’ll be hard-pressed to find the game online, you can watch a complete playthrough of the game, clocking in at almost two hours. Making it through the whole thing may just be deserving of a medal.