Letting Lonely Goats roam (and multiply)

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The Lonely Goat Running Club are staging light fun-runs and more competitive races for its 20,0000-strong global community on the platform Zwift, using ‘RunPod’ shoe technology and treadmills.

IT technician Steve Howard, who has lived in Jersey for 14 years, helped found the club in 2017 to provide an alternative support network for runners who may not be able to join a more formal organisation. He says recent restrictions due to Covid-19 have forced a change in approach but the popularity of their interactive virtual sessions, which run through a television or tablet, is rising.

‘We know people are allowed out for two hours a day but some people with families, or those who have to work from home, a treadmill is the only option,’ Howard explained.

‘We sometimes call it the “dreadmill” because running 5km or 10km on a treadmill is mind-numbing, but with Zwift you’ve got an avatar in front of you and it blends virtuality with reality. It makes running so much more enjoyable.

‘Effectively it is a game. You download the app on your iPad or stream it on your TV and you attach the RunPod to your shoe. Then when you start running the avatar on the screen runs too.

‘Zwift hold loads of events but they have allowed us to host our own ones as well. We’ll have a run leader talking people through a progression run, or an easy 5km run – it’s just to bring people together to make them feel like they belong to the running community. We’ve been hosting those for about a month now and we’ve had over 100 people running in some of them, in the UK and across the world as well.

‘The demand for Zwift, both cycling and running, has exploded recently because people are self-isolating and working from home.’

Lonely Goat has no registration fees, with members simply able to connect and interact with like-minded runners through Instagram, Facebook or GPS-based exercise app Strava.

Howard added: ‘We’re not trying to compete with traditional clubs, we just want to provide an alternative. Some people struggle to make 6pm on a Tuesday so we wanted to break down those barriers, provide a support network and get more people motivated to run.

‘We have about 18,000 people in our Facebook group. Before the virus kicked off you could go down to any Parkrun in the country and you’d probably see someone with a Lonely Goat top on. It’s good to have a sense of belonging and if you see another Lonely Goat you might stop for a quick chat beforehand.

‘We do have Lonely Goats in Jersey and Guernsey but as the moment it’s predominantly UK-based. But we’re not tied to any country, we have Lonely Goats as far as Australia and the US and with regards to Jersey, we just want to let people know that there is another network for social runners who might not feel like they’re getting support with all the social distancing.

‘We want to get people active. Keeping active, especially at this time, is so important for our mental state.’

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