Q & A with Mike McCarthy – VP of Running at Zwift

In this post, we chat with Mike McCarthy, VP of Running at Zwift (above is Mike’s Zwift avatar!). For those of you that are not familiar with Zwift, it’s a online-based training application that allows users to virtually interact, train and compete against each other. It is currently available for cycling and running. 

If you’re like me, whether training on a treadmill or indoor bike trainer, training indoors can be quite boring and frankly, often a mental struggle to stay engaged. This is where Zwift comes into play.

Gamification is being used in many different applications today but as far as we’re concerned, there is no better place for it than indoor training!

Zwift is perhaps best known for the cycling application. When did the running application begin and does it work similarly to that of the cycling app?

We developed Running as a concept product in 2016. Initially, it was an Easter Egg that required a special tap sequence on the login screen to unlock, but it was discovered by our community and almost overnight, there was a Zwift Runners group on Facebook. We launched it officially in February of 2018 but have only recently decided to fully resource it internally.

In terms of similarity to our cycling product, it’s almost exactly the same minus the level of immersion that comes from controllable trainers, the size of the community, and the ability to explore most of our roads.

In all honesty, building a product to specifically address runners needs is high priority for us but it also takes time. In terms of what you need to run on Zwift, it’s access to a treadmill, something to run the game on (tablet, phone, Apple TV, etc), and either a wearable device (such as the Zwift RunPod), a tread tracker, or a treadmill that broadcasts compatible bluetooth. 

Unfortunately, distracted driving is real problem that has many cyclists doing the majority of their training indoors for safety reasons. Do you find the same with runners?

Running outdoors has few of the same hurdles as riding outdoors and is in fact, comparatively easy regardless of weather, where you are, or what time of day it is. While people don’t necessarily turn to a treadmill for safety reasons, there are many benefits to indoor running such as a heightened focus on form and mental strength.

I think a lot of people (myself included), are not huge fans of running indoors due to boredom. With Zwift, can I run with other people virtually in real-time?

Yep. We have a good events calendar that will scale with the community. We also give you the option of joining other runners when you log in or creating a meet-up to invite other runners to join you. 

Does the type of treadmill matter, and what equipment would I need to use Zwift Running?

You need access to a treadmill, something to run the game on (tablet, phone, Apple TV, etc), and either a wearable device (such as the Zwift RunPod), a tread tracker, or a treadmill that broadcasts compatible bluetooth. To be clear, the type of treadmill doesn’t matter unless you want something that connects directly to the game.

Have you gotten feedback from runners that use Zwift that they’ve been able to achieve new PR’s and fitness goals – primarily because of their ability to train indoors with Zwift?

Yes. Our focus is on helping runners and people that run achieve their goals. We have some great training plans available and the control afforded by running on a treadmill is pretty powerful. The Zwift community also factors in quite strongly as it drives tremendous accountability and motivation. 

Lastly, as a former Olympic cycling champion and professional cyclist, do you now do running races or other non-cycling related sports?

I like staying fit and have done a lot of triathlon and running races in the 20 years since I stopped racing. We have an amazing group of active people at Zwift so it’s pretty easy to stay motivated.

Mike, thank you for your time and we can’t wait to see the growth of the Zwift running platform!


Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science/evidence-based endurance sports coaching education company that certifies running and triathlon coaches.

To get a $50 discount on the Running Coach Certification, click here!

Rick Prince

Rick Prince

Founder/Director of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA).

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