Smashrun was born in a little brownstone...

Somewhere to the west of Paris and the east of Saigon, there lies a strange and merry land called Brooklyn. There, in the village of Fort Greene, a simple idea for a site about running quickly became an all consuming project, and after a long winter of coding, days and nights, Smashrun was brought into this world.

The idea, at its conception was a simple one — that motivation and context are intrinsically linked. When you understand not just how an action fits into your goals, but how it fits into your history, then you understand purpose. And doing anything with purpose is a heck of a lot easier than doing it without purpose. So, if that's true, then the key to motivation might just be a matter of framing.

If that sounds a tad too abstract, let me explain...

So what's Smashrun all about?

It's cold. It's raining. You drag your butt out of bed, pull on your sweats and a windbreaker. You feel like phoning it in after the first three miles, but instead you lock it down and dig deep for that last mile. You get home, shower quickly and rush to work only to show up 5 minutes late. Your boss peers over his coffee. Nice to see, you managed to make it in.

Now, it wasn't easy to make that run happen. And at the end of the day, it can be hard to say what it accomplished. Maybe you're in a little better shape? Maybe it's helped you maintain your internal discipline? Maybe you feel more balanced?

What Smashrun is designed to do is to give you a context for your run. Finishing that run today meant that you've run 280 miles this year. That puts you in the top 20% of the runners on Smashrun. It's more than 50 miles farther than you'd run last year at this time. And it was the 3rd fastest 4 mile run you've ever run. You're running twice as many miles a week as your friend Joe, and when it comes to sheer discipline — showing up day in and day out — you have few peers.

level up

Huh? Wait. What? Like a video game?

I'm a gamer. I play video games. When you partner that avocation with a career in web development, and a relationship with food that the word zealotry hardly does justice, you've got a recipe for the human blob. So I run. I run like I mean it, and as a consequence, I keep this house of mine in fairly respectable trim. But making myself run is never, what I'd call easy.

Now here's the thought. When you play a video game you're provided with tasks to accomplish. Go here, get this thing, bring it back, kill the zombies, etc. Getting that thing done, earns a reward — progress, advancement, achievement. Rinse. Repeat.

Often it's not about the game, so much as it's about the sense of accomplishment. The cynical (or perhaps just honest) way to look at a lot of games is as virtual skinner boxes. By rewarding a repeated behavior, you condition pleasure response to that behavior, and in doing so, develop a drive.

Now, what if instead of rewarding behavior, which has absolutely no real world benefit whatsoever, you set up the game to reward truly beneficial behavior. Let's say, for example something which might help, you to live longer, feel better, look better, even have a better sex life, not to mention improve your facility to get away from any real world zombies should they ever materialize?

Say hello to Smashrun.