Game of Thrones has inspired fan fiction, weddings, blogs... but exercise? That's a new one.
Run of Thrones is a project that maps runs in the shapes of clan sigils, allowing fans to get their workout in while paying tribute to their favorite House. The first run in the series was a five-mile loop through Jackson Heights, Queens and was shaped like the Stark sigil, a direwolf. Its designer (and the creator of Run of Thrones) is Gene Lu, a runner, Game of Thrones enthusiast and user experience designer who has worked on projects for, among others, Nike+ Running. In other words? Possibly the most qualified person in the world to create a "Run of Thrones" project.
Since that first run in May, Lu has set up a Tumblr to keep track of subsequent routes/sigils and the cities they are completed in. Fans have created "runs of thrones" in as far-flung places as New Delhi, Panama and Los Angeles.
We talked to Lu about how he came up with the idea and the craziest run he's ever been on.
Where did the idea for Run of Thrones come from?
Run of Thrones was something that was born out of our love for the show and our love for running.
Back in early May, I started to experiment with various run routes. The first couple of runs were just random shapes, but several weeks back, I decided that I wanted to run a route that was a bit more special. It was Sunday and I was pretty excited to run because it was the season finale of Game of Thrones. Before my run, I opened up Google Maps and scanned Queens for the House Stark sigil, the direwolf. Lo and behold, the direwolf ran right by the front door of my apartment. I had to run it.
I plotted out the rest of the sigil, emailed the turn-by-turn walking directions to my phone and was out running the route in less than an hour. After the run, I had this amazing run route to share with friends and on top of that, I realized that the House Stark route didn't really feel like a five-mile run because I was constantly referring to my phone for turn-by-turn directions.
In June, I was out in Minneapolis for a conference. This was going to be my first time out in the Midwest so I wanted to explore the city as much as possible. The night before the run, I had scoured the city for the Lannister sigil, the lion. Again, I got lucky. As I was dragging points around the map in Google Maps, the lion's head appeared a few miles north of where I was staying. A mouth formed, then the head, and finally the mane. What I discovered was that the act of plotting out something so intricate with so many constraints built up my anticipation for the run. The route ended up being a 13.5 mile run, my longest run ever. I'd like to point out here that I was averaging about four-mile per run up until that day.
Besides you, who's doing these runs?
The entire Nike+ Running team at R/GA, especially the Game of Thrones fanatics, were very excited about the sigil runs and wanted to do GoT sigil runs of their own. As of today (July 9), we've done the following runs:
House Greyjoy 14.6mi / New York, NY
House Tully 7.2mi / New York, NY
House Baratheon 15.8mi / New York, New York
In the next couple of weeks, we plan on doing a Night's Watch run (the crow) somewhere in Brooklyn and another, more intricate, House Stark run in Queens.
People have taken the initiative to run a House in their own cities, like Chicago, New Delhi, Panama. There was actually a person out in Chicago who did a House Stark run recently.
What's the appeal of the run, do you think?
I think what makes Run of Thrones magical is that these sigil run routes put a new lens on how we see where we live. Once people are aware of this new lens, they cannot not see it. The payoff for running is no longer trying to burn calories, it becomes a form of expression through physical art. It's this wonderful intersection of technology, fandom, and running. As my coworker and fellow Run of Thrones runner, Ryan Scott Tandy says, "Let the city be the canvas and your feet, the brush."
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.