dark side

Personalized Training Service for Endurance Runners


Group project with:

Cheng-Hsiang Yang

Meng Yan




Nike x is a fourteen-week service design project in the Service Design Workshop at IIT Institute of Design. Our team was given a design challenge to innovate on existing endurance runner experience. We conducted primary research on ten endurance  runners with various levels of achievements from 8K to ultra-marathon in order to understand runners’ motivations and pain points. We also interviewed two endurance sports industry experts and gained holistic picture of the trends and challenges in the industry.


In order to closely observe the running community and immerse into the runners' experience, we participated in two Nike Run Club running events and the Shamrock Shuffle Chicago. After framing the problems and opportunities, our team ran a co-design workshop with endurance runners to generate concepts and came up with a new personalized training service. We spent seven weeks prototyping and iterating the service concept and shot a video to demonstrate how it works.

Research / Problem Framing

The number of endurance running event finishers had been growing rapidly in the past decade and reached its peak in 2013. However, recent data has shown that the number of event finishers decreased 2 million in the past three years.

The millennials were the primary drive of the past growth, and are blamed for the recent decrease.

To understand the challenges of the Millennial runners, we set out to conduct interviews with 10 endurance runners with various levels of running event experience. To see the in-depth research process, please scroll down to process section on this page.

After four weeks of research, analysis and synthesis, we found repetitive patterns of the three challenges below. Take a look at the bottom of this page to read more about research process.


Personalized Training

Help user set achievable milestones that provide long term vision and short term motivation.

Flexible Daily Quests

Provide daily quest options and enable flexible weekly scheduling. The daily quests are built upon professional training program and user input. The system also suggests running courses near user's location and shows nearby runners' location

Fuel Points

User gains accumulative Fuel points after completing quests. Fuel points can be used to redeem as discounts at Nike store

Keep On Track

Encourage runners to stick to the training plan by using fuel point streaks and reminders recorded by themselves and their friends.

Supportive Community

Create or strengthen personal connections with a supportive community and keep each other accountable.

Tangible Rewards

Send runners a physical box after accomplishing a milestone run, which includes a silicone wristband, after race photo and friends' cheering messages. The wristband color represents the event distance achieved.



Half Marathon


Service System

Service Blueprint

In Depth Research Process

We conducted ten in-person interviews, two expert interviews and four immersive running event observations and reviewed extensive industry reports. Created an experience model to communicate the insights, facilitated ideation workshop to brainstorm ideas with the research participants, and established a system map to capture the concepts. The learnings became the foundation to design Nike x.

1- Understanding People and Context

What motivates millenials to attend endurance running events?


We recruited 10 endurance running event participants and conducted in-person interviews with them. Our interview protocol covered motivations, training preparation, event experience, recovery methods, running equipments, circle of friend and changes in life. We asked participants to bring their favourite running object and share the stories behind. We also prepared drawing exercises, circle of friend and training journey, as interview stimuli to bring more stories to life.

We saw that people attend endurance running events:

1- Endurance running is a very individual experience, because everyone has different motivations, body conditions and schedules. There is no perfect journey that fits for all.

2- It is training that helps endurance runners accomplish goals, not attending running events. But people lose motivation easily during tedious training processes.

3-  Multi-event finishers utilize the resources of running communities during training, while one-time runners are mostly trained by themselves or with people they already know.

4- Running communities create a virtuous circle that reinforces endurance runners’ experiences and keeps them in the running journey. But one-time runners are outside the loop and exit the journey after finishing events.

Field Research

To better understand endurance running experience, we also conducted contextual research in Nike Run Club and joined Shamrock Shuffle 8K run in Chicago and immersed ourselves in runners' shoes to feel what they actually feel. For example, during primary research, we kept hearing the importance of community support and how it can keep you on track of training regardless your laziness and pain. However, we did not get the actual sense of it until we joined Nike Run Club event and witnessed the spirit and genuine support from the community, which motivated us from the bottom even if we were just observers.

Secondary Research

The number of distance running event participant had been growing rapidly in the past two decades and reached its peak in 2013. According to Gary Roethenbaugh, the Managing Director at MultiSport Research Ltd., the past growth of participants was driven by growing the number of small and medium sizes of themed race such as the Color Run. However, unlike large scale running events, those themed races have found difficulties to attract repeated participants because of the inconsistent quality of experience. "We need to increase the value and create better experiences for runners and the community," as Gary suggested.

2- Analysis & Synthesis

Theme Clusters

We debriefed our learnings of research with each other after each interview. All themes were captured and clustered on post-its and pasted on foam core so as to help generate insights and runners' experience model.

Experience Model

How Might We Statements

We generated HMW statements based on the key insights. This process helped the team prepare for ideation session to come up with ideas.

Three key insights

We discovered three key insights through primary research. The way the insights related back to the experience model re-framed our focus from the whole running journey to just the training and community support.

Design principles

Based on the key insights, design should be supportive, responsive and motivated.

3 - Exploring Concepts

Co-creation workshop

The team invited the research participants to join the ideation workshop. We briefly introduced the runner experience model and our key insights and spent eight minutes on each HMW statements. We collected about fifty ideas and grouped them on a 2x2 matrix with one axis indicating the value for runners and the other axis showing the implementation cost. The high user value and low implementation cost quadrant became our primary focus.  We worked with the research participants to generate about 50 ideas by applying the design principles

Service blueprinting workshop

We created the existing service blueprint of Nike Run Club and ideated on top of it to create our own service blueprint while defining key interactions, user experience and background operations of our service.

4 - Prototyping

Throughout the project, we created numerous prototypes, both low and high fidelity, and tested them with our research participants  and our target users.

The purpose of the prototypes was to validate the key hypotheses in our concept. We listed out all of the hypotheses and used a 2x2 with X-axis from high to low risk if untrue and Y-axis from high to low uncertainty. We tested the hypotheses that sit in the high risk if untrue and high uncertainty quadrant.

5 - Video

After finalizing our concept, we decided that it would be the best to communicate this new service idea with a video, since it has a lot of aspects and touchpoints that might be easier to absorb with a video.

© 2017 Ahmet Burak Aktas