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From Machop to Machamp: Surviving London's 5K Pokérun

Engadget logo Engadget 1/08/2016 Jamie Rigg
© Provided by Engadget

One had escaped earlier, but not again -- this time, Squirtle, you're mine. I yanked at the peak of my cap, and began to spin the Pokéball patiently as the target area grew smaller, and smaller still. A good throw, but not a direct hit. The ball shook for what I thought was the last time, then poof... Before you could say "Mew," it was gone. No time to dwell. "Make that Pokéball your last! It's time to get moving," our leader bellowed. Eyes stinging, I dragged an already soaked T-shirt sleeve across my brow. It'll only be another 10 minutes of pounding the pavement, I thought, before respite at the next Pokébreak. I groaned quietly as my legs kicked into a light jog. This, fellow trainers, is the Pokérun.

It hasn't taken long for a huge, devoted community to form around Pokémon Go. It's phenomenal popularity has inspired thousands of fans to meet up and stare at their phones together all over the world; there's even a dating app specifically targeted at companionless trainers. Not only is the game just good fun, it's also being praised for benefitting both mental and physical health, since you actually have to get out and about to play. The latter is what gym chain Virgin Active wanted to focus on when it organised the "world's first" Pokérun, a workout that promised to turn participants from "Machops into Machamps" while also bulking up their Pokédexes. No, seriously.

Scheduled on one of the hottest days of the year in London -- because of course it was -- the Pokérun sounded like it might be a fun little outing. Something different, you know? I even bought a crappy Ash hat in excitement before immediately regretting it. (Luckily, Virgin Active reps were giving out themed caps to other runners on the day, so I didn't look like the only hyper-nerd in attendance.) The route of the 5km run covered multiple terrain types, including city streets, parks and bridges across the Thames, because how is Professor Willow expected to make Magikarp candy without food for the Pokéblender?

The run also featured six stops at Pokémon hotspots. Piece of cake... right? Closer to Pokérun day, however, it slowly dawned on me: I exercise once in a blue moon and I've never run 5km in my entire life. Oh, and those six breaks during the run were as much for interval training as bagging Drowzees. What on earth had I signed myself up for? As it turned out, a whole lot more running and a lot less Pokémoning than I had anticipated. But hey, I scored an Electabuzz, an Eevee and (almost) a Lickitung in one session. Totally worth four weary days of recovery.

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