Stephen O’Sullivan’s passion for running saw him develop this new app.

New app developed to bring runners together

By Thomas Conway

Running in solitude has its merits, but isolation can also erode motivation, and when motivation starts to wane, the miles start to feel a whole lot longer.

That, in essence, is the core tenet behind Stephen O’Sullivan’s app, Train Pack, a new technological venture which seeks to bring runners and cyclists together and enable them to train in groups, rather than face the roads alone.

Originally from Listowel, Co. Kerry, Stephen is a long-time running enthusiast. He is a man who has clocked up many miles on roads across Ireland and the world, an individual with a passion for running and a desire to make the sport accessible to as many people as he possibly can.

He also has an innovative streak. Having spent a decade living in Dublin, the photographer moved to Ballina and quickly realised that he had a dilemma on his hands. He loved the area, loved striding along the riverbank and taking in the picturesque surroundings, but he had nobody to run with. It was a predicament that he had to solve, and inventing Train Pack was ultimately his solution.

“We were in Dublin, and I had a good group of running friends up there, but when I came down to Ballina, at first I had no one to run with, and it just became a de-motivating factor,” he explained.

“I was getting up on dark mornings in the winter, then heading out for runs completely on my own. Then I would arrive home and log on to Strava - another running app - and see that others had just done the exact same run as myself, but maybe an hour later. So, I started saying to myself, why didn’t we link up, I wish there was some way that we could have linked up. And that’s kind of where the idea sprung from.”

The idea sprouted, and it quickly blossomed. Train Pack was only launched a couple of weeks ago at the Dublin Marathon, but it already has between up to 250 users. New recruits are logging on daily. The app is being talked about amongst the running community.

So, what does it actually do? In a nutshell, Train Pack allows users to find company on their runs, to organise group sessions on a dedicated running platform, so that they can hit the roads together, rather than face the prospect of an isolated, lonely jog. It has various benefits. The comradery aspect is one thing. There’s also a safety element. Running alone can be a hazardous pursuit, particularly on dark, poorly lit streets. The app enables users to converge in a group and complete their session together.

Exercise isolation

While running, cycling and other forms of outdoor activity exploded in popularity during the Covid-19 pandemic, Stephen feels that many athletes suffered as a result of exercise isolation. They were forced to train alone, and while certain people thrived in the circumstances, others found themselves devoid of motivation and enthusiasm.

“During the pandemic, a lot of people were forced to run on their own, people who might have previously run in groups,” he added.

“The pandemic broke a lot of those connections, and that made it a lot harder for people to train, for people to motivate themselves. So, I’m hoping that the app will help to bring people back together, to get them out running, and to get them enjoying their running. If it helps to do that then I’ll be a happy man!”

The Kerry native admits that the process of actually developing the app was somewhat more complicated than he had first anticipated, but having got to grips with the technology, he’s now seeking to expand its functions further. After consultation with some of the users, he decided to develop a new club section, which he hopes to bring on stream within the next couple of weeks.

“One of the best bits of feedback I’ve got was a suggestion that I should start targeting the app at clubs,” he said.

“So, I’ve just been developing a huge new club section, so that people will have a one-stop shop for clubs. Clubs will be able to have all their communications on the app and they’ll be able to organise all their training sessions.

“Because I know myself, from being in clubs and being on club committees, that it can be very hard to use things like Whatsapp and Facebook to organise everything - they’re useful but they’re not fit for purpose when it comes to organising club activities. So, the new club function will be another huge string to our bow.”

The more strings he adds, the more popular this app is likely to become. At present, its usage is limited to Ireland, but Stephen has lofty ambitions. He firmly believes that he can bring the app to a global audience. He muses about groups of runners logging on to set up an evening session on streets of Manhattan, or around the World Cup stadia in Doha. The sky is the limit, he feels.

People everywhere can benefit, both in terms of their psychological wellbeing and their physical performance. Ultimately, Stephen says, running and cycling both become more effortless, more fun, when undertaken as a part of a group. They might be known as singular activities, but they too can have a collective element.

“If you’re running with someone or cycling with someone for say, two hours, those two hours are going to feel a whole lot shorter than they would have been if you were on your own. So, you’re shortening the miles, making it easier for the athlete while they’re training and enabling them to get more enhancement and more development from their training,” Stephen concluded.