Welcome to Dungeons and Dogwalkers - The geekiest way to train.

First some background. Last september I ran a half marathon with a couple of friends, it was a gruelling experience for someone like me with little to no sporting background. At the beginning of my training I weighed 16 stone which on my 5 foot 9 frame I am told was edging into the 'clinically obese' end of the BMI, I could hardly run a mile. By the end of my training I was down to 14 stone and I made it round the half marathon in 2 hours 22 mins. Not a great time and I did end up walking for about half a mile but I got round.

Six months later I'm back up to 15.5 stone and the training for this year's half marathon starts in earnest. Then disaster strikes: My (far fitter) running partner gets a new job and moves out of London. Now I should hope I'm self-disciplined enough to continue my training alone, but it was his constant encouragement, chivvying and flat-out insulting that kept me going further and faster each time.

So I'm worried. How am I going to improve my running time now? I don't know anyone else who runs who I'm good enough friends with that they won't mind me slowing them down all the time. My only other running friend does odd things like early morning runs and two laps round hampstead heath and I know I'd never keep up.

So what does that leave? How can I keep my interest and my focus for the next six months?

Three nights ago I was lying in bed, having finally crashed out after 5 hours of Modern Warfare 2 and I realised my addiction to the game lay not in the game itself - which is a fairly standard First Person Shooter - but in the experience system whereby you gain levels, abilities and new weapons. And that applies to a lot of things - the D&D and Advanced Hero Quest I used to play in my younger years, games like Oblivion, Fallout 3, Dawn of War 2 even Spore use a levelling system of one kind or another.

So that's what I'm going to do. I'm going to give myself experience points each time I train, and when I go up a level I'll treat myself to a book or a DVD or similar. I'm also going to give myself gold pieces with which I'll upgrade my running character with new imaginary kit, just for fun. I've roughed out some experience and gold earning tables - you can see them in the menu above. Expect these to be added to and revised as I perfect the system.

So here's me - Gary (LVL 1 Slob)

Equipped as standard with:
  • Embarrassingly tight shorts bought ten plus years ago (-1 to charisma)
  • Extremely inappropriate footwear (-1 to endurance)
  • Belly Bulge of Sloth (-1 to speed)
It's not a new idea - I'm told some student developed a similar system to help himself revise for exams - but who cares? As long as it keeps me running.