My friend Dennis Tseng and I are keeping each other accountable for writing on a weekly basis, except that he has a solid list of topics he wants to write about, and I don’t. One of the ideas he gave me was asking what my motivations were for running a marathon. I initially settled on a stupid topic idea, found I couldn’t write a lick about it, and ended up just emailing Dennis the following message as an answer to his question.
I can’t write a goddamn blog post to save my life. I’ve been sitting here way too long. So I’m just going to write to you.
I started thinking about running the marathon after reading a book called Born to Run. I only started to seriously consider it because I had been going to the gym every morning, and I had only been going to the gym every morning because I was living in my car.
I was only living in my car because I had been trying to figure out how to save money for my parents ever since my mom started the acupuncture clinic. That’s why I went to community college. I’m also just a cheap-ass in general. So after living with roommates in an apartment for so long, I decided I hated the apartment life – rent, other people, and noisy neighbors – and I had already been figuring out how to save as much money as possible on rent. Thankfully, there were free lunches almost every godddamn day in Champaign at the cultural houses. Meanwhile, I learned about issues affecting various communities at the houses: Native American House, Black House, Asian American Cultural Center, La Casa Cultural, Women’s Center. I’m probably missing some.
Point is, free food and hatred of renting primed the pump, so to speak, but it was a reddit AMA about someone living in his car and a subsequent article about a Duke graduate student that sparked the fire (not to mention the similar AMAs and comments. And here’s my own contributing AMA! <3 reddit). I switched my lease for the following year with someone and then set off.
I had to figure a lot of things out as I went, like the fact that I could not survive on just Jimmy John’s day old bread without going mad, and that parking for the night and forgetting to lock my doors is a bad idea. One of the things I figured out early on was that I refused to be a dirty homeless person, so I started going to the gym twice a day to shower before and after sleeping for the night. Back then I wasn’t in the habit of working out, but it’s where I began to because fuck, I was at the gym already, might as well.
Meanwhile, I was reading a book called Born to Run that talked about how running technique is key to running injury-free, and I began to perk up and get into it. I tend toward being a technique freak when it comes to movement in general, and learning that running was not just a mechanical thing really helped my interest in it topic blossom. Probably the most remarkable stories I read were about the Tarahumara, the running people, and how they would up and run a few hundred miles in family groups because why the fuck not.
Two adventures ensued from this, and mind you I was still living in my car, so my idea of a good idea was probably already skewed. The first thing was trying to walk from Champaign to Chicago, a good 170 miles. I figured I was pretty healthy and I wasn’t even going to run it like the Tarahumara. I made some logistical mistakes, like trying this in 90 degree weather, so I didn’t make it all the way by foot.
The second adventure was running a marathon, something I actually succeeded at, though with a very slow time, for the very reasons I thought I would succeed at walking to Chicago – I’m generally fit. I say this because, for the most part, I didn’t train for the marathon. I ran outside until it got cold and then I stopped altogether because I hate running in tiny concentric circles. Also, it was cold, goddamn it.
When the time came, my body was ready for an extended run at an average pace of 10 minutes and 18 seconds per mile. I plugged my time into Wolfram Alpha (“4.5 hours / 26.2 miles in minutes per mile”) and it came back at me with “Interpretation: slowness.”
I ran the marathon for other reasons, of course: it’s not something a lot of people do, I’m pretty sure I’m going to die young so I wanted to scratch it off my bucket list, and I wanted to spur myself into becoming a better runner, which did happen in terms of technique, but probably not raw cardiovascular health.
But in general, it’s because of the book Born to Run and the circumstances which prompted me to start running.