The Oatmeal

The terrible and wonderful reasons why I run long distances - Part 6


Hey! There's a Beat The Blerch race now!

Update: Blerch running shirts are now in stock!

"I believe in The Blerch" running shirts are now available, as well as oversized fridge magnets and bumper stickers.
I believe in the Blerch running shirt
View shirts and stickers here

Notes from the author

My current training
The race I mentioned in the beginning of this comic is the White River 50 mile endurance run. When I ran the race two years ago, I blogged about it here. I'm currently training for this same race again and as of the time of this writing it's about two weeks away. Done and done! I was a bit slower than two years ago, but I finished and ate plenty of horribly delicious crap along the way!

Two years ago I did an interview with Men's Health where I mentioned trying to qualify for Boston. I'm no longer trying to qualify -- I'm not fast enough. I'd have to run a 3:05 full marathon and I honestly don't think I'm strong enough to pull off that time, probably due to the fact that I constantly eat like the world is coming to an end. Furthermore, the pace of an ultra marathon is very different from that of a traditional marathon or half marathon. If marathoners are cheetahs, ultra marathoners are more like overly-caffeinated mountain goats. We don't sprint through the savannah, we methodically trudge over mountains while eating everything in sight.

"I run to seek a void"
This line came from Haruki Murakami's book What I talk about when I talk about running.

Running books
In addition to Murakami's book, here's a couple of my favorite books about running:

  • Born to run A great book about the history, biology, and current state of running long distances. It also was the first book to introduce me to the wonders of both Scott Jurek and the Tarahumara people
  • The Way of the Peaceful Warrior This isn't a running book, but it touches on a lot of the same themes that I mentioned in this comic.
  • Ultramarathon man: Confessions of an all-night runner
    This was one of the first books I ever read about running. Dean Karnazes' stories about running insane distances are both entertaining and inspiring.
  • Eat and Run
    One of my favorite mid-run snacks is now Japanese O'nigiri (I stuff mine with seaweed or kimchi) thanks to this wonderful book about distance running, written by Scott Jurek.

"But running is bad for your knees!" -some fat dude tweeting from his couch
For a very small sect of the population, running can be bad for your knees. So can soccer, tennis, skiing, cycling, skating, hiking, and sitting. For the majority of us, however, it's not. Running is good for lowering cholesterol, increasing lung function, boosting immunity, lowering the risk of certain types of cancer, lowering the risk of a heart attack, losing weight, relieving stress, eliminating depression, and prolonging life. In fact, the number one cause of knee problems in the United States isn't running: it's obesity.

But running isn't for everyone, I get that.

If you can't run, go ride a bike. If you can't ride a bike, go swimming. If you can't swim, take up competitive floor hockey. If you can't do any of these things, find some activity that you can use to find a little piece of mind. Build robots in your backyard. Become awesome at baking. Try to read 100 novels a year.
Any or all of these activities are a stellar substitute for distance running.

Just please, for the love of bejeezus, spare me (or any other runner you meet) the "bad knee" speech.

My PRs
Most of my PRs aren't great. I can pull off a 1:30 half marathon and I once ran a 5:45 minute mile, but that's about as competitive as I get. As I mentioned earlier I tend to tip my refrigerator on its side after a run and start shoveling in mountains of food, which isn't particularly conducive to becoming a competitive runner.

My favorite runs in Seattle:
Green Lake: I run around Green Lake a lot, mostly because it's convenient and if I need to just clock some miles I can run a couple loops.

Discovery Park: I live in Fremont and I know a loop that runs from my house, through the Ballard locks, around Discovery, and home. It's a 12 mile loop and you get a little bit of everything: city roads, trails, jungle, swamp, beach, and steep hills. I run here a few times a week, typically in the afternoons. If you see a hungry-looking dude doing repeats on the south steps it's probably me.

Cougar Mountain: I run here when I need some serious hill training. Also, I run here when I need some serious cougar/bear combat training.

My favorite runs in the world:
Mt. Fuji: I sort of ran up Fuji. I ran in the middle of the night to catch the sunrise and it's quite steep and dark up there, so mostly it was like a really fast hike.

Monteverde Cloud Forest, Costa Rica: My brother, girlfriend and I snuck into the Monteverde Cloud Forest after dark and ran through the jungle. There were lightning bugs on the ground below and shooting stars in the skies above, and we eventually got chased out of the park by rangers on motorcycles. This experience qualifies as one of the best runs of my life.

Nagoya, Japan: This is where my crazy bamboo-lightning run happened. I don't know the name of the forest I ran in but it was in the Meitoku neighborhood of Nagoya. Also, that purple drink is still in those vending machines as far as I know.

That's it! If you want to wish me luck on the White River 50 this year, tweet @oatmeal #WR50 on Saturday, July 27th.

Hugs and Blerches,

-The Oatmeal



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