In 2022, like in years before, the writers of The Michigan Daily Arts are stretching out their hammies to participate in a grueling challenge of mental fortitude and physical fitness: the Probility Ann Arbor Marathon. A little pretentious, a little weird, The Daily team is a mix of ex-trackletes. For the sake of journalism and prestige, The Daily’s tenacious review-writing gremlins are closing their laptops, tying up their Brooks and hitting the Ann Arbor pavement. Non-gremlin but marathon-interested University of Michigan students can sign up for the marathon with the discount code “Goblue25.” Individuals in the Campus or Ann Arbor community interested in volunteering at the Oct. 2 event should contact email@example.com for more information. Read our first installment of runner introductions here.
Laine “Just Scraping By” Brotherton
My relationship with sports is like that of a child and their grumpy piano teacher — nothing I do is right and I never know where to put my hands. Seven-year-old me didn’t play soccer so much as she kicked the ball once or twice before losing track of where it was. Nine-year-old me was just fine on the neighborhood swim team, but competing made her anxious to the point of nausea. Ten-year-old me served a four-year tenure term playing softball but quit before it got too serious.
Despite this, I recognize that being fit and healthy is a privilege, and I really do feel my best when I’m in shape. The pandemic brought forth the most sedentary period of my life, and roughly a year ago I had a relatively invasive surgical procedure that prevented me from any high-impact activity. Following that period, I could hardly run a mile; now, after about two months of light running, I can comfortably run three. I may run like someone whose arms and legs don’t belong to them, and I may up my tempo and end early simply because I’m bored, but I want nothing more than to become a true runner: Someone who knows when to rest and when to go, how to stretch and what to eat. If I’m being completely honest, I also want to be someone who carries around pockets of flavored energy goo, just to see how it feels.
At present, I’m confident I would vomit before crossing the finish line, but I’m putting in writing my intention to turn that around before Oct. 2. Despite seven-hour days in the Chemistry building, 9 a.m. classes or my tendency to smack headfirst into the pavement when I run at dawn without glasses, I’m going to make it happen. Following the pattern of most of my decision-making — a declaration of commitment without forethought — I have sworn myself to do something that I truly believed I would forever be capable of.
Zach “Hates Running But Loves Being Outside” Loveall
My first real experience with running was in middle school when, in an attempt to stay active, I signed up for the school track team. I was always a half-hearted participant — one of my events was the long jump because it meant a large chunk of practice was spent standing in line. I loathed the idea of running long distances. Every day that I had to run more than a couple of miles increased my temptation to quit the team. I stopped going after one year, switching to tennis instead.
For the next couple of years, I avoided serious endurance cardio, until junior year when I started going on more outdoor adventures. When COVID-19 forced everyone inside, my family started going on exclusively camping and hiking vacations. I’d always loved nature, but those trips marked the start of my obsession with the outdoors. I went on multi-day backpacking trips, visiting every national park I could and spending as much time in nature as possible.
I started running again out of necessity, as my increasingly long hiking trips made me realize I needed more cardio to improve my endurance. I learned that, while I still was not a fan of the physical act of running, I thoroughly enjoyed running through parks and forests. I now spend multiple evenings a week running through the Arb, appreciating the sound of rustling leaves and rushing water while despising the feeling of my feet pounding against the ground.
Mitchel “My Knees Won’t Make It” Green
Running was always a punishment for me. I played many sports growing up (baseball, football, basketball), and every coach’s idea of discipline involved running — suicides for missing free throws, running around our school’s campus because a few people were late to practice, the “take a lap” when they were just fed up with our youthful nonsense. Because of this, I always associated running with feeling bad about myself, like I did something wrong. Physically, I had no problems; I was fit enough that I never struggled with running, but psychologically it made me hate something that was good for my health.
After my junior year of high school, I quit baseball and was done playing sports for good. It was freeing for several reasons, but if I was going to stay in shape, I needed to find a way to make up for the lost weekly exercise. I hated weightlifting, both the intense, intimidating culture around it and the way it made my body feel, so that wasn’t an option. I could play sports recreationally, but I struggled to find people to do that with. I needed something I could do on my own, so I started running.
At first, of course, I hated it. It felt like something I had to do as opposed to something I wanted to do. Having to run in the humid Kentucky summer heat also didn’t help — I was drenched in sweat and ready to pass out even after the shortest runs. But I kept with it. It became something I looked forward to every day. Something I could do to clear my head, catch up on new music or podcasts, and just be with myself. Running is now just as much a part of my routine as eating lunch, going to class or watching nightly movies. It’s something I don’t have to convince myself to do anymore; I’m glad when I get the chance to run. Running is no longer a punishment for me; it’s a reward.
Joshua “The First Step is Easy, Avoiding Cramps is Hard” Medintz
I was on my bed. My computer was out. I was watching European soccer highlights on YouTube. Was I really going to lace up and go for a run? The first step is the hardest, I thought. All I have to do is motivate, get up off my bum and do it: run, run, run.
So I did. I squirmed out of bed, dusted off my neon running kicks, laced them up tight, stretched just enough to convince myself that I had stretched enough and ran through my south campus front door toward the glorious Parque de Burns.
I didn’t make it.
A few blocks into my jog, a piercing pain started to fester on the right side of my belly, and then fester some more. I stopped running and took several quick, high-volume breaths. This was a trick my Dad had taught me to relieve cramp pain. Bullocks, of course. I tried to wait and see if the pain would subside, but my patience makes even my lung capacity seem grand.
So yes, I gave up. I walked home and into my shower. Before I knew it, I was back where I belonged, on my bed, watching mini European men do the running for me.
What did I learn? Well, maybe the first step isn’t actually the hardest. Maybe running is not about having the right state of mind, but the right state of body. And sadly, a right state of body is something I cannot claim for myself. Not yet. But that is why I am doing the marathon.
Ava “Just Keep Running” Seaman
Running has been one of the few constants in my life as long as I can remember. As a child, I frequently challenged my father and older brother to see who was the fastest member of the family. I annoyed my friends with the question, “Wanna race?” on the playground. I played as a midfielder on my soccer team, meaning I ran up and down the field playing catch-up with the ball every game. I liked to run, but above all, I liked proving how fast I was.
The summer before high school, my friend asked if I wanted to join the cross-country team with her. I wasn’t that excited about it, but I thought it was a good way to get in shape for the soccer season in the spring. When I showed up for the first day of practice on what felt like the hottest day of August, I began to question everything I knew about running and exercise. My body was no longer the same as when I was a child. Thanks, puberty. I wasn’t as fast as I once was, and I had to come to terms with that. After all, cross-country was long-distance running, not sprinting, so I had to learn to pace myself. I had to learn how to really breathe for the first time in my life and how to be patient with myself. I had to ask myself why I was running in the first place, but I never found a good reason. All I knew was that cross-country meant chatting with my friends between breaths and scarfing down Taco Bell on the way home from practice.
I’ve been running all my life, but it has taken on different meanings. As a child, it meant speed. As a teenager, it was a social sport. As a 20-year-old college student, I often use running as an escape from the busy world around me. I find comfort in lacing up my running shoes and hearing the steadiness of the thump thump thump of my feet hitting the concrete. I find comfort in breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth, just like my cross country coach taught me. I find comfort in challenging myself to keep running despite everything else going on around me.
I’m still not sure why I run, all I know is that I keep doing it. So long as my body allows it, I’ll keep running.
Saarthak “Same Boulder, New Steps” Johri
Ann Arbor is annoyingly hilly. A large part of planning out my routes is making sure I don’t push my pace on downhill portions and that I have uphill portions or extra length to make up for them. At stoplights especially — since stopping the run when needing to cross the street lets the strain catch up to me — I run up and down the little hill that is at every road crossing, getting used to tackling the slope that was absent from my hometown runs in Saginaw. It’s a little Sisyphean, but I’m getting used to it.
The last time I ran in Ann Arbor before starting to train for the 2022 marathon was sprinting across the Diag and Ingalls at the end of the first week of my sophomore year to get to my bike at the end of the day. That was the closest thing to a run I had done since dropping cross-country and track in my sophomore year of high school.
But why these gaps in my running history, you ask?
Ok, here we go. The CliffsNotes (or SparkNotes summary, etc.): Born in the ICU; had childhood asthma. Lungs grew out of it by high school, started running: long-distance track for that spring, cross-country in fall. Found myself in winter unable to keep up. Hospitalized in spring for severe anemia from months of internal bleeding and diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. Pulled out of every sport, then spent the next three years battling disorders — both physical and mental — to get to a better state. Landed myself on crutches for two months the first week of my college sophomore year, then continued rehab for my legs and especially my ankle to now.
I would talk about my background less if I could. Conciseness was never my strong suit, but I don’t have any more energy to elaborate on what’s held me back, only on what I’ll do now. I’ve restarted running because I thought more about the quote concluding one of my most recent pieces: “(Running) gets easier. Every day, it gets a little easier. But you gotta do it every day. That’s the hard part. But it does get easier.” Of course, the show’s referencing running, but they’re not really talking about running. My energy’s going into continuing on, becoming content with my hills — their peaks and valleys — whether they have boulders or not. I still feel the strain: my rehabilitated legs, my recovered organs, my exhaustion creeping up on me — but it gets easier every day. Whether in rehab, recovery or running — I won’t let anything stop me from moving forward. Never again.
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