When someone talks about “the arts,” the first thing that comes to mind is usually some form of self-expression, like painting or photography. Very rarely do we talk about art in the same breath as running, but why not? We’re exploring this question with “Daily Arts Runs a Marathon.” However, due to the rising concerns surrounding a certain virus, our endeavor ends here, with our runners reflecting on their training, or lack thereof, before the run was cancelled and we scattered to our respective corners of the world.
Here’s what I talk about when I talk about running: being unprepared. If we’re mentioning running — a race, a campaign, away from somebody — in relation to art, it might just be best to be softly unprepared. In arts and media, it’s usually the likely losers we find ourselves rooting for, whether they’re in last place from the start of a race or merely the underdog. Authors and artists like to make the little guy break through unexpectedly, maybe because this so rarely happens in real life.
Think Katniss Everdeen, the good and moral underdog, jumping to victory. Or the unlikely protagonist’s solving of a crime. The odd man out, strange but lovingly good, racing to find true love. We’d like to hope these revelations are maybe possible in real life, too.
Such methodology may or may not be the way to apply real-life race prep, though. As of spring break, I decidedly abandoned this shoddy method. Over break, I gave in to prepping for the Arts marathon at last, training on the unfriendly slopes of California. The air was thin and dry and the trail made of endless hills. With the weather back to a decent place in Michigan, we’ll see if this preparation — and deciding against the fantasy of an attempted underdog story — continues as planned.
— John Decker, Daily Arts Runner
I’ve had a strange relationship with running since joining the track team in 8th grade, one rooted in an even stranger relationship with my weight since elementary school. I always think back to when I was 15 years old, running high-school cross-country. I was in the shape of my life at 130 pounds (I’m only 5’6”), I was breaking my personal record almost every 5k race, I was on track to make varsity by senior year and maybe even earn the six-pack abs I’d irrationally wanted since I was 10 years old.
When I volunteered to run in the Daily Arts relay a few months back, I was 40 pounds heavier and hadn’t touched my running shoes since high school.
At some point in early 2015 I began to dread running. Over the last five years I decided I hated running, hated my Saturdays spent at races, hated the pain in my shins, hated working up a sweat and hated every step I took at a pace faster than three miles an hour. I think what I actually hated was feeling left out on the cross-country team — while my team was bonding, I spent 90% of my free time hiding in my room. In hindsight, quitting cross-country was a symptom of my untreated depression.
But that dread persisted far beyond treating my mental health. In five years I haven’t gone for a run more than 10 times, each of those few runs taking enormous mental strength. I was discouraged going from six, seven, eight miles to barely capable of a half-mile. I was discouraged watching my weight gain rack up.
Fast forward to 2020. A month before the Probility Ann Arbor Marathon, I heard my fellow runners talking about how their training was going. Everyone was hard at work. One friend invited me to run together. I declined.
In a word, my training has been dreadful. Less than two weeks before the marathon, I’ve run only three times: today, yesterday and the day before. None were more than a mile. All three runs I dreaded terribly, but yesterday’s run a little bit less than the day before’s, and today’s run a little bit less than yesterday’s. I’ve accepted that I’ll have to take my six- or seven-mile leg of the relay really slow. But that’s okay with me. I hope that over the next 10 days, I’ll incrementally reduce my marathon dread. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll put my running shoes back on the day after.
— Dylan Yono, Daily Arts Runner
For the better part of a decade, I’ve been telling myself that “I love running.” At first, this was a bold-faced lie — can you imagine any seventh grader actually enjoying the act of running? There were middle school track teams, of course, but we were all still blindly listening to our parents at that age, just on the cusp of being able to say, “why in the world would I ever voluntarily run anywhere?”
The only reason I started running was to get more play time on the soccer field, but I could not tell you why I kept going. With the last few weeks of training, though, I’ve been thinking more about my relationship with my runs and I decided to categorize them into three major types.
First, we have the procrastination run. There are a variety of ways to avoid responsibilities and going on a six-mile run is one of the best ones out there. It takes me about an hour and a half in total (if we include the cool down and the shower) and for those 90 minutes I am blissfully ignoring the fact that I don’t know how organic chemistry works while The Backstreet Boys blast in my headphones.
Then, my personal favorite, is the run where I’m ever so slightly sick, but not sick enough that I should stay in bed. Have a cough? Put on the running shoes and let the cool winter air clean your lungs. A little bit nauseous? Keeping yourself moving, especially in the winter, is the perfect cure. Winter runs to cure an illness are my foolproof method to avoid sickness. Well, that and downing an eight-ounce glass of Emergen-C.
Finally, it’s the fun run. This is the run where everything works out — I actually remembered to warm up, I found my fancy running socks and the sky is clear. These runs, though not rare, are also not representative of how the majority of my runs go. With a fun run, all I want to do is be outside, feet hitting the pavement. My pace is strong, and I don’t even realize it. Sometimes it’s snowing, sometimes the leaves are just changing color. Either way, the weather is a non-factor with a fun run. What matters is that, for whatever reason, my brain turns off and it’s just me, my music and the burning in my lungs.
— Emma Chang, Daily Arts Runner
Wintertime in Michigan is not an ideal time to train for a race. Between the icy sidewalks and piercing cold air, I find it difficult to log some miles outside instead of staying curled up on the couch. Even when it’s been warm for a few days, you never know what you’ll run into as you trek alongside Michigan roads. Just the other day I was running in 40 degree weather and met an icy slope through the Arb, forcing me to slowly skate up the hill at 10 minutes per mile.
Despite the unpredictability and unpleasantness of Michigan winters, I still find myself lacing up my shoes and hitting the road everyday. When I’m in need of some extra motivation, I look to one of my favorite professional runners, Des Linden, for inspiration. She won the Boston Marathon back in 2018, has made two appearances at the Olympics and she trains full time in northern Michigan, logging nearly twenty miles a day running through the ice and snow. When I see her occasional post on Instagram, I’m inspired by her will to become a better athlete.
I’ve always had a complicated relationship with running — some days the miles come easily and I feel like I can run forever, but other days I struggle to find the fire that keeps my legs moving forward. Regardless of whether I’m flying through an eight mile run or barely pushing past three, running is and has always been an escape from the stress of daily life.
In running it’s easy to get caught up in PRs and mileage; however at the end of the day, I don’t run for numbers but for myself. I would have been excited to take on this relay with some talented writers and to share in the pain and sense of accomplishment of running as we cross the finish line.
— Kaitlyn Fox, Daily Arts Runner
After riding the bench of my high school basketball team for four consecutive years, I have risen from the ashes to make yet another embarrassing athletic debut. Look at me now, coach. Who “doesn’t have the stamina” now, coach?
Training for this run has felt a lot like a coming-of-age indie movie when the manic pixie dream human says, “I like to run a lot, it makes me feel like I’m in control,” followed by a montage of sunset runs in their worn-down converse. It’s me, my mind and a treadmill, telling myself mawkish quotes like “this body is capable of anything, Cantie.” I say this to myself so that no one hears. I have yet to run outside. Only treadmills. Outside makes things real.
I’ve created the habit of never looking at how far I’ve run. Rather, I measure myself in songs. When a beat can distract me from the discomfort, I hit that video-game-frenzy mode; my body goes rainbow, speed picks up, and glitter stars start shooting out of my body.
The most riveting discovery of training for the Probility Marathon Relay: The second you become OK with discomfort, you’ll find comfort. These life lessons about control and pain have kept me coming back to the treadmill, and perhaps they’ll keep me coming back when the race — now canceled — would have been over.
I suspect running, and maybe life, is all about what we tell ourselves. It’s been quite the experiment, trying to tell myself to achieve distances both me and my high school basketball coach never thought I could conquer, and then seeing how my body reacts.
Have I hit six miles yet? No. It’s funny, the things we tell ourselves, and how the fear of public embarrassment has pushed me to distances I’ve never gone.
— Samantha Cantie, Daily Arts Runner