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Why you run might be different than why I run, but that's OK. - if you can't be witty, then at least be bombastic [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
kyle cassidy

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Why you run might be different than why I run, but that's OK. [Jul. 16th, 2013|07:12 am]
kyle cassidy
[mood |accomplishedaccomplished]
[music |Säkert Det här är vad dom säger]

For the past few days lots of people have been sending me the Oatmeal comic "The Terrible & Wonderful Reasons Why I run Long Distances" and there's so little of why I run in there that I figured I should post about it.

First, and most importantly: Everybody is Fighting Their Own War. The reasons we do things are all different and there's not a right one, or a wrong one.

I Started Out as a Child
I got picked on a lot as a child. I was bookish and weird and I wore glasses and wasn't strong or fast. Leaving school was a gauntlet of fear; I was like a rabbit crossing an open field nervously waiting for a hawk to swoop down and chase me home or rip me apart. When I was in 4th grade a bully named Eddie Hawn chased me into the public library and waited outside, for hours, for it to close, for me to have to leave so he could beat me up. I sat inside and watched the clock tick; closer to the time when my sanctuary would evaporate. I never understood what gave him the ability to just wait there, like a spider. And there was no reason for him to want to beat me up other than that I was smaller and couldn't get away. We had no classes together, we didn't live on the same block, he was a lot older than me, I didn't owe him money, I never spit on his bicycle seat. He just picked me out on the playground and decided to make my life difficult, like Michael Henchard picks Donald Farfrae out of the blue to be his nemesis in The Mayor of Casterbridge. In retrospect, I've never been more afraid in my life than those days in school and trying to get home from school. In ninth grade some kids had an older cousin visiting from out of town and they had him chase me down and pummel me for no reason other than they thought it was funny. Two college students stopped it and one of them gave me a ride home and gave me a shirt to stop my nose bleeding. I sincerely thought it was the kindest thing a person had ever done for me.

If I could go back and give my 12 year old self any advice I'd say two things. First: Go to Europe in your early 20's, because everything changes after that and it's good to have that perspective in early, all this crap of people being terrible to you for no reason goes away once you get into college and after you've gone someplace else that's very different and seen the world from a new perspective you get older much more easily after that. And secondly, find a sport that you like, that you can compete in, and stick with it. I turned into a very good tennis player once I hit my teen years -- I had lessons and summer programs -- all this partly, or mostly, I think because I was tall and I could get the ball over the net more consistently than other people my age -- it's the only thing I've ever won a trophy for -- and I was looking forward to getting to high school where I could play regularly on a team. When I got to high school and signed up for Junior Varsity I discovered that along with sports came jocks. I got hazed, team members who were supposed to hold me up dropped me and laughed, I got excluded, people took things from me and it turned into games of monkey-in-the-middle to get them back. It was a hazing culture that went with the territory and it was territory I was unable to cross. I couldn't make it to the other side where I'd be the one throwing people's underwear on the roof of the school so I bailed and never played tennis again. In my life. And I never played another organized sport again. Ever. Not even a weekend softball game. I'd had it with jocks. That experience both robbed me of an ability to enjoy a particular type of life as an adult and it also gave me time to do other things. I didn't climb mountains or go scuba diving, but I wrote books and I made music and I moved along, and I moved along happily.

You can make this bigger.

And Then You Get Older
But somewhere in there your metabolism catches up with you and sitting around writing books and not climbing mountains took its toll and one day I discovered that I'd gotten fat and it was difficult for me to perform normal tasks -- like walk up stairs, or stand in line in airports carrying lots of camera equipment, or sleep, or sit comfortably. I saw a photo someone took of me in August 2012 and I knew that something needed to change. I had to draw a line in the sand because I wanted more from life.

You can lose weight by doing many, many, many different things. You can ride a stationary bike, you can skip rope, you can use an elliptical, you can swim, but for me, the thing that I didn't have was the thing that the jocks kept me from getting in high school -- the ability to think of myself as an athlete. I wanted to do something that I could accomplish on my own, I wanted something that would make my body better, make me stronger, make me thinner, and something that I could get a trophy for to put in the box with that path that dead-ended in high school. And ... very secretly, I wanted into that club of athletes that closed the door on me. Not the towel snapping, not stuffing people in lockers, not the hazing, but the respect. I wanted people with trophies to say "Well, Kyle can get up at five a.m. and run ten miles in twelve degree weather, why don't you ask him?" (This is one reason that I admire Rollergirls so much. It's a sport that's rejected the towel-snapping jockocracy and said "we don't pick athletes out of a lineup, we make athletes out of people, and we help one another along the way.")

Running was hard, but it burned a lot of calories and it was the sort of thing that other people did; athletes. It was a high goal and rewarding in the way that nobody ever got a medal for using an elliptical or riding a stationary bike. It wasn't the aimless burning of calories, it was a way I could chart my improvement and something I could wrap a lifestyle around. Running totally sucked in the beginning. I'd set the treadmill for three miles and every footstep after mile 1.5 I'd repeat the mantra "more than anything else on earth right now I want to quit" -- but for some reason I didn't. And Peter Sagal tweeted me "It gets better, I promise." And it did. In a few weeks three miles is something I could do while clipping my nails. Then five miles got easy. Then six. And while I was running the world went away and my brain started to focus on things, it ordered my life while my body was taking care of putting one foot in front of the other. Running still hurt at the edges, the first mile isn't your favorite, and every time you're pushing new distance it kind of sucks, but in the middle ... in the middle it's like a drug. And the places it takes you.... I've lived in Philadelphia for years and years but there's so much of it I've never seen. I joined a running club that just heads in directions -- we run west, we run north, we run south. I've seen all the streets within 20 blocks of my house, and I've found nature. I've found the woods and the streams that I didn't think we had. And, when you're running, it can be like you're flying -- like in those dreams where you can just point in a direction and go, and you're there, at great speed, seemingly without effort.

And Then You Get Better
So, did I start running because I hated my body? I started running because I was unsatisfied with my body and I knew it could be better. Is that a bad thing? I don't know, but I don't have trouble walking up stairs anymore. Was it a lot of work along the way? Yes, but it wasn't insurmountable, the battles are small, and the victories build up. Everybody's fighting their own war, remember. This one is mine; your mileage may vary. Do I keep running because I like what my body's turning into? Yes. Do I keep running because athletes respect my accomplishments? It doesn't hurt.

So ... there are lots of reasons and they're complicated; And one of them is that if I ever meet up with Eddie Hawn again, he'll have to be able to run 14 miles before he gets to fight me.

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[User Picture]From: howlokitty
2013-07-16 05:59 pm (UTC)
So far, 5k training is the only thing I can do even a little consistently. I think it's partly because I have a dog, and the jogging in the morning gets both me and the dog out of the house, and I feel better because he gets some time outside, and he's a poodle, so he's always full of energy and seems content to go at my speed. So, he keeps up with me when I'm jogging (probably thinking "Why can't we go faster?") and plods along with me on walking intervals. And, I keep going back and forth, one week I'll be running five minutes at a time, and then I'll take a week or two off and have to go back to running three minutes at a time, but instead of just giving up, I've been keeping at it, partially because you talk about how far you've gone.

And then, I find out I can do things like job around a track once without stopping and realize I'm in better shape than I was when I was in high school, and how many people can really say that?
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-16 06:29 pm (UTC)
hella yeah. It's one run at a time. The results pile up and eventually, someone puts a medal around you're neck and you're like "sweet barking cheese! there's a freaking MEDAL AROUND MY NECK AND I'M NEVER TAKING IT OFF."
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-16 06:44 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: mizkit
2013-07-16 07:27 pm (UTC)
*sigh* I *do* think of myself as an athlete. I danced, I swam, I idiotically joined track and cross country teams more than once, despite hating to run. And now I'm a fat fuck and I still think of myself as an athlete inside the fat fuck body.

And the truth is my problem is not a lack of exercise. I walk an average of 5 miles a day with appalling consistency. My problem is I eat too goddamned much, and I have for whatever reason been unable to get a handle on it.

So I admire and envy you for having found the athlete that got lost in you all those years ago. *toffs hat*
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-16 08:17 pm (UTC)
And you have written books.
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[User Picture]From: solstice_lilac
2013-07-16 08:16 pm (UTC)
I hate jocks. I hated them on my own behalf already (which is also why I still refuse to play team sports) but you have reminded me of just how hateful they are. There must be so many people who have been turned off of a sport or exercise that made them feel good because some idiots bullied them out of it! Which made getting into regular exercise even more difficult for me, too, because it wasn't a lifelong habit; I also had to find ways to fit it in after I had already gotten older (and out of shape).

I don't care about getting medals or being part of a team or some kind of fitness cabal.. but it's good to think that you can outrun your adversaries :)

I really like that running has put you in touch with being outdoors and with your surroundings too.
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[User Picture]From: wyyknot
2013-07-16 08:31 pm (UTC)
I absolutely agree with the 'visit Europe in your 20s' point of view. Americans as a whole lost a great deal when two World Wars made it no longer the in thing for a well educated young person to go to Europe to be 'finished.' It would be great if every single young person could spend a year of college, or even a year of high school, in another country. I did, and I know it changed me. I managed to get two of my children to experience other cultures, and they'll tell you it's worth it.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-16 08:37 pm (UTC)
absolutely. when i get elected to public office, i'll start the mandatory "junior year somewhere else" program. I think the biggest thing traveling does is make you realize that it's possible. and that you can do it if you want to. and when you're somewhere else, surrounded by people who think of things differently, your world opens.
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[User Picture]From: livejournal
2013-07-16 08:35 pm (UTC)

Why you run might be different than why I run, but that's OK.

User poindexter referenced to your post from Why you run might be different than why I run, but that's OK. saying: [...] Originally posted by at Why you run might be different than why I run, but that's OK. [...]
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-16 09:00 pm (UTC)
Yes, absolutely. I left out a lot in there. The first time I tried running I couldn't make it the length of a city block. Granted, I stopped within 20 feet of the corner, so I made it ALMOST a block, but not entirely a block. And at the same time I was busting my ass on the stationary bike, so that's how I got my cardiovascular up, eventually, to the point that I could run a mile. And then two miles. And then ... three miles. I conveniently left point "B" out of my journey there when I wrote it down.

You may get a lot more fun out of the Zombies Run C-5K program. I love Zombies Run & look forward to new episodes every time I go out.
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[User Picture]From: silveringridd
2013-07-16 08:50 pm (UTC)
this made me cry. for so many reasons. people are assholes and i hate the idea of people treating you so shitty because you are such an amazing person. but the past is the past.
god i've struggled my whole life with this shit. my weight. my self image. not being good at any sports. trying to play sports but always being sat on the bench because i sucked. going to the gym and lifting weights was all i could do. and then because of injuries i slowly couldn't do that. and then my biggest fear took place. i blew up because pain kept me from working out. and i still can't work out. i can't run, and i'm so happy for you and what you've accomplished and am envious at the same time. and because i can't exercise i struggle even more with my weight. it's not an every day battle. it's an every minute battle. i have to battle my urge to just jam everything in my mouth every single fucking minute of the day.
i could go on.
mostly i just wanted to say that this is beautiful and awesome and i love you.
oh and P.S. how the fuck could you NOT tell me about PB2??? dear god! that's not the type of shit you keep a secret! (valya told me she learned about it from you :))
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[User Picture]From: silveringridd
2013-07-16 08:51 pm (UTC)
and ditto about going to europe. why didn't someone force me to go sooner? i think all the time about how my life might be different now had i discovered it sooner...*sigh*
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[User Picture]From: dancinglights
2013-07-16 09:03 pm (UTC)
This is, roundabout, why I climb rocks, with a little bit of my own gender issues thrown in.

I was picked on a lot, socially by other girls for not fitting in with them, and physically by boys when I tried to play soccer with them instead. Sometime in middle school, my knees seemingly busted from training stupidly, my hatred of masculine athletic culture solidified, I gave up. Then, in my early thirties with an awesome desk job but becoming more and more unsatisfied with how little I could get my fattening body to do, I found something it could. To my surprise there were other women there, lots of them, some of whom were better at things than the jock guys were. The sport came with an oddly noncompetitive grading system where everyone works to failure at their own pace. Now a couple years in, I still am failing at my own pace. But I can carry near my own weight in climbing gear (and therefore also camping gear or camera gear) on those formerly weak knees. I could with certainty outperform in some arena of athletics the relevant group of people who made my life difficult. And there's always something harder out there to do.

And yes, it keeps the Void at bay, which is the only thing from the Oatmeal piece I really got, but this is much, much closer to all the other reasons I and some other nerds I know picked up a nonstandard sport. Having followed your This Is Not A Sports Blog stories for a while now, I'd kind of suspected as much, but it feels good to read plainly. Thanks for sharing.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-17 02:13 am (UTC)
Thanks for this great comment.
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[User Picture]From: silveringridd
2013-07-16 09:27 pm (UTC)
YES!!!VERY!!!--> "The joy you feel in it is contagious and inspiring!"
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[User Picture]From: coffeeem
2013-07-17 12:21 am (UTC)
I run to earn this beer. Okay, and to find out if the failed vaccine will turn Runner 8.
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[User Picture]From: tsarina
2013-07-17 01:10 am (UTC)
I remember, so vividly, asking my mother for ballet lessons. Her response was no. If it had just been the money I would have understood and lived with that. But instead she told me she didn't want me to go because I would always be too fat to be a dancer and people would torment me for it and I would fail.

More than two decades later, that is still fucking me up. It was only last year that I let myself start dancing at the goth club. I love to dance and I'm so sad that my mother's crazy stood between me and dancing for so long.

I kind of want to start running but honestly I'm a little afraid of it and I have no idea what to do.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-17 01:15 am (UTC)
somewhere right around where you live there are a bunch of people in a running clu who meet up every wednesday night or every saturday morning or every tuesday afternoon who want to help you be a runner.

.... or dancing lessons you can do that too. You and I will never be the fastest runners, or the best dancers, but if we want we can dance or run or both.
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[User Picture]From: skywayman
2013-07-17 03:21 pm (UTC)
I ran today. I just put on some shoes and ran before work. I didn't go far. It doesn't matter. I feel better just for taking a step. Thanks for the inspiration.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-17 09:01 pm (UTC)
You can run across the country one step at a time. And you get stronger every time. Go you.
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[User Picture]From: orv
2013-07-17 06:54 pm (UTC)
I've had a really hard time getting over the anxieties about exercise that I got from the jock culture at my school. I feel like I can't go to a gym because I can't deal with the macho jock culture I know will be there. And I can't bring myself to exercise if there's a chance someone else might be watching and seeing how awkward I am. It's made it very hard for me to stick with any kind of exercise plan, because no matter what I do, it feels like I'm stepping into the territory of some species of jock.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-17 09:04 pm (UTC)
Did you happen to see the interview that I did with Hanne Blank? We talk about this and other stuff and some possible ways to get around it, through it, past it. Hanne's book is marvelous too. And fwiw, grownup jock culture exists for sure, but grownup jock culture pretty much leaves you alone at the gym, it's not like high school jock culture.

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[User Picture]From: briansiano
2013-07-17 07:29 pm (UTC)
"I got picked on a lot as a child. I was bookish and weird and I wore glasses and wasn't strong or fast. Leaving school was a gauntlet of fear; I was like a rabbit crossing an open field nervously waiting for a hawk to swoop down and chase me home or rip me apart. When I was in 4th grade a bully named Eddie Hawn chased me into the public library and waited outside, for hours, for it to close, for me to have to leave so he could beat me up. I sat inside and watched the clock tick; closer to the time when my sanctuary would evaporate. "

I hear ya, man. In stereo. Dolby.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-17 09:04 pm (UTC)
I hope it's gotten better.
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[User Picture]From: Shelley Shearer
2013-07-18 01:04 am (UTC)


Seeing your posts inspired me to get my butt off the couch and try the Couch to 5K. Sadly I'm so out of shape I can't get past a two minute run even though I've been working my butt off the past month. I do make sure and average 8000 steps a day and keep trying to add more seconds on my sprints listening to the Zombies, Run. Getting very frustrated that I'm not seeing improvement, but determined to keep trying.
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[User Picture]From: kylecassidy
2013-07-18 11:22 am (UTC)

Re: Running

I was unable to run in the beginning, pretty much at all. I used the stationary bike to build up my cardiovascular to the point that I could start running slowly. It took about four or six weeks.
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[User Picture]From: maehymn
2013-07-18 09:36 am (UTC)
I love this so much. I identify with so many of the pieces of this. Excellent work, on all counts.
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[User Picture]From: lentower
2013-07-18 09:57 am (UTC)
weight loss and fitness are different paths for me.

i lost over sixty-five pounds.
i'm now below the weight my MD wants me at.

i did it by eating a plant based diet (aka vegan) that only has low glycemic load foods.
that is:
no processed sugar or starches.
no cooked deserts.
no baked goods.
no soda.

letting the sweets and processed carbs go, got easy within weeks.

my weight just maintains itself.
even when i'm less active,
that is get less exercise.


for fitness, i do
- walking briskly
- bicycling
- yoga (sun salutations can be more aerobic than running, and easier on the joints.)
and as Kyle wrote:
"my brain started to focus on things, it ordered my life while my body was taking care of" doing one asana after another.


different paths can lead to the same place.

Edited at 2013-07-18 09:59 am (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: morbid_wolf
2013-07-18 05:19 pm (UTC)
Very inspirational! I've recently became a work-out fanatic for the same reasons. I've always wanted to run, but I used to hate it so much I never really wanted to try.
I now have a treadmill, and so want to start again, more motivation now than ever.
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