The Sunday Read: Strange running stories and other idiocies

Instructional books for runners tend to be full of motivational wisdom, sage advice and long, meditative pieces on the joy of the activity. But truth be told, running attracts its fair share of grouches, grumps, kooks, weirdos and others. This week’s Sunday Read includes a long rant from a journalist and runner who loathes groups, a marathoner who squandered a successful career, and some downright strange individuals who choose to run in rather odd places. Enjoy.

Journalist Katrina Onstad plays the misanthrope in The Globe and Mail and offers up a hybrid of personal essay and news story on why she likes to run alone. Among other things, she provides some interesting statistics, including this one:  “According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians 12 and over who say they run or jog has gone from 14 per cent in 2001 to 23 per cent today – that’s 6,533,000 of us.” And my favourite section from the piece is this one:  “My watch, a Nike Plus, can instantly post my times to an online running forum (I decline), and many runners share their most mundane daily runs on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe the concept of the unwitnessed, personal achievement – the dark and gruelling, private triumph of a conquered road – doesn’t make sense in wired times.” Read Onstad’s quest to be far from the madding crowd here:

A new piece in The New Yorker re-examines the tragic life and death of Kenyan marathoner Samuel Wanjiru. A runner who was given to heavy drinking and yet set an Olympic record in the marathon and won a number of other majors, Wanjiru was worth a million dollars at the time of his death, thanks to prize money, appearance fees and a Nike sponsorship deal. Seven months after a major victory at the Chicago Marathon in 2010, the marathoner fell off a balcony to his death. Police ruled it a suicide. The article looks at the runner’s legacy, profiles his life, and ponders whether his death may not have been an accident. Here is the link; unfortunately, this piece is behind The New Yorker’s pay wall.

An Australian man ran a half-marathon for charity recently in a hot air balloon. Tethered above the city Canberra, Rob Ginnivan banged out the 13.1`miles on a small treadmill. If that didn’t sound tough enough, the tethered balloon tilted slightly upward, making it seem as if Ginnivan was running uphill the entire time. Beyond the fact that Ginnivan is doing this for a heart foundation charity, the article still fails to answer the crucial question: why would anyone bother? Also, there’s no word on how long it took Ginnivan to accomplish this…er, feat. Here’s the link:

On the other hand, Derek Cooper’s training was more understandable, if a little unorthodox. The production engineer trained for an Ironman triathlon on an oil rig in the Texas Gulf. But then he didn’t have much choice as he was working on the rig. To prepare himself for the marathon portion of the Ironman, Cooper ran laps on the rig’s helicopter pad, 22 per mile, up to nine miles at a time. He switched directions every time a song on his music player ended in order to avoid injury. Here’s the story:

If you think you’re feeling smarter after your run, it just might not be an illusion. Researchers already know that after several weeks of running and endurance exercise neurons in the portions of the brain devoted to learning and memory increase. But now they believe the process may actually begin within the muscles themselves.  Scientists recently tested this theory and now argue that “improvements in cognition” following exercise “would seem to involve changes throughout the body and not just in the brain.” The article is here:


About subthree

A multiple award-winning journalist, I'm currently a contributing editor with both Canadian Running and Canadian Cycling magazines. My articles have appeared in Explore, Canadian Geographic, enRoute, The National Post, The Globe and Mail, and many other magazines and newspapers. Formerly a competitive cross-country mountain biker, I switched to running in 2006. I've run seven marathons, qualifying for Boston five times (and which I've run once). Generally, I've placed or won in my age group in races, in distances ranging from five and 10 kms to half and full marathons. I've also taught spin classes at a number of leading Eastern Canadian gyms. Sub-three was a 2012 #Runchat finalist for Best Overall Blog.
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2 Responses to The Sunday Read: Strange running stories and other idiocies

  1. SeeAlliRun says:

    Running on a treadmill in a hot air balloon? What purpose does that serve other that proving that the guy is probably nuts?

    • subthree says:

      Obviously he was seeking attention, most likely for his cause, but it’s a fairly ridiculous endeavor. I think he should have done it wearing an Elvis outfit.

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