Running and Being

Article by Kristen Zhou

Ten years ago I was an inactive person who disliked just about every sport there was, especially long distance running. I failed every one of the running tests in college. My parents thought it was a coordination issue; they told me to sleep on the bottom bunk in case I fell off (thanks Dad). Then, three years ago I became a little runner, an absolute beginning, far from a competition runner. At that time I just wanted to run to lose weight. Once I bought my very first pair of “real” running shoes and hit the road I became a runner and my reasoning became more than just to lose weight.

To be frank, all these years there were not many things that I have kept up with enthusiastically, except running. I’ve come to see it as one of the core pieces of my life. It wasn’t an immediate love of running but as they say, “Plant a habit and harvest a behavior”. Changing my behavior and getting out on the road over and over again has brought up an entirely new lifestyle. I was a huge non-morning person but I’ve become an early bird, waking up at 5:30 to get on the road and run. When I’m back and showered I still have time for breakfast before I go to work.

The only disadvantage I can see so far is that I seemed to have slid into old people territory in advance. Apparently if you want to get up at 5:30 in the morning, especially in winter, you need to go to bed at like 9 or 10pm. The benefits far outweigh an earlier bed time; I have longer days now than when I used to sleep half the day away. I can eat three meals a day without worrying about putting on weight, and I have a lot more energy in the things I do outside of just running.

By the way, I did lose weight: a little over 15 pounds actually from eating healthier and running. But this is not about lost weight anymore, it’s about me as a whole. The more I run the more I realize it’s a conversation with myself, a training of self-awareness and acceptance. For example, even on a 5k run my body will still say ”come on;rest a bit” or “Run slower this is not a competition”. At first it felt like a drag on my enthusiasm but later I found it as an opportunity. By confronting this “slow down” mentality I was able to actually take control of my own body and increase my willpower. Let’s face it: if I couldn’t even control myself, what other achievements in life could I even hope to approach?

After I consulted with a few professional runners I became friends with through our mutual passion of pushing ourselves for ourselves, I signed up for the Istanbul marathon. I only had about 3 months before the event, so training was kind of tight. My thought was that no matter if I had 3 years I was going to test myself, not actually win the thing, so I was not too worried. Actually signing up for a 42.19 km race is both daunting and motivating. I pictured myself running through Bosporus gullet from Asia to Europe across the impressive suspension bridge, past ancient monuments and modern structures all just to see if I can.

As with anything else in the world, how much effort you put in is what you’ll get out in the end.

Race day came in a flash and before I knew it I was standing in the crowd, about to test my training in the most difficult and strenuous experience I have ever been through. Two days earlier I arrived in Turkey to practice a run or two and shake off the inevitable jetlag. I have been watching what I eat and how much I exert myself, coiling my body like a spring waiting to push off the starting line.

The day before the run I checked out part of the route on a bus and went to the marathon office to check in, where they gave me my red run bag which I instantly and proudly slung over my shoulder as I sauntered around Istanbul (of course, looking down upon the 10k fun run blue bag folks!). Though I got out and saw some sights, my thoughts always returned to the upcoming run.

Although this is the first and only international marathon I have participated in so far, I’m inspired by the thousands of runners gathering here. There is no sense of division between age, gender, religion or running gear; if you are in the lineup you are accepted as a fellow marathoner. I’m deeply touched by people who, like me, love to run, as a shared kinship. This is what Stephen Hawking meant when he talked about similarity in the universe.

I finished the full marathon in 4 hours and 36 minutes and, no surprise to anyone, I was extremely exhausted at the end. With the honor of crossing the finish line I have won, I have beaten my own self-doubt and insecurities. I have proved that I can do this.

Kilian Jornet said “No one tells us who we are, no one tells us what to do, and no one says it’s easy.” So, run or die? It’s your call.


Running could be interpreted as a lifestyle, an attitude, a career or a hobby. It doesn’t matter why we run, the point is we’re on the road, every minute, each step and every drop of sweat leads to a happier, healthier and better self. Let’s get together to share laughter and joy to cheer each other on as we go through the inexplicable miseries of running.

Friend me on Wechat or email me to join, see you at the next run!

Kristen is a runner and pseudo-marathoner on her way to complete her dream of running in the big six marathons worldwide. She has started the first Women’s Running Club in Xi’an – join her either by scanning her QR code or emailing her at