Photography by David and Jonathan Ofori-Amoah
Cloudy with a chance of Karl
Interview No. 12
27 Years Old
San Francisco, CA
Interview by Edwin Lee
Tell me about your running history? Have you always been a runner?
I haven’t always been a runner. I started running three years ago to stay in shape and relieve stress. At that point, I didn’t like going to the gym. Running was a good way to get outdoors, see the city, and catch up with old friends. I was happy with how well it worked and how confident it made me feel. I ramped up [training] the first two years and got injured towards the end of last year. I haven’t run nearly as much as I used to.
How many marathons have you run?
I ran one full marathon and three half marathons—some smaller races in between. I’ve been running the Golden Gate Half for the past three years.
What did it feel like to run your first half?
It was exciting. It was difficult, but I was focused and prepared. The race felt long, which caught me by surprise. I trained a ton, but I only trained up to 10 miles. The adrenaline is supposed to carry your body the extra three miles, but it felt like a lot.
Do you run with a goal in mind?
Usually, my goal is to run fast, feel strong, and take control of my pace without stopping to walk or throwing up. I wasn’t able to do that this past race because I didn’t train at all. The weekend of the race, I was traveling, got five hours of sleep, and skipped dinner the night before. I wasn’t prepared physically or mentally. Knowing I wasn’t in a good place; my goal this past race was to finish.
How did you feel at the starting line?
“I don’t want to do this.”
“This is not going to go well.”
“I’m not ready for this.”
” I hope I can do this.”
“I don’t think I can do this.”
Did those feelings fade?
Everything changed when I hit the first hill. I was pacing at a 7-minute mile and pushed towards the front of the pack. It felt good. It wasn’t until the 10th mile did I start feeling dizzy and light-headed. My legs were tight and my stomach was completely empty. I hadn’t felt extreme hunger like that since the marathon. It wasn’t a good sign.
What do you remember thinking when you crossed the finish line?
“Give me that banana right away.”
“I stepped over to the side, threw up and was like, “fuck it!” And jumped right back in.”
Sleep and diet seem to have a big impact on your performance.
Oh, my God. Absolutely. I’ve never felt that tired during a race. I just wanted to lie down on the bridge [Golden Gate] and sleep.
I want to wake up in the morning excited and energized before a race. Eat a little bit of food, hydrate, and stretch. Feel prepared and know the course. I was woefully unprepared for this race.
What do you enjoy about running?
I enjoy passing people up. I enjoy seeing the city—running through different neighborhoods. I enjoy making time to push myself. It’s just me out there; it’s not me and some team, it’s not me collaborating with anyone—the sole responsibility is on me to focus and do it. I love that.
What do you enjoy about passing people up?
It makes you run faster. On training runs, I like passing people up and locking into people who set a strong pace. It pushes me to go further and keeps me motivated.
At the beginning of a race, I pass people to make sure my pace is consistent from the start. At every race, there are people who always insist on moving up to the front of the pack that don’t need to be there. They can’t pace fast enough and if you get stuck behind them, you’re running slower than you ought to be. If I see someone running at a pace I don’t need to be behind, I’ll start to pull away and get as far ahead of them as I can.
Do you consider yourself to be a competitive person?
I’m actually not competitive, but with running, I am. I wouldn’t pull someone aside and be like, “What’s your pace?” Or brag about my finish time. But I do like passing people up. [laughs]
[laughing] What are some of your biggest challenges?
My biggest challenges are around preparation. I have a good hold on the emotional and mental side. Now, it’s about training, getting the right amount of sleep, eating well, and stretching. Knowing I’ve done it before, you risk getting too comfortable. I still need to train before a big race.
Speaking of preparation, I was not prepared for all the hills in San Francisco. What’s your strategy for tackling hills?
If the person in front of me is setting a good pace, I’ll lock in and draft behind them. Even if they aren’t super close, it helps you get to the top of the hill.
I threw up on the first hill of this race. My stomach wasn’t settled and the eggs I had for breakfast came right up. It left me hungry for the rest of the race.
You puked and rallied? Impressive!
It was super embarrassing because there were so many people around me. I stepped over to the side, threw up and was like, “fuck it!” And jumped right back in.
[laughing] The mental side of running doesn’t seem to be much of an issue for you. Do you ever give yourself pep talks?
Only to get me out of the house on days I don’t feel like running. Once I get out there, I’m good. It’s easy to trick myself into running further and faster. I’ll tell myself, “oh, just run to that spot!” Or, “go check out that new building up there!”
“Even though I haven’t been doing a good job of it recently, I’m a runner. I get genuine pleasure from running. Even after this past race, which I didn’t derive any real pleasure from—I still want to do it again.”
Would you call yourself a runner?
Yeah. Even though I haven’t been doing a good job of it recently, I’m a runner. I get genuine pleasure from running. Even after this past race, which I didn’t derive any real pleasure from—I still want to do it again. There were points in the race where my legs felt strong. I could feel the squats and weight exercises I’ve been doing for the past few months were paying off. I also enjoy chasing the runner’s high and reaching a point where I feel like I got this. That’s an awesome feeling. I like the pursuit.
What advice would you give someone starting out?
Don’t be shy about looking for help online and follow a training plan. It will get you much farther, faster, and stronger. Don’t get out there the first day and try to run 10 miles. Sure, you may be able to do it, but it will bite you in the butt later. Start slow, be mindful of your body and what it’s telling you. And no matter how many races you’ve done, get plenty of sleep and food the night before the race. Don’t screw that up!
Lightning Round–Gummies or Goo?
So, no favorite flavor?
What’s the worse flavor?
Favorite shoe brand?
Running gear, you can’t live without?
Shorts with internal pockets.
What’s the best costume you’ve seen at a race?
Oh, my gosh. There’s so many good ones at Bay to Breakers. I saw someone in a full Pikachu costume.