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What pushes me to run


November 2010


I’ve always loathed gym class all throughout my years in primary and secondary schools. I just hate to sweat.

What activity did I truly enjoy? Swimming.

You don’t sweat when you swim. And you can swim in any style you want – there is no particular right or wrong way to swim.
I love swimming upside down (sleeping/floating ahead), meaning I’ll never know whether I’ve reached the end of the pool.
I tend to bump my own head. Then my Chinese-speaking, Hokkien-howling mother would go, “Yuuiiin, you’re so dumb. Be careful, lah!”
Yun (Chinese character 芸) is the name I’ve been called since I first wobbled out of my mother’s womb. It means art in the East-Asian culture. My full name is 何沁芸, surname He (何), and it doesn’t literally meaning anything. The character itself is normally applied in questions when we ask who what where when why how, and up to this day, I still don’t get what my middle character means – Qin (沁).

So I guess I learned to love running from that swimmy sense.

Swimming and running are both an individual activity. In both I can just go space out and let my mind go free. However, if it becomes your job, like what a reporter would tell the media and say something like, runner He Qin Yun has just ran a whole damn ultramarathon! How far can she go?

This can become a real work to just get out of your bed, tie the damn shoelaces, and go for that run you used to enjoy.

The whole idea of being labelled as a runner consumes you. The word “runner” is reflected back to you through a distorted mirror, instead of you taking full control in defining who you really are.

Then again, there’s no one to blame. We’re living in an increasingly self-expressive, individualistic, and rebellious world, and there are a myriad of outspoken voices in the kind of society we’re in today. Back then there were only dinosaurs and sheeps and lambs and theoretical meteor showers, and now the newsworthiness of a runner’s sensation, making his or her personal record, is conventional wisdom.


From io9.


What’s left to blame is the negative way we perceive our selves, and we can only count on how strong we are in resisting the media’s shrewd perceptions of us to take over our souls.

The soul is the essence who we are, and we can never run away from it. It’s what separates us from other individuals, and it’s the only thing that makes each one of us unique.

Reaching the Ideal

It’s sad to say that strive for perfection is common among women.

Being the girl who dramatizes high-school dramas, logs on to IRC, chats on MSN Messenger, texts like a maniac, and talks on the phone for hours every night during my teenage years, I can safely say that I’m able to absorb tons of information at once from all these channels and get the best picture out of all these stories.

With so many things absorbed, I just have to have a blog to report to – a self-contained, self-centered and not-so-secret diary – with its egotism doubly highlighted. I came to a realization that this self-ishness as a form of expression becomes inescapable when it comes to blogging, because YOU are talking that’s why YOU end up talking about YOURself when the audience is the world.

“You can’t have blogger’s block. You have to express yourself now, while your emotions roil, while your temper flares, while your humor lasts,” and that’s Andrew Sullivan-speak. ” The only term that really describes this is friendship. And it is a relatively new thing to write for thousands and thousands of friends.”

And so you make friends to people you have never met. Or even enemies.

Blogging keeps my emotions running, so let me exhaust some fumes.

Reading have always been my long-running pleasures. Like, literally reading. It’s my form of escapism whenever I shy away from dramatic stories coming about, day in and day out, in my social circle, and also the problematic family background I come from.

I want to stress that reading, and literacy in general, is very important. At least, to me, it’s one way I think – by reading stuff from novels to magazines to nutritional labels to advertorial boards, combined with my running life.

Here’s the part where I think: How did I start running in the first place?

Back in December 2008 when I gobbled up meats and potatoes and ice creams and no green stuff on my plate, I now forgot why I decided to lose weight in the first place. The only reason I can remember is that my mother called me fat.

In fact, she has called me fat all throughout my life.

It’s a gift and a curse.

Like I hear the words fat fat fat in my head wherever I go.

In some ways, running became a reason for me to satisfy her. Part of that perfectionist element inside of me is to satisfy her. All throughout my life I only want to satisfy her, because she deserves me as a result of her success in dedicating her freakish amount of time, raising the only daughter she’s ever had.

In another way, that constant fat fat fat sounds in my head has became a behavior I learned towards food, after my journey as a constant runner, where my mother turned from fat fat fat into eat eat eat. I didn’t have an eating disorder, I just run a friggin’ ton of miles, so there you have it – the perfection point every girl dreams about – eating whatever you wish and still losing weight.

However, I came to love the activity the more I do it. Like, for months I toiled almost everyday on the treadmill, for 30 to 45 minutes or more, just to kill time with music. Since I love listening to music too as a kid besides reading. Which are, I guess, reasons why I love reading Murakami’s stories so much. His characters always love spacing out, reading stuff, listening to music, and doing mundane things.

And then as my skinny-ness pushed me up to the social circle, I would say my thought as to what kind of a circle it is except for drugs, marijuanas, and alcoholics on the high practically under legal age with no future in sight except having nice cars, weeds, and Skinny girls, I witnessed even more dramas, which then pushed me to run further miles as a way to escape from that. Like a self-defense, resistant thing, even though I was living in that circle.

Then at the beginning of this year, I decided to get away. Like, really get away. Because I’m tired of that hectic life, where I’m filled with no real friendship value I can share my sincere thoughts with, where I feel uncomfortable to things I really want to say, wherein what I really thought about buying luxury goods in a matter of slashing credit cards as a lifestyle maintenance is unsustainable, unreal, and very tiring, I made a decision to be in a state where I don’t justsurvive, no, not anymore; I decided to live more than mere survival.

There are more truths in things we see out there outside of an un-nurturing, un-supportive, and completely enclosed social circle. Understand that Indonesia is full of its flourishing corporate culture infiltrating our daily lives, no matter how old you are – it is a third-world country not only competing with the world’s most powerful economies, but also a place culturally formed, controlled, and manipulated by the high-profile society of the corporate world. At least, that’s what I see.

If you have money, anything’s possible surviving in our islands. Negotiation is flexible by the numbers, but people will never forget what you say you say you’ll do. Or is doing. Or has done.

Projecting an Image

It’s tight. Your image is the only thing people see. Once you were born, you are instantly labeled for what your family does, what your company’s background look like, what future developments are in your agenda, and so on and so forth.And my approach? Escape. By running.And I kept on running and running away from the reality, and this year has taught me just that: Running away from who you really are, where you come from, what you’re going to do, will never, ever help.

One day you’ve just got to sit down and deal with it, no matter how you do it.

And this blog shall be the means to rewind my definition of running back to when and where it came from:

Just for the fun of it.













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Confessions of a gigolo’s fashion



Hey woman. Last night, I had a nightmare. The whole thing was in a timewarp, so I remember everything very clearly.

Continue reading Confessions of a gigolo’s fashion

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Oral exam

In other languages…


“Alright class, let’s take it outside. Each of you shall be with me for some time,” said the instructor.

So far, Vivi and Pipi have learned 3 simple verbs, which are:


  1. 行きます、meaning, going.
  2. 来ます、meaning, coming.
  3. 帰ります、meaning, returning.

They have also learned the art of Japanese language through knowing all sorts of positions.





They have their personal preferences for structuring their sentences and positioning their locations, orally.


Vivi: 中って何ですか。

Pipi: “inside” です。


Thank Pipi for breaking the ice in the classroom. Vivi finally opened up after being so uptight preparing for the exam.

Pipi, however, is standing up straight the whole time. He felt confident.

“Pipi! Come here, it’s your turn,” said the instructor.

Before the instructor go away, Vivi stood up abruptly.


Vivi: 上から大丈夫ですか。


She was meaning to be the last turn for the exam, because she was holding her bladder the whole time. But her positioning was wrong, orally.

Hearing what Vivi just said, Pipi happily replied, so happily replied:






The instructor froze on the spot.

Vivi’s bladder explodes.





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Cosmetic surgery

The eyes are windows of the soul, or so they say.

Continue reading Cosmetic surgery

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You had me at “hello”


She glided in.

He glanced at her.

She turned her head to her right, where she’s been feeling a staring eye.

Then came the moment.

Their eyes meet. Their pupils dilate. Their faces light up.

Ever so slowly, the corner of their lips curl into a smile.




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The quest for a leader through the art of war and the war of rights



What if in the olden days, them Romantics Bourbon kings relinquished their preemptive badges against their own conflicting natures, as the monarchs that they are?

Continue reading The quest for a leader through the art of war and the war of rights

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Slaves of the dead city, un-locomoted


They purchased gym memberships.

Continue reading Slaves of the dead city, un-locomoted

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How to bake a moxie with your bare hands



The apothecary handed me a list of ingredients to make-up my kinda gal today, ’cause I said I wanted a real suga, one kick-ass minx that would make my bananas go gaga all night.

Continue reading How to bake a moxie with your bare hands

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Life: Enduring the event



boco_001_300x250Bob Cooper is an award-winning freelance journalist and also a competitive long-distance runner ever since he was 14. Now he has ran over 450 running races, including 32 marathon and 13 ultramarathon finishes, with his best marathon time at 2:26:11 when he earned 6th place in the Avenue of the Giants Marathon on May 1, 1977. Recently he ran the World Masters Mountain Running Championships for Team USA in Zagreb, Croatia, where he was placed 50th in his age group.

He has written dozens of stories for a wide variety of magazines, including regular articles for the Runner’s World magazine, where he was honored the Outstanding Service Article Award by the American Society of Journalists and Authors in 2008 forhis article “Run Your Best 26.2 Miler”, published on 7 June 2007.

As a recreational runner, I subscribe to the magazine to get insights about the competitive edge of this endurance sport. With deadlines continuously ahead, Bob still manages living an active lifestyle. I was curious about his skills in time management an dhow he exercises maintaining his energy levels up, while being a full-time writer who writes such rich variety of stories. I got to chat with him on Tuesday, 26 October 2010 at Starbucks onDivisadero Street, one of the coziest cafes in San Francisco.


STACIA HO: What made you start getting active and begin running?

BOB COOPER: I always had a lot of energy. My father was a good miler back when he was in high school. He encouraged me to try out for the track team. So I went to the local track, did the mile a few times, and kept trying to improve my time. Then I got into the track team, and have been running ever since.


SH: Do you still work with a running coach, or are you self-motivated?

BC: I never really had a coach ever since my 20s. I love the activity so much that I don’t seem to need any external motivation as some runners do, and it’s just because races are fun. I also like the idea of setting goals and trying to achieve them.


SH: The first rule in your article “25 Golden Rules of Running”, which was featured in the September 2005 issue of Runner’s World, is specificity, a critical determinant for tackling the demands of any course. You also included course elevation as a rule of thumb for runners to pace themselves. What does your running route look like where you usually do your runs?

BC: Right now, I am running only uphills. I got a knee injury recently. The one route I do 90% of the time is a run up Bolinas Road from near downtown Fairfax to a trailhead at the top of that climb, which is 3 and a quarter miles. Except for 100 meters in the middle, the route is all uphill, ranging from gradual to fairly steep, rising at an elevation of 900 feet. I drive to the top to park my bike there, then I run the course either once or twice, each time biking back down to my car. I choose not to take the long walk when I go backdown just because it’s not great for my knees, plus it’s very time- consuming.


SH: Most runners don’t really like facing uphill.

BC: I don’t love it. I do like it. Right now it’s the only thing that I can do. My knees hurt if I run on level ground or on downhill. When you go uphill you’re not hitting on your heels, so I’m not impacting your body. I just do what I can do. You have your own limitations, and then you deal with whatever that you can do.


SH: Time management is everything, especially for freelancers. Why did you choose not to get the traditional 9-to-5 job?

BC: So much of my life has been a combination of running and writing. Both things are what I’m really passionate about. I was a serious competitive runner when I first got out of school. I knew that to get to the best level I could as a runner, I should try to avoid 9-to-5 jobs, because when you’re running, you’re drained all the time with energy. So I took a variety of jobs wherever I could. I did lots of secretarial work – typing and filing,things like that – and I started doing more writing. It just gradually built on itself. When I was about 29, I was able to drop everything else that I’ve patched together to become a full-time writer and editor. At that point my running got slower, but I thought that as long as I keep on doing this, I’d just keep doing it for the joy I get out of these passions of mine. And so, I’ve done it ever since. It’s been… Cool.


SH: You have been a contributor for the Runner’s World magazine for 37 years now. How do you plan out your time to write while setting aside your time to run?

BC: As for Runner’s World magazine, I would read their website often, mostly under the racing news section. I draw on to the side a lot of the information from there to think of which elite runners to interview for the stories I write. But I just love reading their columns as I enjoy following the sport. It’s just fun to keep up, and yet technically I’m working. So there are a lot of cases like that, where it’s technically work but doesn’t feel like work.


SH: Ah. So that’s why it’s fun.

BC: Yeah.


SH: Joyce Carol Oates is famed for writing a wide variety of creative works just as diverse as your stories. She is also a devoted runner. In 1999, she wrote: “Ideally, the runner who’s a writer is running through the land- and cityscapes of her fiction,like a ghost in a real setting” in her essay “To Invigorate Literary Mind, Start Moving Literary Feet” as part of the Writers on Writing series for The New York Times. Do you prefer absorbing things that surround you, or think about nothing at all?

BC: As I write, or as I run?


SH: … As you run.

BC: It goes back and forth. I’ll sometimes get so lost in thought that I’ve gone 10 to 15 minutes without realizing where I am if I’m not in a familiar route that I’m used to running. Suddenly I’ll realize a mile down the road and I didn’t even think – ‘cause I’ve been lost in thought, thinking about a story, or just anything, while having my mind go run free. That’s one of the nice things about running as opposed to other sports that takes concentration. It’s one of the things you can do where you can just go space out and think.


SH: What about running on a treadmill?

BC: I hate treadmills. I absolutely hate treadmills. Anything you can do outdoors that you can do indoors, and you can do almost anything outdoors, I just do it outdoors. On the treadmill, you’re looking at the same thing the whole time. I like variety, much as I like the variety of writing different things. I like the stimulation of that process, and there’s absolutely no stimulation when you’re on the treadmill. When you’re out running there’s always things going on around you that you see, which then I’ll ask myself, am I going towards the middle of the road so I better watch out if the car’s coming at me? [Laughs]. Also, the city just provides some of the best views for running.


SH: I read your interview with Poet Laureate Kay Ryan in the October 2009 issue of Runner’s World. You also mentioned that you tend to review your material just by taking notes during the interviews you do. What decisions did you make when you put down her spoken words onto paper? How did you put those words together?

BC: The first general rule is to always have at least five more materials than you’re able to use. With Kay Ryan, I read her poetry books and looked on the Internet to search her background, find out about her getting the Nobel Laureate’s award. I did a lot of the dense research. Then I talked to her for about an hour, along with some follow-up e-mails. I had more than enough material and could’ve written 5000 words, but it only ended up at about 600. When you have so much more materials than you can use, you can really hone in on what’s the most compelling thing as you go through it, and then you say, is this going to grab the reader? Will it be interesting enough to the reader that they want to keep reading the story? The first thing that I’m looking for as I’m looking through all my notes is what’s going to grab the reader the most, while staying focused on the topic. In this case, it’s the intersection of her running, her poetry, and her creative process.


SH: In the transcript, she mentioned that she revises her poems during her runs. Do you do your creative work when you’re running?

BC: Definitely. Sometimes I do it in a conscious way and I’ll say, okay I’m going to be out running or bicycling for a certain amount of time, and I’ve got to come up with an idea for a certain story. I’ll brainstorm in my mind and eventually come up with something. Lately, because of my injury, I’ve been biking more than I run. When I bike isI always keep a tape recorder in my fanny pack. At the end of every one-hour ride there’s always times that I’ve read in– talked in, to the recorder whenever there are ideas for my writing. By the same token, I have that recorder by my bed when I’m sleeping, so the next morning when I wake up from the night that I think of something, I just transcribe it in front of my computer the next day. I almost always have a tape recorder with me, justin case there’s something that’s really cool.


SH: Cool. Interesting enough, one of my broadcasting teachers instructs us students that whenever there’s a tape recorder lying around, we’ve got to be extra careful about the things we say. It’s funny that you do it consciously.

BC: Here [tape recorder] it’s just reading rough ideas that I’ll just play for myself, and then I’ll refine them once I get back to my computer. So it’s not necessarily in its final form. I’ll play with it and refine with it as I go on.


SH: You’ve done line-editing in your early writing career. How does the little details, such as punctuation, provide support for the writer’s draft?

BC: Actually, I still do a little of that, so my specialty is looking for punctuation and little things like that. I was never good at knowing the grammar rules. I just picked it up along the way, mainly from reading. To me it’s all about practicality. If you feel that there needs to be a pause, it almost always does. It’s kind of more intuitive than following rules.


SH: What is your general advice when it comes to revision?

BC: My general advice is to read a variety of writing, and eventually you’ll kind of just pick it up. That’s how punctuation is best used. Another thing I would look into is the variety of sentence structures. If there are several sentences in a row that have the same structure, the same length, the same placement of verbs and so on, you’ll realize that the reader likes to have really short, declarative sentences, and then a really long and complex sentence that goes back and forth.


SH: Whenever I practice performing on-camera classes in school, my instructor tends to say that as a multimedia communicator, you have to know when to stop.We have to continue pacing ourselves. It’s just like training for a long-distance race. You cannot do it too fast too soon, and I feel that it’s the same as in writing. Do you have any advice on how writers can write better in terms of pacing their storylines?

BC: It’s always going to start with something in rough form that needs to be improved. On the other hand, you’re right on saying that it’s not good to write too fast. You can really write in really rough form, and then later on go back to it repeatedly, refining it multiple times. That’s how writers work. Or, you can just sit down and write really slowly and constantly revise each sentence until it’s perfect before you move on to the next sentence. To me, it makes more sense to do the big piece all at once, then go back to it, improve on it several times, until you’re happy with it.


SH: Your stories suggest a lot about exercising the body to move, and how it has moved people’s lives. To keep yourself going, do have a mantra to follow when you’re running?

BC: My mind always goes back and forth between spacing out and thinking about mundane things, or about stories that I’m writing. But I’ll refocus regularly and think of my performance, and I’ll say, am I running as fast as I want to be running? I’ll refocus on the present moment to think about what I’m doing from the aspect of what I’m trying to get from the run as a training benefit. There’s this terminology psychologists call association and disassociation. Disassociation is when you’re not thinking about the activity that you’re doing and you’re thinking about things that are remote from that. Association is when you’re thinking if you’re in the moment and thinking about what you’re doing. So I constantly go back and forth within the course of a run.


SH: The Lydiard’s Pyramid, a training program elite runners follow, focuses on building volume, then feeling the runs. Do you train yourself based on that strategy?

BC: The main basis is the hard-easy system, and the Lydiard program narrowed it down into specific details. I never really follow an exact program. I learned from a combination of things. I learned a lot from my high school coach, but now it’s mostly from reading,and then writing stories on running, talking to experts for the stories I write. I just pick up the main principles, which are pretty much common sense. Once you know the main exercise physiology principles in running, it’s easy to craft your own. The biggest principle here is having stress, followed by rest, followed by another time for stress, and always going back and forth.


SH: Besides training strategically, what other things can you recommend runners to ensure success, perhaps achieving their personal best record, when running their races?

BC: Recovery is the absolute key. If you run far or fast one day, you need short or slow the next day. Always allow enough for recovery. If you happen to hurt yourself the next time, you recovered well enough to do it – as well as you did the last time or even better.It’s always easy to forget that, but that’s the main thing in order to do well. I push myself to run 90 to 100% as fast as I can, since I only do it once every 4 to 6 days, allowing plenty of recovery time for the other days when I am only biking or kayaking, which are the two other activities that I enjoy doing.


SH: What races are you currently training for?

BC: Since I currently run uphill courses, the problem is that there are very few of those nationwide, and those that are in California are between the months of August and October. I’ve found a couple of races in Arizona and Oregon I may consider running, but those aren’t till June or later. So, I’m just staying in shape, enjoying the mix of running,and also mountain biking and kayaking. On the side I’m working on magazine articles that will appear on Runner’s World, Marin Magazine, John Hopkins Health, and many others. Then I’ll push a little more in late spring as the uphill races I’m able to find get closer.


Check out Bob Cooper’s professional web site at