By Eve O’Connor
First-year Caroline De Vries embarked on a “spiritual journey through running” covering 100 miles this November. She was inspired after reading about runner Buzunesh Deba in a New York Times article about the New York City Marathon, where Deba took second place on November 6, missing first by mere seconds. What began as an athletic pursuit soon became a transformative intellectual experience.
“What I really admired about Buzunesh Deba is that she’s not only a runner, she has a life outside of it…she’s a really inspirational person,” said De Vries. Reading about Deba made De Vries want to become a better runner.
De Vries had made a pact with herself the previous year that she would run a marathon by the end of 2012, but her running had become somewhat sporadic.
“I would not run for five days…and then binge run ten miles!”
Realizing that she needed more consistency, De Vries challenged herself to run 100 miles in the month of November, averaging slightly over three miles per day.
While in her Classics class, The Odyssey and the Myths of Comedy, De Vries started thinking about running in the context of the original marathon. She decided that she wanted to learn more, so she approached her teacher, Professor Thomas Van Nortwick.
“Here at Oberlin, it’s impossible to think of anything without looking at the big, holistic picture…that’s why we came to a liberal arts college,” De Vries laughed.
Van Nortwick explained that the original marathoner was Pheidippides, who ran from Marathon to Athens during the Persian War. De Vries read more and learned that Pheidippides ran over twenty miles to deliver the message that the Greeks had defeated the Persians in battle, supposedly shouting, “Niki!” (which means “victory”) before falling to his death.
“There’s debate about whether it’s true, but it shows how much people can get out of running,” said De Vries.
De Vries also wanted to understand more about the muscles and nutrition involved with running. Her biology class had been learning about hormones, including epinephrine, which is the hormone responsible for “runner’s high.” “For me, it’s after about four miles, then the runner’s high kicks in and I don’t even care about the rest of the world and can just keep on running,” she commented.
Inspired by some friends who did yoga, De Vries also incorporated yoga into her new health regime. “For all runners out there, I would emphasize that yoga and running are a match made in heaven,” De Vries said, discussing the role of relaxation and breathing in running.
Throughout what she calls her “100 Miles of November” project, De Vries documented her experience using video journals. She found that her running ritual helped with school, getting sleep, and her social life. “Running is my way of re-energizing for the crazy world around me,” she said. De Vries emphasized how running provides “new energy and spunk to finish that late-night paper.” It has also made her more confident in her femininity. “Feeling the muscles in my thighs is all I need to experience to know my body is fucking goddessly the way it is,” she explained.
De Vries completed her one hundred miles on Wednesday, November 30 with a final lap around Tappan Square. She plans to continue running and finding new things to learn along the way. “What I really love about running is the simplicity…you can just go in a straight line, or run naked! I can already feel myself getting faster. I want to dial it up!”