​Marathon, marathang, mara-fing-fang-fong

15 April 2016

Last Sunday I was out in the city, and it happened to be the day of the Rotterdam Marathon. I stood beside the official route for a while and I watched the runners pass by. There was a live DJ playing dance hits from loud speakers, in attempt to uplift the runners’ spirits. I think it worked. Each and every race participant looked both determined and fulfilled (there’s something special about a sweaty smile). The weather was delightful, the city basked in sunlight and gentle breeze, and it was intensely inspiring to witness so many people pushing their physical and mental limit in search of glory, of accomplishment, and maybe of some sort of internal peace. It almost made me want to start a running schedule.

So far I have managed to suppress my urge to burst out of my apartment door and jog into the horizon, but the spirit of marathon is nothing less than infectious. Even as I type up these words, the marathon calls out to me, and while I have not started running, I feel compelled to do something about this inspiration. I’m not a runner (yet!), but I figured I could engage the marathon by doing what I do best: imagining playful-creative means to experience the urban environment. It is in this practice, largely inspired by 1960’s Situationist International, that I often come to achieve my own sense of accomplishment and inner peace.

After some thoughts, I have created 4 different urban exercises that are inspired by or derived from the marathon. What they are is, I think, a combination of sport, play, and theatre. As with the marathon, these could also be undertaken in half-course or quarter-course. I encourage you to practice them. If enough of us commit, maybe in the near future we can organise some kind of event!


Running or walking the entire distance of a marathon while being on the phone with someone. You can talk about anything, but it is suggested that you eventually talk about feelings and other matters of the heart. This way the heart is trained both in cardio-vascular capabilities and in sustained engagement with emotions. Indeed, being able to maintain a long meaningful conversation is no less psychological demanding than the physical running. Note that this exercise is also a meditation on the historical progression of the relationship between communication and distance. Were the ancient Greeks to have mobile phones, the very first marathon would never have been run.


Running or walking the entire distance of a marathon, with one specific outfit requirement. The name of this exercise is self-explanatory.


Running or walking the entire distance of the marathon without being seen by anyone. In this exercise, being fast is not as critical as being swift. It is also key to identify appropriate settings on the route that offers you the possibility to take cover when necessary. Look out for greenery in which you can hide. It is also advisable to duck behind parked cars. Remember that mirrors and other reflective surfaces may reveal your whereabouts. Remember to wear quiet shoes.

The ninja-thon reverses the public-performance aspect of the marathon. Sometimes it is rewarding to achieve something behind the world’s back, and know that your memory of the ninja-thon is its only anchor in perceivable reality. The next time you’re in the city, also remember that there may be people undertaking the ninja-thon around you at that very moment, you just can’t see them because they are very good at it.


Running or walking the entire distance of the marathon as if you are in a nightmare, and a psychopathic killer in a doll-like mask is chasing after you. The psychopathic killer may be replaced by someone or something else that embodies your deepest fear. You could take a break. Just look around a lot nervously and be very alert. Your imaginary pursuer will only go away when you finish the distance that you initially set out to run. It is advisable to finish that distance always. For extra thrill, practice at night time. For extra extra thrill, practice during Halloween.

by Henry Sung

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