How Pokémon Go Saved My Ultramarathon Training

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you might have noticed a new fitness craze hit this summer. Ok, maybe “fitness craze” is a little strong, but it definitely did get groups of people out and about, walking anywhere from six extra feet to six extra miles each day.

Something else peculiar happened this summer: my friends quit on me. Okay, that’s harsh – let me rephrase: my friends decided that they wanted to enjoy their summer weekends instead of running for hours and hours to marathon train with me. Touché. I get it, I do. I just wish I had realized this before I signed up for my first ultramarathon.

pokemon go

It’s hard to do it alone. And to be honest, I’m not even doing it alone – my boyfriend is training for his first marathon and plenty of friends have committed their time and energy to run with me during various training runs this summer (you’re all great and I love you!) – but something still seemed off. The last few years I was lucky (read: spoiled) enough to have a core group of friends all training in the same time frame for common goals – by comparison, this summer felt lonely and difficult.

I never used to be a person who runs with friends, but somewhere along the way, I converted from a solo runner to a social one. And when the “social” part subsided this year, my training suffered along with it.

That was, of course, until Pokémon Go was released.

pokemon go

Some people ridicule Pokémon Go, saying it’s “unsafe” and “doing more harm than good.” That’s ridiculous. Those people have clearly never caught a Pikachu.

Pokémon Go is exactly what my generation desperately needs: a reason to get up and out and interact with the outside world. For me, specifically, it meant a reason to get out the damn door and go for a run.

I’m pro-Pokémon Go and proud of it. There’s just something about adorable, mystical creatures existing among us that makes me feel happy inside. I like the idea of living in a world where I can find a Jigglypuff a few blocks from my apartment.

All of that said, I’m a casual Pokémon Go-er. I’m at a respectable level twelve, which admittedly isn’t very far – but it’s because of the way I choose to play the game. The game for me is a means to get up and get moving, which is usually (at least for me) the toughest part of working out.

When I get home from a long day at work and want to skip out on the run I had planned, my roommate suggests, “why don’t you just go to the park and catch a few Pokémon and then decide how you feel? Walking around is better than nothing!”

And every time I do that, I am ready to run as soon as I walk less than a mile to said park. Pokémon have helped me get past the hardest step, which is often the very first one. Can Charmander replace my real-life running friends? No, definitely not; but when they don’t want to wake up before work to go for a run with me, it does the trick.

The Pokémon Go encouragement works both ways between my roommate and me; since the game came out this summer she fits back into a dress she hasn’t worn in over a year. This may or may not be related to the fact that she’s several levels ahead of me and is a Pokémon-catching and walking machine these days, but I’ll let you make that call.

My first 50K is coming up next week and I’ll proudly admit that Pokémon have helped me get there. Who knows, maybe I’ll even catch a Scyther on the trails.

Endurance Move

About Cass Gunderson

Cass hails from the southwest suburbs as a proud White Sox fan and a graduate of University of Illinois. By day, Cass is a full-time student at the University of Chicago's Booth Graduate Business School. Before deciding to throw away all her money to go back to school, Cass worked for a private equity firm that buys technology companies. Raised as the youngest in a family of older brothers, Cass grew up a tomboy and remains active in sports. To her mother’s satisfaction, Cass learned how to embrace her feminine side in college and has developed an interest for fitness activities that require spandex as opposed to knee-length basketball shorts. In her spare time, she runs a lot because it is cheaper than paying for real therapy. Cass has completed four marathons and one ultramarathon (she claims she'll never do this to herself again, but that's TBD). She can still be found on the basketball courts in Lincoln Park wearing knee-length basketball shorts.

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