Run­ning Celebrity

Joel Co­hen of TheSimp­sons

Canadian Running - - FEATURES -

Iwas one of the fastest kids in my ele­men­tary class,” says Joel Co­hen with a sar­donic laugh. That’s be­cause the 45-year-old at­tended a tiny school in Cal­gary. “There were four boys and two girls, So, I was one of the six best ath­letes,” he ad­mits.

Co­hen says he wasn’t a nat­u­ral. “I’m sure the first time I ran was from some sort of bully.”

But a chal­lenge on the school yard has stayed with him since his days at the small Yid­dish school. “We would r un around the field, count­ing the laps un­til we ran the equiv­a­lent dis­tance of mak­ing it to Ed­mon­ton,” he re­calls now from his home in L .A. “The Com­mon­wealth Games were there. I was the first one to make it to Ed­mon­ton.” Co­hen says he re­cently found the Com­mon­wealth dol­lar coin amongst his be­long­ings af­ter all these years – it was his re­ward for win­ning.

As an adult, Co­hen moved first to Toronto to ob­tain a mba, then fol­lowed his brother out to Hol­ly­wood. “I still play ice hockey here in L .A.,” Co­hen says, but af­ter read­ing the book Born to Run, he started to think about run­ning again. “The thing that I took away from it was that peo­ple love run­ning, and that shocked me,” he ad­mits. “So I de­cided, I’ ll try it.”

Co­hen started by chal­leng­ing him­self to go out and just run a sin­gle kilo­me­tre. Soon, he was run­ning his first 5k race. The thrill of be­ing car­ried along with hun­dreds of oth­ers was tan­ta­liz­ing, and kept Co­hen mo­ti­vated, and think­ing about new goals. “I won­dered, ‘Can I run a marathon?’” he says, look­ing back to 2013.

There was one catch: “I lit­er­ally had to look up how long a marathon was,” he con­fesses. But Co­hen knew that he longed for a mas­sive chal­lenge, and sought out a grand stage. “If I’m go­ing to do it right,” he says, “let me do it big.” So he de­cided he would run the New York City Marathon.

“I re­mem­ber be­ing at the race expo; and there was all this in­ter­est­ing stuff,” Co­hen says of ar­riv­ing at the Ja­cob Jav­its Cen­tre in New York, where the marathon expo is held. “There were these ridicu­lous and in­ter­est­ing speak­ers.” He started tak­ing notes on his phone about ev­ery­thing he was see­ing, like a Gonzo an­thro­pol­o­gist. These notes even­tu­ally be­came How to Lose a Marathon – part how-to-man­ual for new­bies, part mem­oir, part his­tory text. And all of it ridicu­lously self-ef­fac­ing and funny.

“My first goal was to not die,” Co­hen says of his plan for New York. “But I wake up ev­ery day with that goal.” But his se­cond goal was to break the Oprah bar­rier – sub-4:30, the time the me­dia icon once ran her­self when she was train­ing for marathons. The fi­nal sec­tion of the book turns into a grip­ping nar­ra­tive about Co­hen’s run in New York and the out­come.

As for which char­ac­ter Co­hen thinks would be the best dis­tance run­ner?

“I’ve pitched an episode about Marge run­ning a marathon,” Co­hen says. “But there was some tepid re­sponse, which is about the best I can ever hope for.”

How to Lose a Marathon is avail­able now.— MD

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