HR Pod: Joel H. Cohen, Author of “How to Lose a Marathon” + Writer/Producer for The Simpsons

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L-R: Cohen racing the 2013 New York City Marathon; “How to Lose a Marathon” cover.


Joel H. Cohen—writer/producer for The Simpsons, winner of two Emmy Awards and three Writers Guild Awards, author of “How to Lose a Marathon”—joins James Rogers on Hooray Run Podcast. “How to Lose a Marathon” is Cohen’s first book, and it reveals his transformation from an out-of-shape slob to a slightly out-of-shape slob who finished the 2013 New York City Marathon. Self-deprecating humor and museum-worthy stick drawings fill this page-turner, and Cohen calls it a running book he wishes he could have read as a person who knew absolutely nothing about this ambitious pursuit.

Cohen’s writing holds inspiration. He makes it clear that if he can tackle 26.2 miles, then you can. James and Joel cover many topics, including what made the “lazy lump with more chins than trophies” even consider running a marathon, the learning curves involved with training/racing, how Oprah inspired his debut marathon, writing for The Simpsons and if he reads his online book reviews.

“How to Lose a Marathon” on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1419724916

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Nos. 125 & 126 [Runners]

Photo by James Rogers
Photo by James Rogers

L: “One person that’s inspired me is my dad, because he was really good at sports in high school, and I’ve always wanted to follow up on him and be good at something. … His main thing was just do it for yourself. Running is a big mental sport; you gotta be really headstrong when you’re doing it, and he said, ‘Try not to think about it. Just go for it.’”
R: “My middle school coach, Mr. Alspaugh, was the one who got me started with cross-country and encouraged me to run all summer and all year long to do really well my eighth-grade year. He then encouraged me to help lead the team and make other kids better, too.”

Nos. 118, 119 & 120 [Runners]

Photo by James Rogers
Photo by James Rogers

“There was this kid on our cross-country team my freshman year, and he was really slow, but we all really liked him a lot. He was really quiet, a really hard worker. One race, it was the hardest race of the season—Fremont’s course—he fainted a mile into the race, but he got up and kept running. And then it happened again, and he kept running. It happened another time—he fainted and kept running. He finished the race in like 35 minutes. He fainted three times and still finished the race. We were all just in awe. We just couldn’t believe it. That was super inspirational.”

No. 105, Revisited—4th Visit [Runners]

Photo Courtesy of IWU Parents
Photo Courtesy of IWU Parents

“In high school, we didn’t have a cross-country team, but I really wanted to run cross-country because I loved it in middle school. So my mom wanted to fight for me and give me that chance, so she would take me to meets, and we’d just follow Jordan Dekker’s team around because we knew they’d be there. [My mom] would just be like, ‘My daughter really loves cross-country. Can she run in your race today?’ And they’d let me in, and I’d get to run, and I had so many more opportunities. I got to race at state that year, even though I just randomly entered cross races when my mom found them. She’s not a runner at all—I don’t know if she’s run a day in her life—but she was like, ‘You can do it; we’re going to do this.’ She was like my coach. It was really cool, because she believed in me and fought for me when that could’ve been it.”

No. 106, Revisited—3rd Visit [Runners]

Photo Courtesy of IWU Parents
Photo Courtesy of IWU Parents

“Be patient. Everybody that is thinking about running in college probably is pretty successful in high school. No matter who you are, if you’re going somewhere to run in college, you’re probably not going to be the top dog your first year, or even the second year—maybe not even the third year if you have a really good program. You also might come into a situation where the expectation is beyond what you thought you could do. You almost have to turn that off and not worry about it. I’m running things now that I wouldn’t have thought about when I was 18 years old. You have to realize that you’re going to go through the grinder before you get there. But you can still get there, as long as you do those little things.”

Neno (speaker) is bib No. 468.

No. 106, Revisited [Runners]

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Photo by James Rogers

“I’m not a super extroverted person, but the bigger the event, the more energy it gives me. I’m contradicting myself a little bit, but I like going to the national meets and just watching the performances and then going out there and trying to do it. I think part of that is my competitiveness. But you see somebody do something really well—whether it’s from your school or another school—in the 400-meter hurdles or something, and it’s like, I gotta do something equally as good in my event.”

No. 104, Revisited [Runners]

Photo by James Rogers
Photo by James Rogers

“Who is your biggest running inspiration?”

“I would say all my coaches combined. We may not realize it when we have them for the time being, but they definitely pour into you. They definitely put all their time and their effort into making you the best, maybe not even runner, but person you can be. I know Coach [John] Foss is big on that.”

Nos. 90 & 91 [Runners]

Photo by James Rogers
Photo by James Rogers

R: “I really like Alexi Pappas, mainly because she’s just different. Not many people know her; she’s not too big. She’s not like Mary Cain. I know that she’s friends with Jordan Hasay, and I really like Jordan Hasay, too. I just really like their friendship. And I like how [Alexi] does the steeplechase.”
L: “My inspiration is my boyfriend. He’s here today to race. He got me to keep running, because I wanted to quit.”