Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Inspirational DDR and Running Story


Long before I picked up the running habit, I was a consistent Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) player. This game comes from Japan and popped up everywhere in US arcades, then made its way into PS2 consoles. You play by simply stepping on a dance mat's arrows that correspond to what appears on the screen, while short songs play (although this is probably an oversimplification). It is difficult because you need to have some sort of rhythm and stamina.

After I started running a lot, it became even more difficult because after a few songs, all the muscles in my legs started tightening up. Not giving up, I still played... just less often. Now that I am very busy and the weather is not amenable (yet), I haven't touched the mat in months.

But with the advent of a new game (DDR Supernova 2), I am preparing to lug out the metal dance mat we have and stop by a store to pick up the new game. I am determined to bring this fun hobby of mine back into my life, and the story below confirms that it may be to my benefit.

Yeah, I can relate ANYTHING to running.

- Julie


DDR Marathon Training: Myth or Reality?

Hello. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be able to run a 26.2 mile marathon I would have laughed. If someone told me that not only would I be able to run it, but my training would only be playing a video game, I would have want to know more.

Well my friends, it’s true. Here’s my story. In 2004, my friend convinced me to run the Chicago marathon. Now, I had never been a good runner. In fact, I hated it. But I thought if he could do it, I could do it.

I started training the standard Hal Higdon way, running small distances at first then incrementally running longer and longer distances. The problem was I wasn’t making much progress. I ran the distances but at a very slow rate. I felt tired and stopped often, even when running just a few miles. Plus, I really didn’t have any fun running. Although I was training regularly, I stopped training a few months before the marathon.

At the same time, I became aware of the game Dance Dance Revolution for the Playstation 2. I had played this game before, but only when the arcade was almost empty so I could play without looking too stupid. At that point, I was 27 and about 40 pounds overweight.

The last time I had played in the arcade, two friend and I were in an arcade in Reno when we saw a DDR machine. Thinking my ability was at least average, I suggested we play. They declined, but I played one game. My friends were actually a bit impressed with my mediocre skill. Once I got off the machine, some bored looking teenagers wearily walked up and, looking utterly bored, jumped on, fired up the heaviest level, and played DDR the way it was meant to be played.

Although I had given it my all, their performace had written an indelible mark on my psyche: I was old. My mind immediately came to the conclusion that I was too old to learn this new game, too out of shape, and I should give up and never come back. Which is exactly what I did.

This was until I found out about the DDR home version, about a year later. My good friend Birdy suggested we played. Although we both sucked initially, having competition at my skill level motivated me like nothing before. I quickly became addicted, and although I had totally stopped my marathon training (and at that point had no intention of running it), I played DDR about two hours per day.

Now, I was still overweight, but at this point DDR did what the running didn’t do: the pounds literally melted away. I went from about 175 pounds to 155 in a matter of weeks. I had to buy all new clothes, and for the first time in years I felt YOUNG again. Limitless energy, defined physique and all the rest.

Now, about a month before the marathon, my friend suggested we go running again. I hadn’t told him I had stopped training, but I thought why not? Although at the time I had stopped training, I couldn’t even do eight miles, after my DDR “training”, I was able to run 13 miles without a problem. In fact, at then end I felt I could keep going. My heart felt strong, and my legs had newfound muscles.

I started running again, but only on the weekends. On the weekdays, I kept doing DDR. My DDR skill level went up too: from beginner, to light, to regular, then finally to heavy mode.

When it came time to do a 20 mile run, I finished (yes, I was dog tired, but I did it). After that, I didn’t run again until the marathon; I kept doing the DDR.

Finally when the marathon came I was able to complete it in a little over 4.5 hours. Not an astounding time, but not bad for having trained perhaps 1/3 of what the normal training schedule is.

After it was over, I considered what had happened. I had used a video game to train for the Chicago marathon. Hmm… I wondered if I could train exclusively for a marathon using only DDR.

St. Louis Marathon

At that point I stopped running althogether for the winter. I even stopped playing DDR regularly for 3 months. Another friend of mine suggested we run the 2005 St. Louis marathon. It sounded good, but running in the winter was not my idea of a fun time. But in January, when he started training, I decided to implement my DDR training plan. I would only run once a week to ensure I was keeping up with my friend who was training the old-fashioned way. Well, I finished that marathon under 4 hours! Running once a week for a few months and playing DDR daily. My friend, incidently, finished 28 minutes afer I did.

Fast Foward One Year

Well, after all that I stopped everything. Running, DDR, exercise in general. I am unhappily back up to 175 (I believe my optimum weight is 155). Last weekend the 2006 Saint Louis Marathon came and went, and I didn’t run at all. Another thing last weekend: I played a game of DDR. To my utter shock, I could barely do 3 songs. This is compared to my prime (1.5 years ago) when I could do 30-40 in a row. It really hit me: I am totally, completely and absolutely out of shape.

Then I decided: It is time for another marathon…It is time for DDR!!!

So this web site will chronicle my training. I may run once a week, or maybe not. My goal is to finish the 2006 Chicago marathon in under 4 hours. And like before, I intend to use DDR as my primary trainer.

Feel free to comment. If anyone wants to train and chronicle their training on this web site too, feel free. If you have never played DDR I suggest you do so as soon as immediately. Through that game, all things are possible!


Link: http://ddrmarathon.com/archives/3


  1. What the...? This story is utterly amazing! Wow..can DDR really do this because I hate training! Haha!


  2. That is a GREAT story. I want one of those things. I have about 10 ell bee's to drop to be happy. I would love to dance them away. I can just picture my boyfriend cracking up at me. ha ha