Paul Mojaven Seo remembers handing out water two years ago at the ING New York City Marathon in 2008 when he was just a teacher who enjoyed running as a hobby.
“Watching people in their 70s and people in wheelchairs racing was inspirational,” he said of his time volunteering at the marathon, the premier event for New York Road Runners (NYRR). “Here I am, two years later.”
Seo is competing in the Foot Locker Five Borough Challenge – a competition within the marathon that pits exceptional runners from each of the five boroughs against one another during the race on November 7.
“I never expected to be the Queens representative for the challenge,” said Seo, of Bayside. “This is definitely one of the highest points in my life and I will do everything I can to have a strong showing.”
Seo’s passion for running goes back to his days in high school when he ran strictly for fitness. Eventually, it became more than just a way to stay in shape as he was inspired by people he saw running the Cross Island bike path.
“Back then, even a single mile was a long distance for me. I remember the first time I ran the path all the way to Northern Boulevard and then back to Fort Totten,” he said. “It was a major accomplishment for me and it just made me want to run more and more.”
The famed “runner’s high” is no myth to Seo, who said that there is no mistaking the high when it comes. During the highs, he feels invincible; every stride and breath feels smooth and effortless to him.
“It’s still a bit of a mystery to me,” he said of the runner’s high. “I certainly don’t feel this way at every run, or even most of my runs, but experiencing those few moments is enough for me to come back for more.”
It is a feeling that Seo wants to share with others – thankfully, one of his fulltime job allows him to do. This year, he helped start a new school, Queens Life Academy and teaches math there on the weekends. But his other teaching job at Baruch College Campus High School, where he teaches math and physical education, allows him to pass on his runner’s zeal.
He started a running club at Baruch and also teaches a running curriculum in his PE classes. In these classes, he recently began integrating NYRR’s “A Running Start,” a free online coaching resource developed to help youth coaches teach the fundamentals of running through games, activities and drills.
“Even though ‘A Running Start’ is targeted towards kids, adults can benefit from it as well,” he said. “I have incorporated some of the running drills from the web site into my own training.”
Seo hopes that his kids will use what he teaches them as a springboard to a healthy lifestyle as adults.
“There is a better chance that children maintain a healthy and active lifestyle through adulthood if they learn about it while they are still young,” he said. “Furthermore, running and other sports boost students’ self-confidence.”