When he is not training, the Seattle native occupies his time by finding “fifty bazillion ways” to jibe unapologetically at people – using examples drawn from tech culture, social media, and even animals and grammar. And fans and detractors are lapping up the profanity-laced humour – to the tune of a quarter of a billion hits for the website in 2010 (reported by social-media news-blog, Mashable). Little wonder that Inman’s party-hat-wearing alter ego, the Oatmeal cartoon character, is always in the mood to party.
To be honest, I had just broken up with a girl I had been dating for a long time. A few days went by after the break-up and I decided that I wanted to change something. I was stuck at the computer when it struck me: “We’ve broken up so I’m going to go run and try to get in shape”. I don’t know where I got my motivation from. And that first run was tough. The distance was short, probably only 800m, it felt terrible.
At that time, I lived near a lake, which was about 5km around. When I started, I would run on the sidewalk. But after a few days, I decided to run around the lake. The lake really helped: If I gave up, I would have to walk home, all the way around. I actually made my way all around the lake without stopping about two weeks after my first 800m run. Five kilometres is not terribly long, but for a beginner that’s pretty good. Also, when I was starting to run, I used to pretend that there was a fat man chasing me. And if he caught me, I would be transformed into him. Other times, I would look at a tree, at a stop sign or at a car. I would say: “Run to that car, run to that tree, or run to that stop-sign.” I tried constantly to set these points farther and farther away. And from then on, I was hooked. And I went from not running at all – I hadn’t exercised since high school – to running five to six days a week for more than eight years now. And I started going for longer and longer distances – half marathon, full marathon, half ironman, and then an ultra-marathon.
No, because I really enjoy running. It also helps me relax – it is physical and I can keep busy. I can’t relax like most people – I can’t relax sitting down. On the other hand, I feel great after a run – it’s refreshing. Whether it’s 5km or longer, I feel wonderful after I run. Actually, if I go for two or more days without running, I’ll feel really miserable. I’ll feel like I’m morbidly obese and that the whole world is falling apart. It’s almost like being on a drug at this point.
To be honest, I haven’t run a normal marathon in almost a year, but my personal best is a 3.40. I didn’t train properly, so I’m not too crazy about that number. But in the past year, I’ve been training hard. Typically, I run six days a week – sometimes five. The minimum distance I usually run is 6 miles (about 9.7 km). I’m actually part of a running group and I have a coach who helps me out. I do a big mix of runs. For instance, just before this interview, I had to do a moderate-pace, 8-mile (about 12.9 km) run on a flat course. Tomorrow is my day-off, and the day after, I’ll be running 12 miles (about 19.3 km) on a hilly course. Thanks to all the training, I achieved a 1.30 time in my last half marathon in mid-September. I’m aiming for 3.05 for my next marathon, the Las Vegas Marathon in December, so that I can qualify for Boston. I don’t know if I can run at that pace because it’s really fast. But I’ve been training like crazy and I’m hopeful.
When I was younger, I used to play the online game Quake, using the nick Quaker Oatmeal as my nick. So I decided to name the website Oatmeal. I don’t even eat oatmeal. I ate cereal when I was growing up.
When I started, the Internet was the only place I knew to put my material. I didn’t seek out a book publisher or try to get syndicated by a newspaper. Instead, I just posted stuff on my website and developed a following through social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Stumbleupon. Provided you’re making things that people like, the web right now is a great place for an artist, comedian, writer, musician, or whatever else to pump out material and (hopefully) flourish. But I admit – it was tough paying the bills in the beginning. I once had to ask for donations to cover web-hosting costs of a few thousand dollars because I had nothing to sell to the readers then.
I would often just think about things which aggravate me (customer service, dealing with a client over website design), or things that I enjoy. Thankfully, it seems like many people have similar likes and dislikes! And you know what? Some of my best ideas actually come when I’m running! I write down all these ideas in a huge notebook I keep. I have 11 notebooks in my house – just pages and pages of ideas and thoughts. What I’ll do next is pick the ones I like and put them into the right words.
I tend to pick topics I know people can relate to. For example, I would love to make a comic about ultra running. But not many people can say “Oh yeah, I totally know what that feels like, running a hundred miles.” Similarly, I wanted to make a comic about snowboarding because I love snowboarding. But I don’t know if enough of my readers will get it. So I try to limit my comics to the stuff on everybody’s frequency.
The actual reasons behind why we run. For example, a lot of people say, “I run to be healthy” or “I run so much because of my heart”. But in reality, they run only because they want to date a hotter girl. Or maybe they run so that they can have bacon everyday and not gain weight. With these, I can actually create a comic called “Why I run”, talking about all our real motivations for working out. Another possible option is “The 10 phases of running a marathon”, showing how some people break the race down into Mile 1, Mile 5, Mile 13, 18, 26. I think enough people have run marathons to know what I mean.