PPTC Member Spotlight: Will Ngo
Interview and photo by PaFoua Hang
We want to shine a spotlight on a fairly new, but already deeply immersed member, Will Ngo. Will was born and raised outside of Philadelphia, PA, and moved to NYC about 15 years ago for grad school. He is a full-time designer, architect, and part-time educator. He loves making things and Legos.
Will joined PPTC in June 2018, and has already rooted himself deeply into PPTC’s internal operations. He is an active committee member in the Social Committee, Race Committee, Clothing Committee, and Communications Committee.
How did you find PPTC and why did you choose this club?
I picked up running as a hobby back in late 2017 as an activity to help clear my head. I signed up for a NYCRuns 5K in early 2018 and found that I enjoyed the atmosphere of a few hundred people of varying levels getting together to just run. I soon signed up for more races in different locations around the city.
In April 2018, I saw my buddy Robert Dimock at a 10K in Prospect Park with a bright red shirt with the letters “PPTC” cryptically branded on the chest. I soon joined afterward in June 2018 hoping the Club would help me find more consistency with my running.
It was probably almost a full month between when I signed up to be a member of PPTC and when I actually joined my first group run. At the time, I had only been running for a little more than half a year and was pretty intimidated by trying to keep up with the “real runners.” Most of that anxiety evaporated fairly immediately after meeting some really terrific members. The Club really has been an incredibly welcoming and inclusive group.
How did you start running and what keeps you going?
Often at Club events, I’ve heard others describe their relationship with running as either starting young, (e.g., having done track in school), or having a specific goal to work towards such as training for their first marathon. I feel I have been doing it backwards since I was just running away from a bad breakup that happened around November 2017.
I first started running on my own and signed up for NYRR races to have new goals to work towards. I didn’t have much consistency in my training, nor had I run with a group socially until joining PPTC. I was not exposed to running terms like tempo, fartlek, or aerobic threshold until having joined the Club. I really started to run with the intention of just clearing my head and finding a new way to deal with stress and to better manage my emotions.
I guess in the last year and a half, running has evolved from being about dealing with loss, to now being more about looking forward to the next goal, the next race, and next milestone. Running for me is no longer about running away from something but towards joy and connection, and building and developing my resilience. It has become a positive force in my life, propelling me forward to the next goal.
I signed up for the NYC Marathon in November 2019, and since I’m petrified that I might not finish, it’s become a commitment for me to keep running steadily to build my endurance, and to get stronger and faster. My current running goal is to just finish the NYC marathon in one piece: NYC is currently considered my “one and done” marathon. My longer running goal is to see if I would “retire” from running by 2020. (Editor’s Note: We hope you continue to run, Will!)
What is your best and or favorite running memory?
My favorite memory was during my work trip to Hangzhou. Thanks to jet lag, I woke up super early in the morning and headed out to run around a scenic West Lake. I expected it to be an easy 10 miles, but conditions became miserable that morning with a drizzle start building up to heavy rain. In the first mile, I slipped and unfortunately cut both hands. The shock and pain jolted me to focus and since I didn’t want to stop the run, the awareness of the pain allowed me to be more present and I found myself more engaged with the surrounding pagodas and the outline of the lake.
Another favorite running moment was at the Staten Island start zone at the 2018 Staten Island Half Marathon, where I found myself feeling incredibly nervous and anxious about running my first half marathon. At the time, it was the longest distance I had run at that point. By chance, I ended up with Eric L and Adam Devine at the start, two of the best personalities to erase any nerves and get excited about the opportunity to rock the race.
I can still vividly recall walking to the port-a-potties and seeing lines of hundreds of people waiting, and then seeing Adam Devine break the silence of anxiety with more enthusiasm than I had ever seen of any other human being by yelling: “We all get to do this, people! We all get to do this.”
My favorite race EVER is probably the NYC Half. A large part of having lived in NYC for 15 years now, having the chance to run through the streets that are ordinarily filled with cars being shut down just for runners was an incredible sight and experience.
What do you think about or listen to when you run (e.g., favorite music, books, podcast, etc.)?
Recently, I have been trying to run without music, as I’m learning to control my pace better by listening to my breath and my pacing. It’s probably for the better. When I do listen to music during running it would largely consist of a strange combination of 90s indie music and way too much Taylor Swift.
What is your pre-race ritual, if any, the night before a race and during the morning of?
Sadly, nothing too original. The night before a race, I usually lay out my kit and have an early dinner, then I battle pre-race nerves by tossing and turning for about three hours to fall asleep. For breakfast before the race, I would have a banana.
What is your favorite food to eat after a long run or hard race (assuming everything has stabilized internally)?
If I am feeling super indulgent, it’d be a bacon, egg, cheese, and avocado on a sesame seed bagel with a mango shake. If I am feeling spendy, then smoked salmon with plain cream cheese on a sesame seed bagel.
What is your favorite recovery tool or running gear?
A hot shower then I’m off to bed — staying horizontal, warm, and clean under my covers. I have a love-hate relationship with my foam roller.
Any advice you would give to other runners or your younger running self?
I still feel like too much of a beginner about running to give advice to anybody else, since it’d be like the blind leading the blind. To my younger running self, I would say, “Why didn’t I run earlier!? This is great!”