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immersive journalism

I Learned How To Run Like The Ninjas In Naruto

Warning: It can fuck your knees up pretty bad.
Illustration by Diedra Cavina

When I first discovered Naruto on TV, I immediately made it my life goal to be a fierce shinobi, or ninja. But I didn't—and still don't—know how to channel my inner chakra or perform Bunshin no Jutsu and duplicate myself like Naruto Uzumaki, the ninja who dreams of becoming the leader of his village. However, I would do my best impersonation of Naruto by running as fast as possible and shouting on the top of my lungs, "Dattebayo!" Naruto's run is unlike any other. Naruto and his friends from Konoha village always run with both hands stretched backwards. This absurd way of running became a trend among Naruto fans all over the world, since Naruto sits as the third-best selling manga of all time. Naruto fans don't run alone. They run together at Naruto Run events, like these in Singapore and the United States. But here's the catch: these events are always done on the low, they are only advertised a few days before on Facebook. These shinobi wannabes are doing their best to keep it underground. But as a die-hard fan of Naruto, I didn't want to miss it. So I went to Naruto Run Jakarta last weekend, at Balai Kartini. The run was organized by Comifuro 9, an group for comic artists, novelists, and independent illustrators. I went to Balai Kartini with the most basic costume ever: a plain white t-shirt and ankle pants. Meanwhile, dozens of other people at the event really dressed up. One was wearing a Naruto costume, another wearing Sasuke costume, and there's even a real Gaara. I also saw someone channeling Kaonashi, the no-face monster from Spirited Away.


Wannabe ninjas take flight. Photo by author.

"Naruto Run starts at 3. That's 15 minutes from now. Let's gather around, everyone! Show us your best ninja run, release your chakra!" said the chubby guy in glasses wearing a Konoha Village headband. Later, I found out his name was Marquee Adam, the founder of the run. That afternoon over 50 participants gathered in the scorching heat for the run. Everyone was set to do the 200 meter run in cosplay. Marquee stood by the starting line and went over the running style before counting down from ten to start the race. Two girls near me, bending at 45-degree angle, looked so serious that I wondered if they actually have mastered ninjutsu, or the traditional Japanese art of stealth and sabotage. Three seconds before the run started, I was ready. My body was bent at about a 30-degree angle, and both of my arms were stiffly pulled back. The next thing I knew, everyone ran as fast as they could from around the open area of Balai Kartini to the parking lot. This run drew a lot of attention, I saw people falling down, tripping over one another and shouting out of joy. It was a fun and beautiful mess.

By the end I was out of breath and decided to jog. According to my running app, the ran the 200-meters with average speed of 14 minutes and 24 seconds per kilometer. For that short of a run, it's a sad record. Marquee told me after the event that Naruto's style doesn't really affect one's run. In fact, stretching your arms to the back instead of swinging them slows you down. "It's faster to run the normal way. Naruto's run isn't aerodynamic at all," said Marquee.

Many participants—including myself—couldn't run straight for 200 meters in this position, which made me feel betrayed by Naruto. I could recall watching Gamaray Julian, a participant whose run was pretty stable. I'd consider him to be one of the best Naruto runners that day. Before the run, he had already studied the tricks to Naruto run via Wikihow ,which encourages runners to wear comfortable clothing over elaborate costumes. I guess that's why Naruto always looks like he's going to the gym. "The combination between the angle of your body and the position of the hands is essential. I feel that the more you bend your body, the faster you run, but at the cost of losing balance," said Julian. "I'm considering adding the Naruto run to my jogging routine." But is this running style really safe? I got in touch with Indonesian athletics coach Agung Mulyawan and he told me the cold, hard truth about the Naruto's signature run. "When you're doing the Naruto run, your arms don't swing so you don't have the swing to help you run. This form we only relies on the feet. But out feet have limitations," Agung told me. "Without strong leg muscles, one cannot run for a long time. They could run fast, but they wouldn't last long because of lack of endurance." Agung said that if someone tries a Naruto run without any training, they could injure their knees badly. Runners who bend their body that way, tend to lift their thighs higher in order to improve their speed. That lift requires extra energy and extra support for the knees. At the run, Marquee and I imagined how it must be nice to run so fast while able to chat with friends, just like Naruto, Kakashi, and Sasuke. But Marquee pointed out that even real ninjas don't run Naruto-style. Ninjas run fast and quietly. "As an ordinary person, arms play a big role in running. Naruto is different, he has chakra got help, we don't!" he said.