Running the Boston Marathon, Medicated
Ethan Zohn was the winner of Survivor: Africa and a former professional soccer player. A cancer survivor, Zohn is also a cannabis user and advocate and will be running the Boston Marathon, while medicated, this Monday. Racing on behalf of AKTIV Against Cancer, an organization that encourages exercise as an integral part of cancer treatment, Ethan Zohn is gregarious, self-effacing and a spokesperson for Momenta, the wellness brand of American cannabis powerhouse Trulieve. Ahead of his race, Zohn spoke with KIND editor Ben Kaplan, himself a two-time Boston Marathon finisher, and the two cannabis-using marathon racers compared notes about life, training, and weed.
Ben Kaplan: How are you, man?
Ethan Zohn: Great, just getting ready for Passover, which means I’m carb-loading on Matzah, which . . . I guess it should be fine?
BK: Oh yeah, I’m sure that’s terrific. And how are your vibes?
EZ: Listen, ten years of remission from my rare form of blood cancer and relief from the Momenta products, I have to tell you: I really feel lucky and strong.
BK: I love that. And I love that you use your platform to find the stigma of cannabis in sports.
EZ: I just think it’s so important. Raising awareness about cannabis usage—safe cannabis usage—has been a lifesaver to me. Cannabis and exercise.
BK: See, to some people that would be an oxymoron—like cannabis and exercise don’t match.
EZ: I was a competitive athlete growing up. I never combined the two. But after I was diagnosed with cancer, I read about how cannabis might help mitigate the side effects. Let me tell you, in New York City in 2009, it was no fun buying weed
BK: What do you mean?
EZ: It wasn’t legal, so if I wanted my pot to use as medicine I had to find a drug dealer, and who knew what was in their stuff, beyond the fact that I was doing something illegal on top of having cancer.
EZ: Yikes, exactly. I’m trying to find medicine to make me feel better and it’s like, am I going to go to jail?
BK: Luckily, even in the prehistoric US where recreational cannabis still isn’t federally legal, more than thirty-five states allow medical weed.
EZ: I just want to share my story and spread awareness because, even after my cancer, that’s when I really explored the benefits of cannabis as medicine. After the cancer, that’s when things got difficult.
EZ: Just the mental health component. The uncertainty and anxiety of living life again and I tell you, it was only with CBD and cannabis as part of my daily wellness journey did I begin to get my life back on track. I could once again feel like me.
BK: So now you use Momenta and you’re about to run the Boston Marathon.
EZ: I wanted to do something big to celebrate my tenth year cancer-free and there’s nothing bigger, for a runner, than the Boston Marathon.
BK: Some of my best times in sneakers were at the Boston Marathon.
EZ: It’s so great and partnering with Trulieve and Momenta allows me to spread education and talk to folks who still think cannabis is bad, and illicit, and a gateway drug. I’m trying to erase that stigma and educate people in how cannabis can be incorporated into everyday wellness and exercise, and cannabis can help with sleep and nausea. For me, I tell you: cannabis helped me restore balance in my life.
BK: I love that. Erasing the stigma that a pothead is someone playing video games in the basement. That’s fine. But a pothead can also run the Boston Marathon.
EZ: People exercise and work out and use cannabis all the time, they just don’t talk about it.
BK: Tell me about your plan for Monday.
EZ: I’ll take a 5mg Momenta capsule before the start. Obviously I don’t want to be rocked out of my brain. And then around mile eighteen I might take one more. Later, the post-race is going to be huge because I use the THC-infused Momenta pain cream and cooling gel, and that helps with inflammation.
BK: I’m just so proud of what you’re doing. KIND magazine emphasizes health and wellness and cannabis and I love seeing it on running’s biggest stage.
EZ: There aren’t too many people racing and talking about being medicated and I feel really proud to be on the frontlines. Plus, the first time I ran Boston was IN 2013 when I was one year in remission, it was also the year of the bombings and I was pulled off the course at mile 24, so this race means a lot to me.
BK: Wow, man. That's a lot. And Boston on its own: it’s the Holy Grail of Marathon Running.
EZ: My dad died when I was 14, and he’d run Boston. I'm excited to follow in his footsteps, literally. And Boston is also my hometown, so I just feel so many emotions and such elation. I’m excited to have the Momenta products, and I’m really excited to get out and run.