A Stronger Self

Small Talk With Earth Oscar—Nirodha Ruencharoen—About Life and Self-Expression

interview by achille filipponi

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Achille Filipponi: You have an incredible personality! We’d like to know more about you. What can you tell us about your life? Are you in Thailand, or are you often on the move?

Earth Oscar: I come from Chachoengsao which is a province about an hour to the east of Bangkok. I live in a small district called Bang Khla which is located right next to the River Bang Pakong. Both of my parents worked in the public sector—my mother was a teacher and my father was a soldier—and I have a brother who is a few years younger than me.

I had quite an ordinary, suburban life. However, from a young age, I knew that I was quite a confident person. I participated in and loved doing as many school activities as I could, while I also studied hard and did quite well academically. When I decided to come to Bangkok for college, I figured that I should make the most of my extrovert enthusiasm and do a BFA in Performing Arts at Srinakharinwirot University. During the four-year course, I was able to really bring out my confident side and the teachers gave me lots of opportunities to act in plays and musicals. Then I got to perform professionally as well.

I also always loved watching films, which is how I made a name for myself. In 2013, I decided to join “Fanpantae,” a TV game show to find the most informed contestant in any given field. My episode was about Oscar movies and I won! After that, everyone in the industry called me “Earth Oscar.” Now, I work as a movie influencer, which has led me to present many movie events.

Until now you may have noticed that I haven’t said a single word about sport, exercising, or running at all!

AF: What's your relationship with running? Why did you start?

EO: The concept of exercise, let alone running, had never crossed my mind at all before. When I was in high school, I never had any interest in sports and I was very small and skinny. However, when I was in college, I started partying a lot and I put on a lot of weight. I never paid much attention to it but when I hit 30, I noticed that I was twice the weight that I had been when I started college. I had also become a heavy smoker, hitting two packs of cigarettes every day. 

I successfully lost weight by dieting and skipping meals but it wasn’t a very healthy way to do it and when I started eating again, the weight piled on even more. Which is where the exercising option came in. 

The reason I started exercising more wasn’t because I wasn’t confident about how I looked. Even when my weight went up, I never thought of myself as being fat at all. The real reason for doing more exercise was because my body started showing signs of getting fatigued easily, I had back pain, and I started snoring during my sleep. 

Also at that time I started to have fun dressing up as movie characters or female pop stars, so I wanted to look amazing in those tight dresses.

AF: Is running something that has always had a place in your life, or is it something that changed it? 

EO: One thing I didn’t try at that point was running. However, I had to do cardio, so I bought a pair of running shoes and started by running around the park near my house a few times a week.

I started losing weight for real this time. My body started to really get in shape, and people started noticing. That led people to ask me whether I was interested in going to marathons or running events.

Funnily enough I wasn’t at first: the thought of waking up really early and running with such a big crowd really put me off. Then a group of my close friends from high school who had been on the running scene for a few years asked me if I wanted to join them. This time I was like, “Okay, fine! I’ll give it a go.” My only thought was that at least I would get to hang out with my friends if I didn’t enjoy the event. 

It was only a four-mile run and I didn't know anything about running, or about what “pace” or “intervals” meant. I just went out and ran.

The first time I reached the finish line was a turning point for me. I didn’t look at the time or how fast I had run. I just ran and that was it. It was about 10 minutes after my friends, and everyone was amazed at how I got there so quickly. They even asked me whether that was my first time running a marathon! So I started joining more events and now it’s the sixth year I’ve been doing this.

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AF: I think we can understand that in your case running isn't linked to performance but to your body, right? Can we say running is a way to express yourself?

EO: I would say that it’s just a new avenue for me to be myself. As I said before, I’ve  always been an expressive and enthusiastic person, ever since I was little. In school I was always out there having fun and being myself, and during movie events I was always like this too. It’s just that this is a new hobby that I have and when I enjoy something, I want to be able to be myself as well. 

But when you start running regularly, your body gets stronger and more agile. Though I don’t think that I need to “perform” better, I always love to challenge myself and see how I can do better and better, not just in running but in life as well. So being myself fully affects my running performance in a surprisingly positive way as well.

AF: What is body for you? Maybe rather than just a tool, it’s more of a symbol to you?

EO: My mind goes back to an incident that happened to me when I was very young. My teacher asked me to join the school’s running competition. I think she saw me as a slim kid who would be able to run fast. However, I came last, and that really left a sense of failure and disappointment in me. So I tried to avoid sports as much as possible, right up until I started to run.

I found that I was good at it, and that my body could handle it. And this completely changed my views on running and my limits. I now feel that if I could do it, then anyone can. So I don’t really see my “body” as a kind of a symbol, because I believe that everyone’s body is a symbol in its own way. Everyone has a unique body and a unique personality and if I can run and be myself, then you can as well.

By joining the running community, I’ve also met so many people. I met a woman who worked as a cleaner who ran 60+ miles, and I see people—of all shapes and sizes—running happily on the track. 

Their bodies are symbols in their own way as well.

AF: From your IG we see you are an “aspiring athlete.” What does that mean? Do you want to improve your performance?

EO: Of course! I try to do better and better every time I run. What really keeps me going is that I enjoy taking on challenges and pushing myself to the next level. I tend to get bored if something’s too easy to achieve.

Recently I was invited for the first time to join running events overseas—in Japan and Malaysia— which will be my first in-person exposure to the world. The Spartan team also invited me to be one of their ambassadors, which is a huge honor for me.

AF: We’re really fascinated by the role the finish line has in your “performances.” It looks like the end of a race is the climax of your expressive power. Is it a metaphor? What does it mean to you?

EO: I’m fascinated by the reactions as well. I don’t see it as a huge metaphor or anything like that at all. 

I used to do these kinds of runway walks for fun with my friends, or at movie events, all the time. Then at one of the running events I joined, I had this fun idea of walking into the finish line as if it was a pageant. It was the first time that I finished first place. I posted it on my IG, and it just exploded and went viral. It was just how I am at any event.

I wasn’t astounded by the number of likes or shares, but by the positive messages from people around the world who see me as an inspiration to get out their running shoes, or from LGBTQ+ people who feel validated and encouraged by how I express myself, by me being myself. I’ve made so many new friends from everywhere around the world, and this sense of community really lifts my spirits. This is what I think is important to me—that my own self can really touch people’s hearts.

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