What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

February 08, 2015



I have never enjoyed running. When I was younger, I ran only because I was forced to by the school for Physical Education. However, I still run for the obvious physical and health benefits, albeit the process being excruciating. In fact, running is the only sport I do nowadays because it works up a good sweat in a short period of time. Also, it is a good distraction from my thoughts - this works only because of the fact that I find running torturous, and I cannot fathom anything other than the pain with each step taken. 

Thus, as someone who doesn't like running, I am dumbfounded when I meet running enthusiasts. As hard as it is for me to wrap my head around the idea, there are people who actually love the activity, and my favourite author, Haruki Murakami, is one of them. 

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is almost like Haruki Murakami's personal memoir.  It is the most profound book of his that I've read so far, and I love how intimately personal it is. It is the chance to take a peek into the life of this reclusive author.

Someone's hobby reveals a lot about the person. From his running, we learn about his growth as a writer, his sleeping habits, previous career, and even about his wife who has a sweet tooth; As for Murakami himself, he believes that “most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day.”

Likewise, I've experienced numerous epiphanies through baking - pieces of myself I've never known, things that brings me joy, and some revelations that are too embarrassing to be posted on this space. It has also reaffirmed several things I already knew about myself. Maybe one day I would publish a book titled, What I Talk About When I Talk About Baking. Haha.

Ramblings aside, I have even deeper and greater admiration for marathoners and triathletes. The pain they experience and their sheer determination make them feel more alive than ever. And I think that's what we all need, something that reminds ourselves of our existence. It is up to us to find something that evokes such raw emotion. 
"People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree."

Favourite Quotes from the book:

1. For now all I can do is put off making any detailed judgments and accept things as they are. Just like I accept the sky, the clouds, and the river. And there’s also something kind of comical about it all, something you don’t want to discard completely.

2. Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent.

3. The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.

4. Sometimes the world baffles me. I can’t believe that people would really do things like that.

5. Where did their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, disappear to? When people pass away, do their thoughts just vanish?

6. You make do with what you have. As you age you learn even to be happy with what you have. That’s one of the few good points of growing older.

7. So from the start, artistic activity contains elements that are unhealthy and antisocial. I’ll admit this. This is why among writers and other artists there are quite a few whose real lives are decadent or who pretend to be antisocial.

8. Beside, the road cows are lazily chewing grass. They show zero interest in the runners. They’re too busy eating grass to care about all these whimsical people and their nonsensical activities.

9. It’s a strange way of thinking and definitely a very strange feeling—consciousness trying to deny consciousness. You have to force yourself into an inorganic place. Instinctively I realized that this was the only way to survive.

10. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence.

11. In this instance, relief outweighed happiness. It was like a tight knot inside me was gradually loosening, a knot I’d never even realized, until then, was there.

12. I don’t care about the time I run. I can try all I want, but I doubt I’ll ever be able to run the way I used to. I’m ready to accept that. It’s not one of your happier realities, but that’s what happens when you get older. Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do.

13. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it’s been moving ever forward without a moment’s rest. And one of the privileges given to those who’ve avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.

14. On the body of the bike is written “18 Til I Die,” the name of a Bryan Adams hit. It’s a joke, of course. Being eighteen until you die means you die when you’re eighteen.

15. But in real life things don’t go so smoothly. At certain points in our lives, when we really need a clear-cut solution, the person who knocks at our door is, more likely than not, a messenger bearing bad news. It isn’t always the case, but from experience I’d say the gloomy reports far outnumber the others. The messenger touches his hand to his cap and looks apologetic, but that does nothing to improve the contents of the message. It isn’t the messenger’s fault. No good to blame him, no good to grab him by the collar and shake him. The messenger is just conscientiously doing the job his boss assigned him. And this boss? That would be none other than our old friend Reality.

16. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.

17. It doesn’t matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I’ll always discover something new about myself. No matter how long you stand there examining yourself naked before a mirror, you’ll never see reflected what’s inside.

18. Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren’t involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such an investment of time and energy? It’s precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive—or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself. If things go well, that is.

19. Whether it’s good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what’s most important is what you can’t see but can feel in your heart. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts.

20. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can.

21. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It’s got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.)

22. In other words, let's face it: Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that's unfair, I think it's possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won't seem to be worth all that. It's up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.




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