Monday, September 22, 2008

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

This weekend I finished the aforementioned memoir by Haruki Murakami, a book that details his relationship with running and in turn writing. It took me a while to get into the book, largely due to his writing style which I was unfamiliar with and the fact that the book was translated from Japanese. I began the book with expectation that I would relate to it and the author whole heartedly, the reality was a bit more subtle.

Murakami weaves together his running 'history' from the point of various races, his first marathon, an ultra-marathon, the NYC marathon, the last one he ran before the memoir's publication. He talks about his practice, how he trains, and how it balances him. He talks about the solitary nature of distance running and what makes him suited for it, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

He stresses the non-competitive nature of the sport with the vast majority of runners competing only against themselves. His aversion to team sports struck a chord with me, as I have long preferred the solitary sports. Perhaps it's a natural outgrowth of my introversion that I am motivated internally rather than externally, that I prefer to draw from within myself rather than collect and coordinate with those around me. This does not preclude a camaraderie with fellow runners and racers -- something that Murakami touches on.

The further I got into the memoir, the more I got into it, mirroring the process of warming up and hitting stride. Hard to tell if he planned it this way, but the analogy still stands. I really got a sense of his quiet resolve both to run and write, and what it took in him to continue these things. He emphasized that you can't convince someone to take up either, it's either something that suits you or it doesn't -- as I feel, I would never encourage someone to run who did not have the inclination. The drive to run is one that I got in touch with relatively recently -- once I tapped into it I realized that it was something that helped me thrive, helped me even out my edges frayed by the stress of day to day existence. I don't always feel like getting out there, day after day, but after I do I always feel better. It has become an integral part of my routine, my rhythm.

To those of you who are runners out there, I highly recommend this book, once you get warmed up, it's smooth sailing. If you are not a runner, it's hard to say you'll get much from it, unless you are engaged in some sort of long distance pursuit in your life. In the end, isn't running just a metaphor for life? I suppose this blog lays testament to that, at least on some days.

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