Monday, September 29, 2008

What I talk about when I talk about running

Haruki Murakami's latest book, at first glance, appears to be a run-of-the-mill running journal, but it's one of those books you cannot read in a hurry. It has the profound effect of making you pause, reflect and take notice. The author has been a runner for more than 2 decades of his life. The only person I know in real life with a track record like that is my dad. My dad is by nature, one of the most disciplined people I know. Since the age of 31, he has been running, most of the time, the same distance and on the same running track, except on the rare occasion injury intervenes. But, even for less willed mortals like me, I have to think a long-time habit automatically builds into your system, a sort of mental and physical discipline. Especially a habit like running that forces you to constantly compete against yourself.

I am a creature of mood; boredom always lurks in the background. I cannot imagine waking a certain time every morning to run the same distance every day. That's why I vary the time I run, the distance, even the course. I have to write about running, read about it and compete in races to keep my interest from waning. But, as I grow older, I am beginning to channel my energy and time into a few select areas of my life, running being one of them...and the need to excel does not seem as important as the desire to savor the experience.

"Perhaps I am too painstaking a type of person, but I can't grasp much of anything without putting down my thoughts in writing, so I had to actually get my hands working to write these words. Otherwise, I'd never know what running means to me". That's me - painstaking. If you asked me what I was thinking a second ago, I couldn't tell you. But I could easily capture a moment or an emotion in writing.

The author talks of what he thinks when he runs. Though varied thoughts cross the mind when you run, it is essentially a sort of meditation. "No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act". A marathoner once told me she always returned from her runs with a solution to whatever problem she set out with. I wish I could say running solved my problems. For me, running has become almost a religion - it has given me strength to deal with problems, a balance in life and the ability to put things in perspective.

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