Thursday, June 11, 2009

Talking about running

According to Haruki Murakami there are two types of people – runners and non-runners. As a runner (albeit at this point in time a lapsed one) I tend to agree.

He isn't talking about people who go jogging either. Murakami runs one marathon a year and supplements this by doing ultra-marathons and triathlons in-between.

It is a short book and he interweaves biography, travelogue and notes about his writing with the stuff about running, creating a work that is delightfully personal and surprisingly affecting in places.

'Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional', he is told early on in his running career and this aphorism will be familiar to any devotee of endurance sport. The book is full of little gems and insights like this and at the end you feel like you've been listening to a particularly entertaining old friend talk about their view of life.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter where he recounts running a 62 mile ultra-marathon at Lake Saroma.
I don't know what sort of general significance running sixty-two miles by yourself has, but as an action that deviates from the ordinary but doesn't violate basic values, you'd expect it to afford you a special sort of self-awareness. It should add a few new elements to your inventory in understanding who you are. And as a result, your view of your life, its colors and shape should be transformed. More or less, for better or for worse, this happened to me, and I was transformed.
He then goes on to describe what happens after he passes through the 47 mile mark:
I'm me, and at the same time not me. That's what it felt like. A very still, quiet feeling. The mind wasn't so important.
Usually when I approach the end of a marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That's all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of this ultramarathon, I wasn't really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It's the same with our lives. Just because there's an end doesn't mean existence has a meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence.

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