Saturday, May 28, 2011

When I Talk About Running

Source of picture: craaae
My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance – all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson... And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it.
I hate running. Period. I don't have the stamina or will-power for it. I've tried liking it but it inevitably consumes my happiness and I'm left in a sweaty, defeated state thinking: "Why the hell did I ever think this was a good idea in the first place?". I remember having to run cross-country as part of the 'curriculum' in my sports classes, in primary and high school, and I would always come second to last... in a group of 50. Factor in the point where I was a severely overweight kid and overall, running was not my cup of tea.

Fast track several years later to when I was 18 (still overweight) and I haphazardly forced myself to attempt running, for the second time, on the treadmills at my local gym. That time was definitely better. As the weeks go past, I slowly built myself up to running at 5km for 10 minutes. I know that doesn't sound fast in the slightest but it was enough to make me shake with sweat and admit defeat. As funny as it sounds, each time I stepped onto the treadmill and ran, it made me hate the activity even more. For most people, achieving a goal would make them feel elated with joy and accomplishment, essentially happy. But in my case, running didn't do a damn thing for me. If anything, it left me miserable. I didn't have that feeling I was supposed to have after running and I boil it down to the fact that I couldn't shake the loathing of running. Unfortunately (or fortunately- whichever way you choose to look at it), I gave up on the treadmills and turned to group exercise classes instead, where I kick ass and feel on top of the world after a great session.

Haruki Murakami is one of my favourite authors. (Side note: I'll definitely be posting more of his books in future posts). His works predominantly consist of fiction novels set in contemporary Japan but he has published a few non-fiction memoirs, Running being the first of them. Over 4 months. he documents his preparation for the (in)famous New York City Marathon. The memoir details what types of races he runs, where he trains and of course, what he thinks about when he is running. The book itself didn't incite me to strap on my trainers and go for a 10km run. After all, I hate running, remember? But it was inspirational, nonetheless. His book reinforced my attitudes towards attaining goals whether they would be towards exercise, career or simply being the best I can be, in whatever I choose to do, regardless of the burning sensation in my body.

I'm not a competitive person by nature (although, I do say that I am the best in who I am, haha). I find it hard to gather the mentality that allows me to overtake those I see as threats. Very rarely could you find me doing competitive sports growing up. Unless I am striving for something very important, I'm all too willing to let someone else have the crown. Murakami, and some runners, are the same in that way. In long distance running, the only competition that truly exists is between you and time, which I hope is fair to say, my approach with most things. The only person I have to overtake is an abstract concept- time, negative ideals and attitudes or myself.

For Murakami, he found it through running and writing. I found it through 4 years of intense cardiovascular activity at my gym, martial arts and school. We, inevitably, reached the same conclusion about hard work.

"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."

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