What I talk about when I talk about running

29th June 2016

Murakami book on running


At the beginning of this year I was feeling head-achingly overwhelmed. Details aren’t the point but I could give you some potentials just so you get the vibe. It might have been S.A.D, it may have been mid life insecurity (just being honest, I seem to be working mine up quite adeptly and my father passed away at 60, so labelling it midlife, for me, is a plausible reality), it could have just been post Christmas fatigue. Really, in order to get to that point of ‘not feeling on my game’, I just need to have a list longer than I can cope with, to have lost track of dates and forgotten things, have that perpetual feeling of constantly chasing my tail or pitiful lacklustre energy levels to feel overwhelmed – if I drop the ball with my physical and mental health by eating/drinking badly or overbooking myself and not spending enough time alone, I just unravel a bit, it’s an inevitability. If I then add any personal pressure into that mix, or stresses by proxy – problems that friends or family are having, issues with the children, BOOM… I’m having an internal implosion.

But, on the flip side, I’ve always got running.

I got into running after signing up for the London Marathon when I was 21 as an antidote for heartbreak – the type of heartbreak that reacts boldly (and naively) with ‘I’ll show him’ when actually, quite frankly ‘he’ probably doesn’t even have any clue I ran a marathon and neither would he care, nor does anyone else really. It might have turned out to be a completely redundant and painful endeavour except that I now knew I had this practice, which, while I didn’t especially enjoy it and wasn’t entirely great at it, seemed to sort my head out and had the added benefit of keeping me fit, making me more productive and less, how can I put it? the word ‘crazed’ probably covers it. In any case, though I knew all that, I think I found the 26 miles a little traumatic for someone whose lack of innate athletic prowess had resulted in never being picked for sports at school. It took a while (years) before I went for my next event, The Great North Run. That race I prepared for properly, but again, I ran that and dropped running once again. However things came back into their own when my dad died and running came sharply back into focus as a healer. An organised run felt like a productive, unifying thing to do and my sisters and I ran the Brighton Half for charity. Since then I’ve intermittently run other halves and last October I ran in Bright 10 but I’ve never run as consistently as I have in 2016.

When the New Year came around I hadn’t run properly since October, but I signed myself up for a 1000km in 2016 challenge on the map my run running app and a few days into January embarked on my first 6 miler with my friend Matt. I was pretty hungover as I recall, it was freezing, it rained and I cursed almost every step. My starting point was that all encompassing term: slumpy. I’m now 56 runs down and have 494km racked up. I feel stronger, I feel fitter and more importantly a whole lot happier. I’ve run one half marathon and one 10k so far this year and I’ve got 2 more 10k’s, a half, a 10 miler and a tough mudder to go. I went to see an intuitive last September and he said I had a tendency for obsession once I get into something. I think there is probably something in that. You can see all my running bits on @abrilliantme

Anyway a book on running seems to be a good idea at this point in time, something inspirational to keep me interested. So many people had mentioned this title to me. The only other book I’ve read on the topic of running was Born to Run and if you want to read any book about running I would also recommend that in a heartbeat.

Murakami’s book is much more of a informal discussion about running and how it fits into his life. It’s a quick read, but one that left me wanting to run another marathon, sign up for a triathlon, run more often (so I upped my training from 3 times a week to 5 or 6) and also to re-read the Great Gatsby. It also hit on something I had been thinking about when I thought about running, what possible point is there in me signing up for events when I’ve no real hope ever of breaking the tape and when I have a very philosophical approach to personal bests (you can’t run the same race twice)? – I’d sort of been turning it over in my mind that for example investing money in entrance fees etc… was perhaps wasteful. I enjoy experiencing the events with people I know and the anticipation and intrinsic pressure that comes in participating in them but I really think it’s the effort involved in the training which remains with me. Over the last 6 months I’ve absorbed the great outdoors outside my home and taken in the normal everyday goings on in town and at the seafront. Aside from walking the dog and the school run, I could easily get very disconnected from other life day to day. I’ve been out in rain, mist, wind, cold, sleet and intense heat this year. I’ve watched the seasons change at the beach, seen it morning, afternoon and evening. I’ve connected to that temporary void that running attains and kicked so many endorphins around my body I’m thoroughly addicted. I’ve been calmer. I’ve slept better. I did then, agree with Murakami that even activities which appear fruitless don’t necessarily end up so.

I appreciated his book for many reasons, but I particularly liked his description of his daily routine and how he manages to do his work around a reasonably uniform timetable that doesn’t please everyone that knows him. Daily routines have intrigued me since reading Mason Currey’s “Daily Rituals” last year – another great read. I think his description of how long distance running figures into his lifestyle as a necessity in order to do the real work spoke to me. Running isn’t for everyone, but when it is for you, you know it.


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