Blazed through Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running this week. Murakami has this mellow conversational style to his writing that treats the extraordinary almost as a matter of course. Running is his memoir of life as a novelist and a runner, and I feel like it shares some similar qualities with the only other Murakami book I’ve read — Wind Up Bird Chronicles. There’s the fantastical and the grim, but he treats those elements like they’re really just light things. Running a 62 mile ultramarathon? He doesn’t have much to say about first 30 miles (!) cause the last 8 were really the toughest to get through.
Realized after reading this that getting through pain, enduring it, enjoying the challenge of it, and even forgetting enough of it to tackle it again in the future (like childbirth) is what has brought him fulfillment and success in the paths that he’s chosen. Like the video of children in the Marshmallow experiment, that never stops amazing me at how it’s such a neat metaphor for adult life – desire, attainment, ambition, self-restraint.
It’s amazing because those essential emotions don’t really change when you get older, and you can recognize those emotions you still feel but just don’t externalize like these kids do. Like the feeling that “I just DON’T WANT TO DO THIS!” but instead of squirming we give ourselves migraines, drink and procrastinate, or just get bitter, in order to cope with it.
Getting yourself out of bed to run at 6:30 in the morning is already a start. At least attempting it, persisting in attempting, even though you might not be able to run for an entire mile. That is your goal – your deeply personal, individual goal. You might have natural talent for whatever it is you want to do, but it’s not enough. You must keep racing yourself, and really for no one but yourself. In such a way it’s easier to see what you were meant to do, need to do, and no longer care about the approval or disapproval of those around you. And maybe you’ll find others like yourself running along that path that you’ve chosen. Like Murakami running along the Charles, you’ll nod and smile at your fellow runners in the chilly New England fall, knowing that you are alone and yet not alone.