Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What I think about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (Partial)

I just finished reading through Murakami's book this morning, and I think what might have struck me the most was just how different our experience or running is.

Murakami closes the book with following:
I dedicate this book to all the runners I've encountered on the road--Those I've passed, and those who've passed me. Without all of you, I never would have kept running.

And towards the end he says:
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.

These are, to me, alien ways of thinking about running. In my title to this post, I made a point of saying that these are only partial thoughts--I dare say Murakami may have only presented some of his ideas; some ideas, probably, were edited out as not helpful to the book as a whole. I make this point partially to acknowledge that Murakami might have other motivations than those he states here. But these two motivations have nothing to do with why I run. Really, really nothing.

Murakami, of course, runs races every year; he runs marathons every year. He runs every day. I've run in three (of about 7, 8 and 10 miles), and won't run in another race until the friend who got me to go to those, tries to get me to go to another--but my friend is doing ultramarathoning now, and I'm not interested in 50k races. My friend ran in a 100-mile race--a trail run, no less--last year (he made it something like 70 or 80 miles before he injured himself and had to quit). A 10-mile trail run sounds nice, but I'll pass on the century. And all things being equal, I'd rather run alone than in a crowd, so who needs a race?

I run for the joy of it. I run because--though there are some difficulties to enjoy--the center of the activity is the pure physical pleasure of the body working right. And the meditative nature. And--when I get off the city streets and into the the parks in the Berkeley hills--I'm out of the city, running on trails bordered by scrub (a lot of invasive broom, also native sages, poppies, grasses), or sheltered by the redwood-bay-oak woods in the canyons here.

To the extent that Murakami's book is partially a reflection on writing (as he himself suggests), I wonder what this says about the practical implications of our two approaches. Murakami, of course, publishes lots of stuff; he's famous. I don't publish lots of stuff; I'm not famous. One can easily see how Murakami's goal-driven approach would mean more in terms of practical success.

I'm a romantic, I suppose, in hoping that a process-oriented approach can also be successful. I suppose what is ideally called for is both the love of the process and the goal going hand in hand.

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