It’s been a little while since my last post because I’ve been swamped in some complex project lately. But in the hassle of work I slipped into an unexpected but enjoyable lapse of concentration. In the past two days I have immersed myself in Haruki Murakami’s 2005 memoir What I talk when I talk about running.
I was never a fan of Japanese novels. Many years ago I skimmed through a few pages of the shelf-sweeping Norwegian Wood, in its Chinese version. Not much impressed, primarily because the wording seemed too flowery to me. A while later I learned that instead of a decadent, melancholic writer, Haruki Murakami is actually a long-time rigorous runner who rises at 5 am every day for over 20 years. This fact shed a new light on my premature opinion about him. And not until recently did I start reading his realistic, non-dramatic book on the subject of running, this time in English version. Surprisingly, the language feels completely different. It’s concise, pleasantly plain, and to the point. I decided that it was the fault of the ill translation that distorted a great writer. For the first time I wish I had learned at least some Japanese.
Another reason I read the book is that I started running regularly this autumn, and that’s one aspect that I relate to this book most. In summer, I kept a good habit of swimming, but as the weather cooled down, I switched to running as a more accessible sport.
Haruki mentioned in the book he picked up the habit originally for the purpose of keeping fit. For writing is a solitary job he would have easily grown weak and unhealthy if he didn’t do some sort of sports. He also claims that people who don’t need exercise like he does won’t voluntarily pick up something like running. Funny enough, I easily label myself as a counter example. In fact, I didn’t start running for any health-related purposes. I run for fun. After the first few runs, I felt great relief both physically and emotionally. Sometimes I feel inspired post running. I write more as a result. I also feel running improves my concentration and energy level. But these are just too personal reasons. Those who don’t care for running won’t give a fuck.
As I read the book I encounter clips here and there that I strongly identify with:
“When I’m criticized unjustly, or when someone I’m sure will understand me doesn’t, I go running for a little longer than usual. By running longer it’s like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent.”
“I’m often asked what I think about as I run…On cold days I guess I think a little about how cold it is. And about the heat on hot days. When I’m sad I think a little about sadness. When I’m happy I think a little about happiness…But really as I run, I don’t think much of anything worth mentioning.”
“No matter how much you might command your body to perform, don’t count on it to immediately obey. The body is an extremely practical system. You have to let it experience intermittent pain over time, and then the body will get the point.”
I believe that people get random interesting thoughts during sports. For me it’s sometimes exaggerated emotions. For example, when I was running in the neighborhood today, I suddenly developed a strong aversion to drivers, especially bad drivers in residential areas – some are confused about directions; some run traffic lights; some suck at parallel parking while burning their stupid headlights. I get so irritated as I’m short of breath.
As I try to run longer distance through training, I get confused what tips are out there to help you go longer. I once tried listening to short comedies while I run. It worked for maybe two days and on the third it merely sounds like noise. I keep from listening to music because I suppose it’d interfere with “what I think about when I run”. I suppose only running in a void is cool enough. But today I turned to a chapter where Haruki mentioned he listened to Gorrilaz in a long-distance run. Hmmm…I used to play Gorrilaz a lot when driving home in late nights. It’d surely be great music for running as well!
I feel I can go much farther on this topic. So in the last second I added a subtitle for a pause so I can go to bed. Legs tired!