I love running.
But to actually love running, you need to really hate it too.
Recently, I read Haruki Murakami’s semi-memoir, What I Talk about When I Talk about Running, told through the discovery of his love of running. Throughout the book Murakami talks about his love of routine and repetition in running and the personal struggle it presents us with.
There is nothing worse than the moments before putting your running shoes on and getting out the door.
Everything in your head is screaming, ‘Watch TV! Eat everything in the house! There are so many chores you could think about one day doing, but never actually do… Just like this fucking run!!!’
Ultimately, I get out the door, start running and enjoy the first ten minutes and the moment it finishes.
Between those two moments are a thousand different thoughts and ideas that pass through my brain and that is why I really love running.
I normally don’t run with headphones playing music or podcasts because I want my mind to clear and wander.
It’s really only if I’m in the mood for it… Or if I’m on a treadmill and I need to distract myself from the misery of partaking in an activity that’s meant to get you outdoors and in the fresh air and transforming it into making you look like a hamster on a wheel.
Running is a very repetitive activity. One stride after the other, hundreds and hundreds of times.
The more you run, the longer you want your runs to last and if you’re like me, dear reader, you have a couple of routes that you enjoy running and you usually stick to those.
Already you can see that running is a very meditative process and the rhythmic nature of long distance running, without music, puts you in tune with yourself.
You hear your breath slowly getting heavier and your heart rate increasing and decreasing with the incline and speed of the run. When you start to learn how you run, you can start to control how your body is reacting to the stress that you’re putting it under; in so far as, you can slow down in the short term and catch your breath in order to run faster for the next couple of miles.
What do I think about when I’m running?
A lot of what I think about is ‘stuff’ that causes me pointless anxiety and running brings to light which of this ‘stuff’ is the most pointless.
Sometimes the same couple of lines from a song that has been stuck in my head plays on repeat for the duration of the run. The constant worry about my job and getting work done. Financial worries. Stressing out about what I’m going to write about when I leave my 1,000 word a week resolution to late Sunday afternoon again. The list goes on and on.
All of these thoughts run through my head over and over again during the day but become very clear, in a different way, in my mind during runs.
I think that when you put stress on your body, your mind reaches for the things that stress you out the most, too. About two or three miles into my runs I usually get very tired of these worries and the endorphins kick in.
At this point, I start to think about solutions and I realize that most of these problems don’t have solutions, not because they are terribly difficult or unique issues that only I encounter; rather, they simply are not problems.
During and after my runs, the world continues to turn and the things that I perceive to be problems seem inconsequential, which they usually are.
While I am trying to make it sound like running is the cure for all that causes anxiety, my insecurities and stress still get the best of me sometimes. Running is a friendly way to get into my head and think about things that I don’t normally get to.
My friends joke and ask me, ‘What am I running from?’ because I spend so much time doing it, but I think that it’s more that I’m running to be with myself and heal my brain.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. I day dream a lot when I’m running. I mean, if all I thought about, when I ran, were the things that cause me anxiety, then I wouldn’t spend so much time doing it.
My favorite day dreams are the ones where I revisit old philosophical problems that I read about when I was in college, majoring in philosophy. I’ve spent a lot of time away from the subject and am only beginning to lift the jaded vale that 4 years of lectures and exams caused. My personal favorites have to do with identity, the language you use to describe things and the concept of knowledge and metaphysics.
I have yet to solve any big questions, but I’d like to think I am a little closer to accepting our tiny place in the cosmos. Either way I’ll have to go for another run tomorrow to solidify the theory.
My family feature heavily into my thoughts when I’m running. Nothing specific, I usually think about things I’d like to talk about with them when we next speak, or things that I’d like to do when we are next together because, as some of you might know, I live in the UK and my family still resides in the US.
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about what my parents were like when they were my age, late twenties, and what it was like for them before they first had me.
This is primarily a biological and environmental reaction to the fact that everyone around me is multiplying faster than a Xerox machine. Regardless, it does make for some interesting thoughts on the subject.
There is one other thing that I think about more than anything else.
When is this fucking run is going to finish! Seriously, why am I out there at the ungodly hours of the morning during the week and way too early for the weekends? I should push myself a little more though. If I run faster, it will be over quicker.
And just like that, I am finished.
I have completed a run.
I am tired, but full of energy.
I am happy, but fed up.
All of my anxieties are somewhere back on the road with all of my deep cosmic thoughts and day dreams of watching the game with my Dad, cooking with my Mom, hanging out with my sister or just laughing with my wife.
I can’t wait to go out and find those thoughts again.
I can’t wait to get to this moment again, where I am physically and temporally the farthest away from the next run.