Run Your Own Race
Waking up this morning with aching shins and hamstrings that feel like ceramic, all I could think was “I’m never reading a book again.”
I should explain. Over the summer, I developed an interest in Haruki Murakami, which led me to read his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. And that book was so brilliant that it made me take up running as a hobby. One thing led to another and I somehow decided to run a half marathon in November. This should come as a shock to anyone who knew me in high
school, as I was about as far from a runner as you could possibly get. But if I have one passion in life, it’s the constant pursuit of new interests, and taking them as far as they can possibly go. So once I dabbled in running, I had to commit to a big race.
I’ve been training for a few months, and the race is next Sunday. I’m incredibly excited, but my soreness after running ten miles yesterday was not exactly fun. So I blamed Haruki Murakami, and reading as a whole.
Joking aside, training for this race is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It never occurred to me that running could not only not be painful, but could actually be one of the most joyful activities I’ve ever undertaken.
Faithful readers know that I also spend a lot of time thinking about happiness, and the meaning of life in general. I haven’t made much progress on my own, but I’ve read the opinions on quite a few smart people. One of my favorite blueprints to happiness comes from one of my artistic heroes, Bob Weir. He distills a meaningful life to three simple tasks: daily exercise, daily meditation, and daily pursuit of purpose. It’s hard to argue with that.
For me, long distance running combines all three of those. It’s exercise, sure, but it’s an incredibly meditative process. The first few miles are always painful, but by the time I pass mile 5, my mind is completely clear and open to receiving some incredibly interesting thoughts. My life isn’t stressful enough for me to need running as a source of relief, but it certainly enhances my creativity.
But even more important than the physical and mental benefits is the daily pursuit of purpose. Devoting your life to creativity is a blessing and a curse. There’s no better feeling than working on a creative project that really excites me. That’s when I feel like the best version of myself. But that isn’t going to happen every day. Sometimes I don’t feel any creative inspiration. Other days I try to work on a project I love, but I don’t produce anything good. And the lows that I feel on those days are almost bad enough to offset the highs I feel on good days. Almost.
But running, specifically training for a big race, gives me that daily sense of purpose. Every day I run, I know that I’m getting a little bit better. And every time I increase my mileage, I feel fantastic. Training for a race gives me a sense of purpose that does not come and go like creativity does. I always go to bed knowing that my purpose will still be there in the morning.
I’m not sure where my running journey will take me after this. I keep telling myself that there’s absolutely no way I’ll ever get roped into running a full marathon, but deep down I know that’s a lie. When you find an activity that can satisfy all three of life’s meanings in the span of two hours, you’re doing something right.
Writer, Formerly a Reluctant Runner