Wednesday, April 18, 2012

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

For the next 30 days, I will be participating in the WEGO Health Activist Writers' Month Challenge by blogging about a predetermined topic each morning.  Please visit to learn more - and please check back each evening for your regularly scheduled programming.

Today's WEGO post was the English major's dream come true: open a book to a random page and find one sentence about which to write.

Um, okay!

(Thankfully I recently finished Fifty Shades of Grey.  That could've made for an interesting blog post!)

When I signed up for the marathon last year, I realized that I was going to need some major motivation.  Because I love words (obviously), I found that inspiration in books.  As I have continued running, I have found that need for outside motivation is still there, so I continue reading everything and anything about running, whether that be in Runner's World, blogs, or books.
The book that I just started reading is called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami.
For this task, I flipped through some of the first few pages to find something enlightening that I had marked.  One of the first things was this:
Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.  Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore.  The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself.  This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.  (Murakami vii)
This quote hit home with me: I have been training for something for over year.  I don't believe there has been one day in the past 365 where something has not hurt.  First, I had shin splints.  Then came the blisters.  Third came the tendonitis.  Then my right ankle started acting up.  During the marathon, my hamstring was a hot mess.  During this go around, it's started all over: shin splints, blisters, tendonitis.
Regardless of what I do, regardless of how well I train, something is always injured.
And that is frustrating.
But, like Murakami said, this is an unavoidable reality.  The human body - at least my human body - was not built to run endless miles.  It takes a beating day in and day out, so it should be no surprise that my body does not hold up like I would like it to.
However, whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself herself.  I need to keep reminding myself that I am stronger than I think, that my body is capable of more than it seems - but, I need to be realistic and smart about this as well.
Like nearly every other aspect of running, I believe that this quote also transfers, relatively seamlessly, to life.  Often, we face obstacles, things that we think we can never overcome, never get past.  (See last post for evidence.)  Pain is inescapable; suffering is inevitable.  But, due to our fortitude and our resilience, we can push through difficult times, in turn making us stronger individuals.
And like with marathon running, this pretty much sums up a most important aspect of life.
That, my friends, is what I read about when I read about running.  :)

1 comment:

  1. I learned a very powerful mantra during my yoga teacher training: I am not my body.

    This has become my mantra when I'm attempting to meditate and am distracted by some pain or discomfort in my body, it is my mantra when I'm in a difficult/painful asana (pose), it is my mantra when I'm running and I've "hit a wall," and it is my mantra when I wake up in the morning and things are tight or sore.

    Also, here's an anecdote from my college days: I had a psych professor who had a black belt in some martial art and practiced yoga and meditation; he was about 50 years old, and used a cane because of a bad hip. One day, he told my class about his hip-replacement surgery-- He said that he refused anesthesia for the surgery because research shows that it tends to slow healing from major surgeries, and he also knew many people can have negative reactions to it. Instead, he opted to meditate through his surgery; he said that once the surgeon got in there, he discovered additional bone spurs that had to be basically "chipped" off, so they again offered him anesthesia which he again turned down. He said that during his surgery/meditation (which took longer than normal because of the extra spurs), he came to a sudden realization of the difference between pain and suffering-- pain happens, and there's nothing we can do about it or stop it. Suffering, however, is controllable; we decide how much we will suffer.

    Kind of a difficult way to learn that lesson, I think, but a good lesson to learn nonetheless. :)

    Loved your post, Emily!