Monday, October 18, 2010
Running is not only about how many miles you ran last week. It is about community, about appreciating all the miles run by other runners, too. - Richard O'Brien
I don't enjoy running. But M says I need 'weight-bearing exercise' (Pilates and yoga don't count, boo) and running is cheaper than a gym membership. I flirted with the idea a few months ago by reading Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - 'weight-bearing exercise' means little to me, but the connection between writing and running just might. Murakami's book was engrossing - it's always fascinating reading about how an author's mind works - and taught me much about the meditative state that thumping one's feet against the earth can bring.
This writing/running connection borders on the cliche; in the title quotation, "miles you ran/miles run by others" could easily be exchanged for "words you wrote/words written by others". Flash fiction is a sprint, short stories or articles a track and field event, book-length works a marathon. Somewhere in the middle of any of these, you've got to find something inside to make you persevere. To finish.
When I trudged through the finish line, after feeling nauseous for the final half-mile, I felt a strange sense of calm; the same sense of calm that I feel when I've completed the first draft of a book. Hours of working and reworking text, hours of pushing the body - both work the muscle responsible for Getting It Done. Routine is important, as is repetition, focus, and, finally, achievement. Even if it's never published, or if I end up in last place for my age group - who cares? It's done. I know what I can achieve. And from here, I can move forward and make it better.
I'll probably keep running. As per usual, I'll spend the first five minutes wishing I were doing something else, then lose myself in a podcast - NY Times Book Review, or the World Book Club. And when I'm exhausted after, say, two miles, I will think of Murakami competing in a 62-mile ultramarathon. If he can do it, I can make it one more silly little mile. And if the image of Murakami doesn't work, I think of Simon Pegg at the end of Run Fatboy Run.