Yes, this is the title of a short book Murakami Haruki published recently, but I will only be referring to it briefly here. Instead, this is about my personal journey into running and what it has taught me about writing, about perseverance, about life. I started running about two years ago and have been hooked ever since.
Well, when I say running, I mean powerwalking initially, to recover from a ski injury. There we were, living between the Alps and the Jura mountains, and I was in danger of missing a second season of skiing (my favourite sport) because of a persistent niggle in my ligaments. Physiotherapy, gentle swimming, MRI scans and countless visits to the doctor hadn’t provided any relief. So I decided to start building muscle around my knee so that I would be able to ski come the winter season. And because I never do things by halfs, I also decided to sign up for the Edinburgh Moonwalk in June 2008, so that I would have a goal to work towards.
After a couple of months of powerwalking, I realised that with two small children I did not have the time necessary to train for long-distance walking, so I started running. Yes, I picked the wrong time of year – snow and ice and short, dark days. Yes, I suffered the consequences at the Moonwalk (which I completed in 6.5 hours, hurrah!), because you use slightly different muscles for running and walking, so boy, was I sore afterwards! But I enjoyed running so much, that I have been doing it 3-4 times every week since. Several races and medals later (hint to the uninitiated and to my kids: you get a medal for completing a race, not for winning it!), I have a new favourite sport and my life has been changed forever. *(see footnote)
So what are the lessons from running that Murakami mentions in his book and which I feel also apply to me?
1. Don’t compete against others, only against yourself.
I’m not interested in being better than others. I am just keen to constantly learn new things and improve myself. It’s all to easy to blame others for your lack of success, but the real enemy lies within: procrastination, laziness, no focus…
2. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
Things happen, life is unfair, plan A bites the dust, change will occur with or without us – it’s how we choose to respond to events that makes all the difference.
3. Muscles are hard to get and easy to lose.
Our brain, our creativity, our achievements, our relationships with clients, our brand, our reputation – everything takes so long to build and to get right, and it can all be lost in just a few thoughtless seconds.
4. I have only a few reasons to keep on running and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons finely polished.
It’s much easier to NOT do things than to take action. It’s much easier to find excuses as to why you can’t do things than to find reasons to do them. Yes, it’s easier to motivate yourself when you feel passionate about something, but even so you need to dig deep to find motivation every single day.
5. You’ve done everything you need to do.
It’s too late to start training for a race the day before, or even the week before. It’s also pointless to worry about all the things you have or haven’t done. Enjoy the race, enjoy life, enjoy your big moment in the limelight when you are presenting… you have done your very best to prepare, now is the time to reap the rewards.
* OK, skiing is more exciting, but also more expensive and difficult to do all year round.