Thirty-three days it has been.

I remember thinking of my next post, thirty days ago. It had been green lights all the way up until that point and suddenly out of no where there was only yellow. I hate to sound cliché using traffic lights as a metaphor here, but that split second decision whether it’s better to continue or brake was a situation I found myself in since I last blogged — regarding my running progress amongst other personal trials. But that was quite some time ago and I’m still running and still getting married.

So what I’m saying is I let life get in the way.

I could detail all the subtle changes I feel inside from then to now but I think the only person who would find any significance in all that is the person writing these words. That’s okay because it would be a rather pointless  exercise, perhaps for you reading it than me writing it. It would be in other words the antithesis of the sort of writing Game of Thrones is made of.

And with that I think I better not continue further.

Eight points to my 11 year old self

Dear Claire

I want to tell you eight things:

1. when dad comes into your room one afternoon asking if it’s okay if he moves you to another school to help the family financially, don’t feel sorry for yourself, put aside your selfishness, have some consideration and courage, and just agree
2. even though mum wants the best for you and has done a fantastic job at that, she’s deciding your likes, wants, and desires for you, because you haven’t done anything to work out that yourself. Take some responsibility for yourself for a change and decide what you like, and work at it. She’s only deciding for you because you’re too ignorant to think for yourself, and you’re too ignorant to see it
3. and all the issues you have with yourself, at school, and with others, exist because you know so little about yourself. Start learning.
4. once you actually start paying attention to yourself, others, and the world around you, ultimately you’ll come to realise that it’s important to not take yourself or others too seriously, hardly anyone cares as much as you think people do
5. suffering is optional
6. you like Murakami but haven’t found him yet, so heads up (FYI: Norwegian Wood was my first read)
7. guess what, you’ve hurt more people than you can realise and you didn’t even know it, all because you’re so damn naïve
8. you’ll start playing a game that will eat up your days — I won’t say never play it, but your life as you (don’t actually) know it will change forever. You start playing it because you’re bored with life because you’re lazy, and don’t know what you want. Refer to points 1, 2, 3, and 6.

Claire, 13 years later.

What I talk about when I talk about Murakami AND Running (part 2)

Like flowing water over rocks, there is nothing like a light wind moving softly past your face whilst standing on the peddles of a bike, and just letting the wheels spin. Not unlike that particular sensation though is a certain degree of freedom felt simply running on solid ground. It may not be as fast as a bike, but there is freedom in knowing how far your heart and lungs can take you. Sometimes, when there’s a quiet moment to myself after running, I feel like a baby who’s just found her legs for the first time when I feel the stretch in my muscles as they flex and contract. Basically I’ve found a new found friendship or appreciation at least for my legs, and muscles in fact, that did not so much exist before.
In fairness to old memories and old feelings though there was a time years ago where I had similar feelings. I was cycling and I felt strong, especially in the young hours of the morning when the sun just peaked its bright light through tree tops. Though I lost that feeling for a while, I am incredibly grateful that I have found it again through a different medium, and in so doing I’ve learned more about my body’s capacity to move. Not to sound vain but I am hooked on my body at the moment.
Yet as much as I get excited writing about all this, talking about it, and thinking about it, I’ve learned that it is so important to know the point where the desire to run now and where the desire to run tomorrow is. In other words it’s important for me to respect my limit. Whilst, as we all know it’s important to push the distance and go harder into the practise, pushing to the point where there is no desire to continue the following day means the momentum is broken. Although in saying that, sometimes its easier said than done, particularly when you’re like me and you covet perfection. I’m still learning, in other words, how to stop.
Let me stop here and just say that if the latter sentence sounds contradictory to you, that is to be expected, simply because it leads to an entirely different story that’s wrapped up rather chaotically in my head, and there is so much thread to unravel I want to leave it here for the time being. If it wasn’t contradictory at all, great, and you can ignore this last sentence entirely.

What I talk about when I talk about Murakami AND Running (part 1)

Murakami wrote,

“Fortunately, these two disciplines — focus and endurance — are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise. This involves the same process as jogging everyday to strengthen your muscles and develop a runner’s physique. Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in the process, but I guarantee the results will come.”

My mind opened up to the possibility of running after reading What I Talk About When I Talk About Running some years ago. I did give running a go on one occasion, but gave up very quickly. I decided in those brief moments that running wasn’t for me, and preferring to bike ride I remember walking back home, hopping on my bike, and never considered running since then — until more recently of course. When I read WITAWITAR I did so in relation to bike riding and not running, as the two sports are not so different from each other in the sense that similar muscle groups are being used, and also bike riding was my preferred way to exercise. But also it was his philosophy Murakami wrote of (or “life lessons” as he puts it) that I felt could be applied to other sports and of course other aspects of life– a kind of metaphor he carries with him throughout his running and writing life. And so I got curious. Maybe it was his voice that read so clearly, or that I felt I was finally learning more about a favoured author. Whatever the case, my curiosity was ignited after reading Murakami’s words, and as time passed I found 10K Runner (which I’ll go into soon).

Running was, and still is in many ways, new to me and my body, but so far I’m happy. If there’s one thing that has remained constant throughout the past five or six years of my life, that is I must move. When I go through periods of time of inactivity my mind eventually craves for my body to move. And I think that craving results in my mind progressively becoming less focused simply because I haven’t pushed myself physically. In other words to find that stillness in my body I have to move it first. But just because I find stillness from physical activity doesn’t mean my troubles and concerns evaporate into thin air. But it does give me the opportunity to focus on something else, to focus on a challenge that is superficial and temporary, where other challenges I see ahead of me are not. And as I gradually increase my upper limit (meaning the duration that I can run without stopping), I also overcome those challenges over and over again. That kind of repetition is a liberating feeling. An added bonus is that even on lazy days I still have a feeling of accomplishment. I haven’t touched my bike in months and that doesn’t bother me. I’m getting to know and enjoy running, so I’ll continue to learn what I can from it for as long it lasts.

I’d also like to add before part II goes up that I started writing this days ago. After just finishing a run an hour or so ago, and reading back what I’ve written (with some minor changes here and there), I can say without 100% certainty that whilst I’m running sometimes the only thought that enters my mind is the thought of running out of steam. That feeling of freedom I wrote of not long ago comes after, when I’m back home. But it’s enough to make me want to keep running — something I’ve learned not just from running. Murakami again puts it better than I could:

“Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly… To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed — and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.”

I have something brewing, in the mean time… Meryl Streep

I don’t know who’s out there, who is reading this, whether you’re going to stay or go, but in case you care, in case you want to know, in case you’re going to stay a while longer, I want you to know I have a couple of posts brewing. But I’m dying to post something to my blog but I don’t want to rush the posts I’m working on, I don’t want them to be sloppy, I want you to enjoy them. So instead I hope you’ll get some joy out of this.



Small chat turned failed anecdote?

Let’s “chat”. Just a quick one and then we can carry on with our day.
Actually to be honest with you, as I sit here and type, nothing happens. There are things I must get done today; my fiancé is at work; the whole world is moving outside my house; and still I sit here with apparently an empty head — as though my brain has just abandoned me. I want to tell you about my (late) run this morning and the discomfort I felt somewhere around my lower diaphragm. I want to share with you the great benefits of using 5K Runner — an app I’ve been using to help me improve my capacity to run. And I also want to tell you how much I think chia seeds are such funny little things to have in porridge. Hell I even want to share my first impressions of a new a sunscreen I got for free yesterday! Alas that’s as far as my story goes. Imagine cracking an egg open into a bowl only to find a tiny little piece of the egg shell made its way into the egg white. You could just leave it there and carry on cooking your egg. Or you could do what a lot of people do and try to take it out. But every time you try to scoop that little piece of shell out it goes the other way, between your fingers instead of into them, around the spoon your using, and so on.

A blue post-run update

I hadn’t set an alarm last night which invariably meant waking up a little late this morning. Sometimes I do set an alarm even on off-days I’m not at work — did I just forget last night? Then again I had no where to be and no one to see in the morning and yet I would describe this morning as being rather rushed. You see I like to make it back home from my run before 10am. This means I’m not exposed to strong sunlight compared to if I was to run at midday or sometime early in the afternoon. Secondly, my muscles feel stronger first thing in the morning. I once ran in the late afternoon or early evening and from that experience I knew I will be a morning runner. Then there was a looming concern in the back of my mind that I still can’t quite put my finger on. I do have a wedding approaching over the next few months so we’ll just pin whatever concern I had to that for the time being. Quite frankly though my run this morning was not as enjoyable as yesterday’s. I would describe it as heavy; I simply could not empty my mind of its thoughts. It’s not simply that I expect myself to have a blank mind for every run I do, but I was expecting that by running this morning I might have an opportunity to ease my busy head and just focus on my performance and breathing. Only when I tried to do that it was as though my muscles butted in and taking advantage of my busy head, took the opportunity to burden me with complaints of pressure, adding even more concern to my already busy mind. And I was so in the mood this morning with work early tomorrow, I wanted to take advantage of a free morning. Nevertheless I made it to four minutes again and I feel proud and happy about it. I simply cannot wait to run for ten minutes straight!

There is a light of hope in all this, if anyone out there is reading this, and that is by the time I walked through my front door, untied my shoes, and prepared my breakfast, my mind did feel clearer — even if only slightly. After some standing yoga routines to help stretch out my legs and torso, no muscles in either leg could complain. Of all things it was the yoga that helped clear my head.