“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.”