What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

It is impossible for me to read Murakami and not get imperceptibly sewed into his extremely poetic prose. I am already half way into his memoir in a matter of two days, which for me is impossible with any other author. For example, Its been 21 days and I am still only 74% into Obama’s Memoirs – not that I enjoy it any less. It is just that, with Murakami it is just very easy. I do not know why. And inevitably, as usual, certain portions of his writings, they simply resonate with me a little more than the rest. If I keep posting them every time I encounter these words, my rough book will be filled with different posts containing excerpts from the same book. To avoid that, I am going to post these together as and when I read the words which strikes a chord with me.

Chapter – 3

“Mr. Murakami,” Mr. Kageyama said, surprised as he saw me getting ready to run, “you’re not really thinking of running the whole route, are you?”

“Of course I am. That’s why I came here.”

“Really? But when we do these kinds of projects most people don’t go all the way. We just take some photos, and most of them don’t finish the whole route. So you really are going to run the entire thing?”

Sometimes the world baffles me. I can’t believe that people would really do things like that.

Ha! I love this man.

I finally reach the end. Strangely, I have no feeling of accomplishment. The only thing I feel is utter relief that I don’t have to run anymore. I use a spigot at a gas station to cool off my overheated body and wash away the salt stuck to me. I’m covered with salt, a veritable human salt field. When the old man at the gas station hears what I’ve done, he snips off some flowers from a potted plant and presents me with a bouquet. You did a good job, he smiles. Congratulations. I feel so thankful for these small gestures of kindness from foreigners. Marathon is a small, friendly village, quiet and peaceful. I can’t imagine how this was where, several thousand years ago, the Greeks defeated the invading Persian army at the shore in a ghastly battle. I sit at a café in the village and gulp down cold Amstel beer. It tastes fantastic, but not nearly as great as the beer I’d been imagining as I ran. Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness.


I think certain types of processes don’t allow for any variation. If you have to be part of that process, all you can do is transform—or perhaps distort—yourself through that persistent repetition, and make that process a part of your own personality.


Even a novelist who has a lot of talent and a mind full of great new ideas probably can’t write a thing if, for instance, he’s suffering a lot of pain from a cavity. The pain blocks concentration. That’s what I mean when I say that without focus you can’t accomplish anything.


Most people, though, only see the surface reality of writing and think of writers as involved in quiet, intellectual work done in their study. If you have the strength to lift a coffee cup, they figure, you can write a novel. But once you try your hand at it, you soon find that it isn’t as peaceful a job as it seems.


The whole process—sitting at your desk, focusing your mind like a laser beam, imagining something out of a blank horizon, creating a story, selecting the right words, one by one, keeping the whole flow of the story on track—requires far more energy, over a long period, than most people ever imagine.


Just as with my face, even if I don’t like it it’s the only one I get, so I’ve got to make do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve naturally come to terms with this. You open the fridge and can make a nice—actually even a pretty smart—meal with the leftovers. All that’s left is an apple, an onion, cheese, and eggs, but you don’t complain. You make do with what you have. As you age you learn even to be happy with what you have. That’s one of the few good points of growing older.

No matter how much I write, though, I never reach a conclusion. And no matter how much I rewrite, I never reach the destination.


That’s life. Maybe the only thing we can do is accept it, without really knowing what’s going on. Like taxes, the tide rising and falling, John Lennon’s death, and miscalls by referees at the World Cup.


Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it’s been moving ever forward without a moment’s rest. And one of the privileges given to those who’ve avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.


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