I expect that this winter I’ll run another marathon somewhere in the world. And I’m sure come next summer I’ll be out in another triathlon somewhere, giving it my best shot. Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner.
My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance–all of these are secondary. For a runner like me, what’s really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied. From the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson. (It’s got to be concrete, no matter how small it is.) And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I’ll reach a place I’m content with. Or maybe just catch a glimpse of it. (Yes, that’s a more appropriate way of putting it.)
–from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Focus and perseverance. According to Murakami, these are two winning qualities in both a writer and a runner. I could go on about how exercise is important for one’s creativity. (Why, think about the Romantic poets hotfooting it around the Lake District.) As a friend said to me on my first hike in New Mexico, once you start walking, everything petty falls away. The brain needs this reset.
Murakami has written a solid memoir yet in the end his quest seems ephemeral. The book deals with training regimens and the anticipatory joy of running each marathon, along with the inevitable muscle cramps and disappointments. Why does he do it? He seems to get a lot of satisfaction out of testing himself. He’s not particularly interested in the outward trappings of success. He gets his marching orders from within.
The book is tinged with sadness–the familiar sense that much time has passed under the bridge, that things will never be as they were. Like a naked tree in winter, he shivers and mourns the loss of his leaves. This is a book about searching, much less about finding. But there is a gentleness to it that almost resembles pleasure. The long-distance runner never exactly arrives. But he keeps on keeping on, the best thing to do in any case.