what I write about when I write about running

The title I borrowed from Haruki Murakami’s book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, who borrowed it from someone else. I think it was a title of a song, or something (terlalu malas untuk pegi carik buku and check).

I have been running somewhat steadily for the last few weeks/months. I use the word ‘running’ in its most generous sense, which also includes jogging for 5 minutes then walking for another 10, rinse and repeat. On average, I clock about 1km per 10 minutes (Usain Bolt has absolutely nothing to worry about), and each session I try to log at least 7km, and on a good day, 10km.

Recently my car had to spend a week at the workshop (WALK to the gym?! Are you mad?), and the day I picked up the car, I sprained my ankle during futsal later that night. Total week of immobilization = about two weeks. Although a huge part of me is glad that I have a valid excuse to skip gym, I couldn’t wait to get back on the treadmill. Yesterday, despite the ankle still being a bit stiff, I logged in 5km, and today 6km, trying to build up the distance again (and hopefully not pushing it).

When I just started going to the gym, I hated running on the treadmill. Even if it was just for warming up. I’ll wheeze and drag myself through the painful 5 minutes, looking at the timer every 10 seconds.

Somehow, now it’s become some kind of addiction. Something’s amiss if I don’t run two days in a row. So now I push myself, even if my ankle’s a bit stiff (I truly hope I’m not making it worse!). I can’t say that I’ve done that for any other kind of sports. And I’m trying to understand why.

There is something primitively simple about running. You don’t have to find another 9 people who are willing to spend an hour kicking a ball to do it. You don’t need a racket, you don’t need to rent a court, you don’t need to worry what the lifeguard will think of your two-piece bikini. All you need is some shoes (and the pair I’ve been using for years now is actually my sister’s) and some legs (preferably attached to non-stiff ankles). It would even be more simple if I’m willing to run in the sun (in this heat/possible rain/possible dog chase situation?! Are you mad?), but I don’t, so I drive 15 minutes to the gym to do this primitively simple activity in an air-conditioned and dog-free manner.

I am, actually, a restless sort of person. Restless and anxious, but lazy. Oftentimes, laziness wins, but as I roll around in bed, my mind runs around in circles, thinking it should be doing something, anxious that it’s not doing something mind-blowingly amazing. When I run, my mind just focuses on my breathing. It becomes more adept at shutting other things out. Haruki Murakami wrote that he runs to be in a void, and I now understand exactly what he meant. Before I did understand, though, running for me has just been 5 minutes of trashing my legs about, wheezing, checking the timer and thinking, thinking, thinking, when will the 300 seconds be up?

I run, and I get to shut other things out. I mostly run and stare at a spot on the wall, not the TV. Running in a void. It doesn’t mean that your mind becomes a calm, blank slate, of course. You’re just reprioritizing for a while, that it is of utmost importance that you put one leg in front of the other, and not lose your rhythm.

Everything else is secondary.

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2 Responses to what I write about when I write about running

  1. eda says:

    jom aa masuk marathon. start with 10km dulu… jom jom jomm aaa….!

  2. Pingback: Tense Affects in the Creative Writing PhD

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