Running Out of Steam

I just finished Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running—one of the best books I've read in a while. To be honest, it's one of the only books I've managed to actually finish in a while. Which, makes me realize something deeper than simply having an affinity for a novel. 

Over the past year, I've been going at full tilt—meaning, I haven't really stopped. In particular, I've been pushing my body to it's max physically and mentally while trying to radically change my diet. I realized this very poignantly after I'd fainted during a recent family vacation... not embarrassingly at all, in the middle of dinner. We'd gone to Vail to ski and I'd brought my running clothes. You know, to run in a wildly higher altitude than I was used to, in feet upon feet of snow. (I didn't end up running. I wasn't hydrated enough, I didn't take in enough calories, and I slept poorly)

I came home, and, while the trip was amazingly wonderful and fun, I was tired. I decided to stop doing so much. I bailed on a half marathon I'd been training for pretty much all winter, and I'd gotten to the point where running was just the last thing I could manage on top of everything else. It was heartbreaking. But I needed to start making decisions about what I did each day in a way that let my mind and body heal from being pushed.

I went through the week following the trip, deciding things by only one piece of criteria: is this restorative for me? It was pretty amazing. I did a lot of yoga, I stopped running every day (which was a shock to my over-achieving brain and body), I went to bed early, I stayed home on Saturday night, I drank tea instead of coffee, and I started reading *another* book. I know that method of decision-making and walking through life isn't sustainable, but it was an incredible exercise.

I guess there isn't an impressive segue to the next bit, though it all ties back to running. Running has made me devoted to clearing my head each day, pushing my body's limits, feeling sunshine (or rain) on my face, and generally thinking about moving one foot in front of the other as my only task—making very deliberate, singular decisions. There is something fundamentally restorative in that, if you ask me, and I want to get back to it. Through running, and thinking, and writing, and reading, more.

I don't typically share things I've read, but as I think about mantras and how I am starting to look at my life—my mid-thirties life—what Murakami wrote made me feel like I was lying down in the middle of every page, covered in the words. So, here are a few pieces I wanted to put in a place to come back to. And in doing so, I'll share them:

It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to make sure I get the facts down clearly: I'm the kind of person who likes to be by myself. To put a finer point on it, I'm the type of person who doesn't find it painful to be alone. ... I could always think of things to do by myself.

Something I've always loved about running, is that it's sort of an inescapably solitary activity. You can join all the running clubs you like, and run all the races in the world, but even if you're running together, you're running on your own.

There are three reasons I failed. Not enough training. Not enough training. And not enough training. 


It's pretty thin, the wall separating healthy confidence and unhealthy pride. When I was young, maybe just a fair-to-middling amount of training would have been enough for me to run a marathon. Without driving myself too hard in training, I could have banked on strength I'd already built up to see me through and run a good time. Sadly, though, I'm not longer young. I'm getting to the age where you really do get only what you pay for.

Speaking of mantras... seems to me the older you get, the more you kind of hope you (and the folks around you) realize that you get back what you put in. In almost everything.

To a certain extent, I figured, it's sometimes hard to avoid losing. Nobody's going to win all the time. On the highway of life you can't always be in the fast lane. Still, I certainly don't want to keep making the same mistakes over and over. Best to learn from my mistakes and put that lesson into practice the next time around. While I still have the ability to do that.

That last part is the kicker, huh?

In order to get there you have to stubbornly, rigorously, and very patiently tighten all the screw of each individual part. This takes time, of course, but sometimes taking time is actually a shortcut.

I personally quite like tightening all the screws of all the individual parts. I know it isn't always the most popular way to get something done, but I believe in it wholeheartedly.

Even if, seen from the outside, or from some higher vantage point, this sort of life looks pointless or futile, or even extremely inefficient, it doesn't bother me. Maybe it's some pointless act like, as I've said before, pouring water into an old pan that has a hole in the bottom, but at least the effort you put into it remains. Whether it's good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what's most important is what you can't see but feel in your heart. To be able to grasp something of value, sometimes you have to perform seemingly inefficient acts. But even activities that appear fruitless don't necessarily end up so. That's the feeling I have, as someone who's felt this, who's experienced it.


Long-distance running (more or less, for better or worse) has molded me into the person I am today, and I'm hoping it will remain a part of my life for as long as possible. I'll be happy if running and I can grow old together.

In the end, I too, will be happy if running and I can grow old together. And in the meantime, I'll just keep aiming to put one foot in front of the other.