At any rate, that’s how I started running. Thirty three—that’s how old I was then. Still young enough, though no longer a young man. The age that Jesus Christ died. The age that Scott Fitzgerald started to go downhill. That age may be a crossroads in life. That was the age when I began my life as a runner, and it was my belated, but real, starting point as a novelist (Murakami, 47).
I am thirty-three. I was thirty-three when I ran my first marathon. Thirty-three when I started grad school. It is only now—at thirty-three—that I am having these thoughts about the rest of my life: what I want it to look like. If I’m content with it the way it is or if I want a different one.
I began running seriously three years ago, when I also began writing this novel I am still writing. My second son had just been born and I had baby weight to lose and was unemployed for the first time in my life and suddenly, the story I wanted to write began to pour out of me. I wrote and I ran and I took care of my baby and toddler. Sometimes, I slept.
Life ebbs and flows and I lost the momentum on my novel. As I lost weight, I decreased my running. I had thought I was running to lose weight, but it wasn’t just that. I didn’t know it then, of course, but I was running as Murakami says, “in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void” (17). I was running to have an hour to myself, without anyone crying or whining or nagging. I was running to feel myself, which I only feel when I’m alone.
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 find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself (Murakami, 15).
I was mid-ebb in December. I wasn’t running much because I discovered a mysterious lump on my heel that scared me. And I was between semesters so I took a break from writing. But in January, I flowed. I wrote and I ran and I realized the two of them coincide. I thought back to when I first started my novel and first started running and realized when I do one, I do the other. They are a pair. They are my life force.
“Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice” (Murakami, 49). When I run, I don’t necessarily think about what I’m writing. But I am able to get those mundane, ordinary thoughts worked out so I can clear my mind and make way for my creative thoughts.
“From the start, artistic activity contains elements that are unhealthy and antisocial” (Murakami, 96-97). My running fuels my lonely writing. “To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible” (Murakami, 98).
It is only now, after losing all that weight and keeping it off and giving up running and returning to it and entering grad school and reading this book that I realized why it is I really run. “Human beings naturally continue doing things they like and they don’t continue what they don’t like” (Murakami, 44). I am acquiring my void, my aloneness, my self.
Murakami, Haruki. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Vintage Books, 2009.