Over the weekend I read “What I talk about when I talk about running” by Haruki Murakami and wondered why I had never read it before. Murakami, in this series of essays, is a bit like what I think I would be like in a parallel universe where I actually got around to writing a novel and could actually run. It was a quick read, with reflections and thoughts that rang true, as he pounded various pavements across the globe.
Today I went running. Not a solo reverse marathon from Athens to Marathon – just a 5k to a coffee shop and the same 5k in reverse, with a coffee and a chunk of millionaire’s shortbread in between. (Should that be millionaires’ shortbread? How many millionaires are there in the context of shortbread?)
So, in response to reading Murakami, I too shall “talk about running”:
It was cold and it was icy. After a slippery walk to school first thing, I did query the wisdom of running on the pavements, but decided to go anyway, disappearing into the freezing mist with my ears kept safe in my Deerstalker completion buff.
I had 30 minutes to run the 5k, despite the fact that I run at about 7 minutes a kilometre or thereabouts on a good day. But it was downhill all the way there, so I thought I might have a hope. On the downside there were random patches of ice, so the time added for taking more care than usual would perhaps cancel out the downhill advantage.
But is it an advantage? On the initial downhill section I always find it a bit “bangy”, and my legs go a bit shin-splinty and I start my internal monologue loop of regret over my purchase of my very beautiful but thoroughly annoying Ravenna 7s.
They are, without doubt, the worst trainers I have ever bought. They are probably excellent shoes for most other people, but we have not had a happy partnership. It’s doubly disappointing as I usually fall a little in love with my running shoes. I still have fond memories of my first ever pair of trail shoes, my Kanadias. I love my North Face trail shoes and their immediate predecessors, my other North Face trail shoes. So many happy happy miles of mud, air and adventure. Great grips allowing me to put my best foot into any amount of mud with confidence.
But these? Pah. Road running shoes. They had such promise! I even went to the running shoe shop and went on their gait analysis treadmill – which totally worked. I could see these trainers straighten out my ankle wobbles. But then in real life…
They seemed comfy enough at first, but then my feet started to ache across the top. The thing is, you have to have them on as loosely as possible, without them falling off. So, instead of running along thinking about whatever one thinks about when running, I am in a state of irritation with the lacing of my shoes and the fact that they cost a fortune and don’t make me happy. And might come off. Then I think to myself that I have had them long enough that I could justify buying new running shoes – but then, I would have to sacrifice a running window to go running shoe shopping – and how would that help my step count?
I approach my usual 2.5k turning point and power through towards my destination. I notice a dead mouse – and felt I should mention it here, as Murakami lists animal corpses in his book.
I hit 30 minutes of running and am not really going to make it to the cafe on time. But the time I would lose getting my phone out and texting my friend would only make me even later. I swing into the cafe a full nine minutes late.
Phew. She is even later than me.
It seems even colder on the way home. The cold spurs me into action and off I go for my 5k of uphill running.
This run seems to go in more quickly than the first leg. Maybe because my shin-splints have got over themselves and I found my running groove more quickly. Maybe it’s because I am not under time pressure.
As I run, two songs circulate unbidden in my head. One is “Oceans” and the other is ”Hear the call of the kingdom”. I assume these songs have got themselves out of my subconscious filing system because they both have the word “call” in them.
Last night my house group were discussing God’s call and man’s responses to it, figuring whether a person can seek after God or find God in a proactive way – or whether one’s response to God is only ever reactive.
So, “Oceans” opens with the line “You call me out upon the waters…” and in the chorus there’s the response of “And I will call upon Your name” with the conclusion “For I am yours, and you are mine.” And the other song contains the invitation to “Hear the call of the kingdom” and the chorus has the response “King of Heaven we will answer the call” – the point being that both responses are responses to a call from God – not instigated by man.
So I then started thinking about James Hogg’s “Memoirs and Confession of a Justified Sinner” and the issues thrown up there like free will and predestination and thought that I should probably re-read it, but there’s more Murakami to read.
I enjoyed running along. I enjoyed the fact that I could run along without wishing it was over. I was feeling fine and in a rhythm. I enjoyed the fact that one’s body can cope with the cold as long as you keep going.
So, that was today’s run. And that’s “What I talk about when I talk about running”.