“Without a solid base of physical strength, you can’t accomplish anything very intricate or demanding. That’s my belief. “


Haruki Murakami – “Runners World,” October 2005

Here’s the full quote.  I just love it:

The most important qualities to be a fiction writer are probably imaginative ability, intelligence, and focus. But in order to maintain these qualities in a high and constant level, you must never neglect to keep up your physical strength.

Without a solid base of physical strength, you can’t accomplish anything very intricate or demanding. That’s my belief. If I did not keep running, I think my writing would be very different from what it is now.

I always forget that this is from Murakami’s “I’m a Runner” feature and not from his memoir “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” which is a such a nice little book.  But anyway, I repeat this idea a lot.  To fellow runners, to yogis, to my trainer, to colleagues, to family, friends, strangers.  It perfectly sums up the way I feel about the importance of physical fitness.  In the RW quote, as in “What I Talk About…” Murakami attributes a large part of his professional success to his now 30-plus years as a marathon runner.  The point is that “fitness,” in the physical sense, is one piece of a greater whole.  It’s part of a larger effort to be our best self, to achieve our goals — mind and body united.

The idea of increasing physical strength and endurance to improve or enhance mental or emotional process is not groundbreaking or new, but is so often overlooked.  Most people who embark on a regular exercise routine probably experience and can talk to some extent about the holistic benefits.  I love running because it’s empowering, enriching, and fun.  In every run, here’s something I can learn something about myself.  Was there a moment when I panicked?  What triggered this?  What techniques did I use to overcome that moment and get myself home…finish the run?

We learn a lot when we put deliberate stress on our bodies.  It allows us to practice determination, perseverance, and calmness in the face of fear.  As your body gets stronger, your ability to be determined, persevere, and remain calm get stronger as well.  These things are translatable.  Handling emotional or intellectual stress can be a lot like handling bodily stress.

Now, I’m not saying this translation is easy.  It’s something I struggle with every day.  It takes focus and mindfulness.  It takes an understanding of why this is important.

There’s another part of this – and that’s kindness.  I’m constantly toeing the balance between pushing myself and respecting my limitations.  Discovering these boundaries.  When things don’t go right, or when I begin to feel like I’ve lost control — body or mind — I try to recenter and give myself a break.  And according to Murakami, this isn’t just wimping out with a walk break, or justifying your temper tantrum to the point of sociopathy.  Maybe it actually cultivates empathy…

One aspect that I have gained from running in the past 22 years that has most pleased me is that it has helped me develop respect about my own physical being.

I think to realize this is very important for all human beings.

To have such respect for your own body makes it possible to do the same for others


Goddamn do I love Murakami.  



2 thoughts on ““Without a solid base of physical strength, you can’t accomplish anything very intricate or demanding. That’s my belief. “

  1. Reblogged this on Very Important Runners' Blog and commented:
    A very interesting post about physical wellbeing being linked to mental wellbeing. I have noticed this much more recently when we have been running longer runs and pushing ourselves. I said to my husband (whilst he was running with me and Vicky like a gazelle whilst I felt like my legs were going to fall off) “mind over matter”. I had never fully understand or grasped the meaning of this concept until that moment. I honestly wanted more than anything to stop running and collapse in a heap, my legs were not doing what I wanted them too. I felt as if my legs were made out of jelly and my jelly legs were also running through treacle. But with determination and strength of mind I ran another 2 km when I thought I could do no more. I think that determination and motivation starts out small like just even thinking, I will take the stairs one day, take on an extra project at work, run a quick course, until you one day think that a 10 km run will be just the challenge, run a full course in front of loads of people!! One day I hope to tell you that I pushed myself even further.

  2. Thanks for the reblog Vicky and Jeanette!

    Some runs just aren’t what you want or expect them to be. Some are downright demoralizing. But the painful ones teach us so much about our grit, and refine our ability to “dig deep” (while overused, I like this expression – that’s really how it feels! Reaching inside yourself to explore and discover hidden reserves) . It’s always exhilarating when we realize that we can handle more than we guessed. So I absolutely agree – determination does start small! When we DO complete that 2k that we were SURE we couldn’t, what does that mean for all of the other “can’ts” in our lives?

    Good luck with your training and I look forward to following your progress! -KB

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