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.