I know what you’re thinking: “It’s way too tiring and hot”, “I hate sweating”, “I was never a runner. I can’t run.” So before anything else, I’d just like to clarify that, no I’m not an ISSFHK running champion, nor am I a marathon runner. I’m just a typical IB student going into her final year, but I’ve completely fallen in love with running, and I do it only for fun.
I found a lot of great advice in the writing of Haruki Murakami, the best-selling author of works such as The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle . But Murakami has also competed in 33 marathons, so he knows a thing or two about running. In his non-fiction book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running , he offers plenty of wisdom on the subject. Here’s some of what he has to say.
1 Your body will thank you
“Exercising everyday, I naturally reached my ideal weight, and I discovered this helped my performance. My diet started to gradually change as well. I began to eat mostly vegetables ... and began using all natural ingredients.”
The thought of eating “clean” or “healthy” might be scary if you find it impossible to resist that slice of pizza or a scoop of gelato. But you don’t have to quit sweets or savoury treats altogether, it’s all about moderation. Ultimately, you have to find what works best for you, and running offers a great map to these answers.
As I got into running, I realised that as I did more activity, my appetite adjusted accordingly. It’s not so much that I ate less, but I felt less cravings for the so-called “cheat foods”, and didn’t feel like eating my favourite junk food every weekend.
2 Healthy body, healthy mind: your mind will thank you
“To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body. Being active every day makes it easier to hear that inner voice.”
As we go about our busy lives, we sometimes forget to look deeper into things, and see what we really think about something, or how we really feel. There’s a lot hidden in our minds and hearts that we are unaware of. We all have our own problems, and everyone struggles in a different way, whether it’s with stress, emotions, or other difficulties.
But when I run, I’m able to hear that “inner voice”, and it makes me content and tranquil. As it calms any negative mental thoughts, I feel like I have found myself, if only for a brief moment.
3 You’ll find like-minded friends
“We hardly ever spoke. Still, as a fellow long distance runner, I felt like we understood each other. Even if skill level varies, there are things that only runners share.”
The best social bonds are formed with people who share the same interests. Although running might not be an interest for you right now, once you start – and hopefully fall in love with it – you’ll find a whole community of like-minded friends, wherever you are in the world.
It’s like the global community of Pokemon Go players. You’ll have mutual encouragement and motivation, regardless of your skill level or accomplishments, and there’s nothing more valuable than meeting people like this.
4 It’s quality ‘me’ time
“You don’t need anybody else to do it. You don’t have special equipment or go to any special place to do it. As long as you have running shoes you can run to your heart’s content. All I do is keep on running in my own cosy void, no matter what anybody else says.”
Everyone needs some “me” time, to temporarily escape all our stresses – especially during the IB! Some people prefer static activities such as reading and drawing, but when it comes to physical activity, running requires the least equipment and space. As Murakami says, all you need are your shoes to run to your hearts content, anytime, anywhere.
5 It builds self-discipline
“I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished. In most cases learning something essential in life requires physical pain.”
Self-discipline is crucial in life. It affects your mental state, your academic performance, and your social relationships. The only way to achieve good self-discipline is by practice and training. This doesn’t only apply to running, but to any endurance sport: swimming, cycling, hiking can be perfect instruments to help you achieve this.
6 You’ll feel a sense of accomplishment
“When I first started running, I could only run for 20 minutes. That much left me panting, and my legs shaky. I was embarrassed to have people see me running. But as I continued, my body started to accept it, and I could gradually increase the distance.”
Everyone starts somewhere. “I can’t do it” is never a good reason for not starting. The feeling of accomplishment you get from running is different from getting an outstanding exam score, or completing a food challenge. It’s the feeling of accomplishment which involves every muscle in your entire body. You’ll feel your breath intensifying, sweat dripping from your pores, flowing like a stream.
You’ll feel especially accomplished if you’re new to running. You’ll be able to relate to Murakami when he says that he couldn’t run past 20 minutes at the beginning, so imagine when you can eventually run 20km.
7 You’ll look back in a year and be grateful for starting
“The most important thing we learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school. Most runners run because they want exert to the fullest within their individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life.”
If you’re still sitting around, feeling unsatisfied about certain parts of your life, then do something to change it. Whether it’s a problem about school, your health or people, every solution starts somewhere. Running might seem like a simple act that is unrelated to your problems, but it will allow you to get some distance from them, and approach them with a new attitude. As Murakami says:
“No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”