“And runners can detect each notch in the seasonal shift in the feel of the wind against our skin, its smell and direction. In the midst of this flow I’m aware of myself as one tiny piece in the gigantic mosaic of nature. I’m just a replaceable natural phenomenom, like the water in the river that flows under the bridge towards the sea.” Haruki Murakami
VICKY: How are you enjoying summer running or are you still swimming?
GRANT: Both, in fact. My outdoor swim season has begun, but I’m also enjoying the trails of the Gatineau Park.
VICKY: Oh right, you run with Dave and Lise’s group from Natural Fitness Lab.
GRANT: Yes, last night I actually got to spend most of the evening running with Lise (9 time National Champion in X-country skiing and two time Olympian amongst other achievements). Lise gave me some advice on dealing with the horrible seasonal allergies I’ve been dealing with…. and we also talked about body position and cadence on hills.
VICKY: I’ll let Lise teach you about running, but remember my advice on allergies: two tablespoons of honey per day and you’ll be fit as a fiddle! Now tell me about what you’re reading these days.
GRANT: Ah yes. I’m reading a fantastic book by Haruki Murakami called “What I talk about when I talk about running“. The Guardian calls him “among the world’s greatest living novelists”. In addition to being a great novelist, Murakami is also a damn good marathoner, ultramarathoner and triathlete.
VICKY: Really? I’ve never heard of him. Have you read any other books of his? What made you want to read this one?
GRANT: Well I haven’t read any of his other books, but he came highly recommend by my buddy James Long who is a great theatre actor and producer currently working through Theatre Replacement in Vancouver. Murakami’s books are truly beautiful and he has a cult following in Japan and around the world. The book is almost dreamlike and meditative and based on journals he has kept about running. It’s great to read a book in which someone thinks philosophically about running and how it has shaped them. Witness this passage:
“Especially for someone in my line of work, solitude is, more or less, an inevitable circumstance. Sometimes, this sense of isolation, like acid spilling out of a bottle, can unconsciously eat away at a person’s heart and dissolve it. You could see it, too, as a double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time steadily cuts away at me from the inside. I think in my own way I’m aware of this danger- probably through experience- and that’s why I’ve had to constantly keep my body in motion, in some cases pushing myself to the limit, in order to heal the loneliness I feel inside and to put it in perspective. Not so much as an intentional act, but as a instinctive reaction. Let me be more specific. When I”m criticized unjustly (from my viewpoint, at least), or when someone I’m sure will understand me doesn’t, I go running for a little longer than usual. By running longer it’s like I can physically exhaust that portion of my discontent. It also makes me realize how weak I am, how limited my abilities are. I become aware, physically, of these low points. And one of the results of running a little farther than usual is that I become that much stronger. If I am angry, I direct that anger towards myself. If I have a frustrating experience, I use that to improve myself. That’s the way I’ve always lived. I quietly absorb the things I’m able to, releasing them later, and in as changed a form as possible, as part of the story line in a novel.”
VICKY: Isn’t this what we really want from running? In different ways we want it to make us better people.
GRANT: It’s really a profound way to look at running. It’s nice to see people writing about the way that running has affected their lives and their work. It’s deep, but it’s very relatable. Here’s another section and then I’ll stop quoting him:
“What do I think about when I’m running? I don’t have a clue. On cold days I guess I think a little about how cold it is. And about the heat on hot days. When I’m sad I think a little about sadness. When I’m happy I think a little about happiness. As I mentioned before, random memories come to me too. And occasionally, hardly ever, really, I get an idea to use in a novel. But really as I run, I don’t think much of anything worth mentioning. I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void. But as you might expect, an occasional thought will slip into this void. People’s minds can’t be a complete blank. Human beings’ emotions are not strong or consistent enough to sustain a vacuum. What I mean is, the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void. The thoughts that occur to me while I”m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky as always. The clouds are mere guests in the sky that pass away and vanish, leaving behind the sky. The sky both exists and doesn’t exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn’t. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in.”
VICKY: I like that a lot. A book about running that makes you think on a whole different level. It sounds like it’s almost meditative non?
GRANT: Yes, for sure and for me this is what trail running is as well. I can’t bang out KMs on pavement, but when you are up in the hills and dancing over rock and through mud your mind will not wander. It will be focused on the steps ahead of you (or else you’ll fall). When you are moving like as if past and future have no place and there is only the now. This is what I enjoy about trail running.
VICKY: We’ve read a lot of books about running, but it doesn’t get expressed in this way very often, if ever.
GRANT: Exactly and sadly true. I don’t want to just read and write about books on how to shave a minute off your 10K (not that that is not an admirable goal), but what I enjoy about running, reading and writing is the search for meaning.
VICKY: Agreed and this is why everyone will see a change in the blog. I mean we’ve always had quotes at the beginning of our blog and it’s always been a bit cooky at times. However, we’ve matured over the years with iRun and I think we’re going in a different direction and bringing a new dimension to it.
GRANT: Definetly, but can we write one of these every two weeks?
VICKY: Absolutely! I get inspired every day on my way home from work. I usually take the back roads and nature inspires me. Same for you when you bike to and from work. I think we’re in good space for this new adventure.