On running and (not) writing

  • Post category:Writing
  • Post comments:8 Comments
  • Reading time:4 mins read

A couple of weeks ago, I took up running. I’m not exactly sure why. I’m not an athletic person by nature, and running had always felt like the sort of activity I’d dislike. To me it seemed overly focused on speed and power and pushing limits. I prefer nudging limits, only every so often. If it’s really necessary.

My husband told me about the Couch to 5K plan, which is designed to ease newbies like myself into running. In the beginning, it’s mostly rapid walking. I started out on a treadmill, but then began to dream of fresh air, birds, scenery. And it was then that the appeal of running really began to take hold. It’s usually solitary, and quiet. I can look around at the trees or I can fold my thoughts inward and push out the world I’m moving through.

I haven’t written in a long time. It’s not permanent and it’s not definitive. But it’s there. And I’ve been wondering if running has filled the space that writing used to (used to?) occupy in my life. Despite my growing app collection, I’m not a running fanatic and I’m still not about speed and power and pushing limits (well, okay, I do have to push a little). But I think about running on my rest days. I look forward to it. And if I do say so myself, I’m getting good at it.

Can this somehow help my writing? Maybe. I’m hopeful. Since I started running, I’ve been finding quite a few of my friends run too. They seem to approach running the way I want to approach writing: not making a big show of it, just quietly and happily doing it, slotting it into their lives. I’ve been reading a lot of Haruki Murakami interviews lately, the ones about his memoir What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I really liked these quotes on running and writing, from a 2008 Spiegel Online interview:

SPIEGEL: And what did running teach you?

Murakami: The certainty that I will make it to the finishing line. Running taught me to have faith in my skills as a writer. I learned how much I can demand of myself, when I need a break, and when the break starts to get too long. I know how hard I am allowed to push myself.

[ . . .]

SPIEGEL: Does running give you the inspiration for stories?

Murakami: No, because I’m not the kind of writer who reaches the source of a story playfully. I have to dig for the source. I have to dig very deep to reach the dark places in my soul where the story lies hidden. For that, too, you have to be physically strong. Since I started running, I have been able to concentrate for longer, and I have to concentrate for hours on my way into the darkness. On the way there you find everything: the images, the characters, the metaphors. If you are physically too weak, you miss them; you lack the strength to hold on to them and bring them back up to the surface of your consciousness. When you are writing, the main thing isn’t digging down to the source, but the way back out of the darkness. It’s the same with running. There is a finishing line that you have to cross, whatever the cost may be.

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Susanna

    You are on the right path my friend! I think running and walking rhythms take us to a good place inside our heads. It’s wonderful how Murakami talks about it.

    I know it will help you with your writing! It can happen really fast too. Like today when I was on my bike ride I suddenly thought about hedgehogs and how they are lactose-intolerant like me and it felt like so nice to have something in common with them. And then I started to think how I could paint this funny idea.

    Also I think it’s important that you’re not making a big deal about it, that’s how you keep it simple and you’ll have fun with it too.


    1. Samantha

      I loved to read your story about the hedgehog and how it gave you an idea for a painting! It’s encouraging. Kiitos for your comments as always! xo

  2. amy

    I used to run and still love reading about running. My preferred exercises now are lower impact or lawn work, but you really can’t beat running for meditation. Hope you will get back into the swing of writing. I understand very much how freeing it can be to not be writing too, though. Sometimes writing/wanting to be writing/thinking about writing can turn into this shadowy burden that we’re carrying around.

    1. Samantha

      I was surprised how meditative running can be! And “shadowy burden” is such a great way to describe that writing-related wanting and thinking feeling.

  3. I used to run on Lake Michigan, leisurely and joyfully. Then I pushed it, hurt my knee, and no longer run. But I walk, a lot. Enjoy your quiet and happy runs.

    1. Samantha

      I’m sorry you hurt your knee! However, frequent walks are also pretty sublime; I love them.

  4. Anne

    I love this about running – the solitude, the fresh things in nature, the space to think. I turned into a regular runner more based on my goal-oriented nature (I’m not competitive, but if I can go faster or farther than my own speed/distance, it’s a challenge I’m up for!), but I grew to really love it for all these other reasons. And it seriously heightens my enjoyment of spring and fall especially!

    Also, I bet you’re getting good at it – isn’t it amazing how our bodies develop the capacity to do more of this when we keep at it?

    1. Samantha

      I imagine running in the fall is just gorgeous; I’m looking forward to experiencing it.

      I agree, our bodies really are amazing. Lately I’ve been noticing my legs keep going when my brain insists they can’t!