Pain is Inevitable! Suffering is Optional

Haruki Murakami is a Japanese novelist whose books sold record copies worldwide in 50 languages. His writings attract both critics and the average reader.

Murakami is no stereotype; he followed his ways without being affected by peer pressure, with a chill and easy-going approach to life.

“WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING” reflects the influence Running had on his life and Writing. Through the lens of running emerges many insights, while it might have been personal experiences of Murakami, as we read, would make us reflect. As he says, thought for the book or the memoir was seeded when he practiced for the New York City Marathon in 2005.

Having picked up running five years back, I was curious to see what connections author establishes between running, writing, and life. As you turn pages, you realize it’s not a type I run for good health to live for eternity.

Will pick a few insights which resonated with me.

Pain is Inevitable! Suffering is Optional

Once Murakami glanced through an article on marathon running with a common question to famous runners what’s the secret to keeping you pumped during the grueling race of 42 Kms(26 Miles). It was a reflective moment, as he went by the belief that every runner has a secret mantra, that will help them effortlessly cruise the distance.

Here comes the twist! One runner reveals what he learned from his elder brother and also a runner, which he pondered ever since he began running.

He shares as you start to run, Man, this hurts; I can’t take it anymore.

The hurt part is the unavoidable reality. Whether one can stand up and continue is up to the runner himself. “Pain is inevitable! Suffering is Optional”

I am sure when he wrote, it was not just running. If we connect and reflect, Pain is inevitable in various aspects of life. To get bogged down or not is optional,

Imagine someone having a troubled career, and in between jobs, a problematic boss, ruminating on investment decisions, the list is endless. Runner’s response is apt in each situation “Pain in Inevitable! Suffering is Optional”.   Optionality opens depending on how we react in each case.

How Much is Too Much

Murakami runs a specific distance every day. He runs a set distance, and if he runs longer on a particular day, he reduces the next day. Some days he feels like running fast, appropriately he reduces the distance accordingly.

So What?

Intrinsic motivation for his runs is to savor the feeling of a happy run until the next day to again look forward to running the next day – Runners High!

Coming back to Writing, he mentions he writes to the point where he can write more. So be it running or writing, his point is to stop at a stage when you can do more.

Invariably, when we don’t understand this, we lose interest in our activities or hobbies. You can see someone beginning any new activity; it’s all excitement, only to have a balloon deflate in a matter of time.

Have your favorite snack and stop at a point you look forward to having again. Not Knowing How Much is Too Much either leads to a guilt trap of excess calories, or you would start developing a distaste for the snack, if not permanently?, at least for some time.

In a way, it’s Murakami’s mantra to be consistent and avoid burnout.

What Else?

The book is a memoir and reflection of his experiences. As you pick a few of them and dwell deep, it will help in many ways to connect the dots which we have been missing.

Listing down some of the other connections that Murakami reflects beautifully has helped me immensely.I am sure as you read through, you will find interesting answers.

I Run to Create a Void

Focus and Endurance Trumps Talent.

Don’t work out. I am in great shape, Good or Bad?

Light Bulb Moment! Jazz Bar, Writing and Running Connection

The book Is an easy-to-read page-turner. It has immense wisdom for all of us to benefit. Happy Reading!

Picture of Murali Sunderraghavan

Murali Sunderraghavan

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