Life is a Marathon, Not a Sprint

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint” – I’m still unsure who told me that as I am writing this post. However, since I started running then read Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”, I have become more appreciative of this metaphor of life.

So, what I talk about when I talk about running? Murakami shares that he learns much about writing when he runs. The same to me – I learn much about writing when I run: that it’s laborious. At the same time, it’s more about the writer’s or the runner’s mind and spirit rather than anything physical.

I began to take writing more seriously when I got to college. Leaving Vietnam, I realized only my English skills would save me in every daily situation. However, despite having learnt English almost my entire childhood, my skills were mediocre, simply because I hadn’t thought of having to use English for my post-secondary school life and had decided not to put more efforts into it, apart from memorizing some rules that would be handy for examinations.

That foolish me had to wake up to reality as my flight arrived in Los Angeles.

Because I arrived in the winter and my classes wouldn’t start until a month later, I had so much time on my hands that I began to reflect upon my education thus far. I had been a decent student – not excellent, but decent enough to be recognized. However, what used to work for me might not be applicable in the new environment, especially without proper language and cultural skills. I then started to write, write, and write, feeling that writing would help me to better understand myself and the whole new world before my eyes. I continued to write, write, write, and write.

My efforts paid off as I aced my English 101 class. For me, it was a huge success. I finally could do something with the foreign language that hella haunted my childhood.

Yet all my efforts to achieve that certain level has started fading since I transferred to my university.  I could blame the whole transferring process for intimidating me, though I know it’s my fault for having attached myself to the feeling of being intimidated too much, letting all those negative feelings drag me down. I would write for the sake of having to submit an assignment rather than carefully, meticulously crafting to share my worldview in the context of that assignment.

How can I refine my writing if I’m not putting efforts into removing the impurities that still exist in it? I kept asking myself several times until I realized it was me that close doors to opportunities to understand the people around me as well as myself. Writing is sharing – if I weren’t willing to share, how could I improve as a writer, at any levels?

But sharing is not something I can do in a second or even a day. Not totally that I’m selfish – I take time to observe, absorb, then join. And, I don’t think I should kick myself out of my comfort zone too frequently. After all, who’s going to be there for me except for myself? I know the world is full of well-intentioned and helpful people; yet unfortunately, at certain times in life, it is only our very own selves who would be there for us.

But then again, how can I improve as a writer if I keep too much for myself?

Like running (as well as yoga and taijiquan), again, I think sometimes I only have to push myself off limits, even only for the sake of testing those limits. If it really hurts, I’ll back off. However, if it’s merely discomfort, I’ll stay and extend myself to the outer world with that discomfort.

I write. Partly to share. Mostly to be challenged, to feel uncomfortable enough to grow.

I run. Because I didn’t think I could run but wanted to try anyway. My running stats only incrementally improve, however I have learned much about how the intensity of an activity could bring the most out of me at some moments. As running physically exhausts, it mentally strengthens me. Only a couple more running steps every day could soon be accumulated into an extra kilometer.

“Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. I have to confess I have never run a marathon. But I think I know what it could feel like running a marathon – that it is exhaustive but much more transformative. At the same time, it’s all about timing and allocation of our efforts for each segment.

Having said that, I will return to this post some time later (perhaps, after my first marathon) to evaluate what I just said myself.

What about you? What do you talk about when you talk about running?

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