Sunday, January 23, 2011

There Is No Finish Line

I had an attempt at a post on god, life, and the meaning of the universe, but it didn't come together very well. I think I need to bounce some ideas around in my head a little bit longer before they come together properly. So instead, I thought I might steal a title from Nike's admen and talk about running instead.

It is after midnight here in Tokyo. I just went out for a night run. It was cold and there was some light rain, but there wasn't any wind, so it wasn't too bad. I had to push myself a bit to do it, but I got my running gear on, my sneakers, running tights, t-shirt, hoodie, beanie and gloves. I put on my headphones, hit play on the iPod, and ran off into the night to the sound of AC/DC's Highway to Hell - that got me moving!

I probably ran for about 12 kilometers or so. I stopped and walked at some points, sometimes for a minute or two, sometimes for a song or two. Then I picked up the pace and started running again. Not pushing myself too much, but not slacking off too much either. A nice middle ground.

The 2011 Tokyo marathon is coming up in about a month, and I am not ready for it. I wasn't ready for it when I did it in 2007 either, but I managed to get through it, despite it being an agonizing experience. And despite not really being ready this year either, I am a little older and wiser than back in 2007.

My physical fitness is a bit better than it was in 2007, and my depression is not as bad either. Also, I have finally realized that I don't need to run like a kamikaze intent on obliterating myself, the way I used to in the past. It is okay to go slow. It is okay to walk for a time. The important thing is just to keep moving - and to do so sustainably.

I think when I do the marathon a month from now I will most likely do some version of running for ten minutes, walking for two. I have tried it out at shorter distances, and it really does seem to make the run easier. Back in November I did a half marathon where I stubbornly ran the whole distance, despite the fact that alternating walking and running would have probably made me a bit faster. This was pointed out to me while I was doing it. But I wasn't capable of not forcing myself to "run" at that race.

I had quite a lot of pain after that run, and that combined with a few conversations with other runners led me to finally become a bit more reasonable, a bit more flexible in my approach. I think I needed both the pain, plus the advice from others who had been down the same road before me, to help me realize that the way I was doing things were damaging me.

It took a long time, but I finally made the realization. Many things seem to be like this. But life is long. I have time to figure these things out. And I'm beginning to think that I will, one of these days.


  1. I have never been a runner, the only sport I excelled in was swimming. But I still would love to get to the point where I could run a marathon one day, even if I come dead last. I'm a big walker though, when I lived in London I walked EVERYWHERE, I would even get up at 04:30am to walk from Southfeilds where I lived to Paddington where I worked, during this time my depression was better than it had ever been.

    Good luck with your training, I hope goes well!

  2. It's great that you have the motivation to run; many people with depression do not. I know I need to get back to going to the gym. My neighborhood is not safe enough to walk in at night, but I used to do it on the treadmill. I am not an athlete, by any means, and never have been, but I do think exercise is good for mental health (and obviously for physical health). I think it's great that you're up for trying a marathon!

  3. I'm awake right now in pain due to ways I didn't take care of my body. When a person is young(er), there's often the belief that time heals, but it doesn't always do this, and even things that we think we healed from can come back to bite us in the butt later. I've gone from being extremely active to not being able to do much of anything lest the pain become unbearable.

  4. Hi Stephi, I never excelled at any sports, and I don't think I ever will. But I think improvement is definitely possible. I do a decent amount of walking in my daily life, try to run twice a week, and have taken a few yoga lessons.

    These days I want to take care of my body as much as possible, and exercise is critical. I hope you still get a a chance to do some walking, it really helps. I was not dead last when I did the marathon last time, but I wasn't far off it. I hope for some minor improvement this time. And less agony would be nice too!

    Hi Jen, I think some kind of exercise is really important for at least stopping ourselves from deteriorating further, and then helping us improve. Last year I read about the story of Graham Cowan, an Australian guy who suffered from terrible depression, and came out of it partially through exercising six days a week. It is a shame your neighborhood is not safe to be out in at night, but I hope you can find some way to exercise. It really helps.

    Hi Snow, I hope you are feeling better now than when you wrote the above note. Our bodies are tough in some ways, but incredibly fragile in others. And they certainly aren't designed to last forever. I hope the work I am doing on mine means that I will not have too much pain and discomfort in my declining years.