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What we talk about when we talk about running

Inspired by Haruki Murakami

Wikipedia: "Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does. Proposed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi1, this positive psychology concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields."

Where is your flow? In what activity do you get absorbed and what makes you happy deep inside? Naturally, for everyone, it's different - for someone, its playing piano, for someone else, it's painting... for me... it's running.

I have enjoyed jogging since my adolescent years when it helped me, then a fat and lazy kid, to loose weight. It was only this year, after reading an excellent book about running, that I started running seriously. By running seriously I mean about two hundred kilometers a month. Usually, I put on my running shoes for about an hour to cover eleven to twelve kilometers. Once I was able to cover longer distances, I discovered my flow - the source of energy and pure joy a long distance run provides to me. Haruki Murakami, my favorite novelist, obviously shares the same passion for many more years and describes them in a the book that has brought so much more joy in my life: What I talk About When I Talk About Running. When reading the book, I discovered that Haruki (we, runners, call each other by our first names) has some of the same experiences from his long distance running as I do. I am not able to describe them in any better words than he does, so I chose to quote him directly from his book.

"Don`t misunderstand me - I'm not totally uncompetitive. It's just that for some reason I never cared all that much whether I beat others or lost to them. This sentiment remained pretty much unchanged after I grew up. It doesn't matter what field you are talking about - beating somebody else just doesn't do it for me. I'm much more interested in whether I reach the goals that I set for myself, so in this sense long-distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mine."

Being a father of two, and being a fresh founder of my own business, which are both very demanding roles, running has one more great aspect for me... it is MY time, utterly, selfishly mine. I don't have to talk to anybody for that hour, I don't need to, but I may, think about anything during the time.

"It might be a little silly for someone getting to be my age to put this into words, but I just want to make sure I get the facts down clearly: I'm the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I'm the type of person who doesn't find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult, nor boring."

Once you run over ten kilometers, its not merely a run anymore... its a trip! When running at a comfortable, easy pace, you can enjoy whatever you see on your trip - forest, city, fellow runners (and some of them are really pretty!) ... you can even exchange a couple of words with people you pass by.

"Running has a lot of advantages. First of all, you don't need anybody else to do it, and no need for special equipment. You don't have to go to any special place to do it. As long as you have running shoes and good road you can run to your heart's content."

The most beautiful thing about long distance running for me its the fact that its not only about the "locomotion", your muscles and joints working hard together to move your body forward, its a very special state of mind, that gives you not only energy, but also lot of inspiration for your life.

"I don't care about the time I run. I can try all I want, but I doubt I'll ever be able to run the way I used to. I'm ready to accept that. It's not one of your happier realities, but that's what happens when you get older. Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it's been moving ever forward without a moment's rest. And one of the privileges given to those who've avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.

Competing against time isn't important. What's going to be much more meaningful to me now is how much I can enjoy myself, whether I can finish twenty-six miles with a feeling of contentment. I'll enjoy and value things that can't be expressed in numbers, and I'll grope for a feeling of pride that comes from a slightly different place."

If you happen to be in the center of Prague on May 11th, 2014... among the thousands of runners you may also see someone, who used to be a fat and lazy kid and was lucky enough to find his "flow", which finally brought him to run in his first marathon.

1 see also his excellent talk at www.TED.com