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December 2009

At Least He Never Walked

InfoWorld has declined to post my review of "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" because it is unrelated to open source.  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

Having run a ten marathons, countless half-marathons and a few 100+ mile cycling days, I am sometimes asked what the appeal is of long distance running or cycling.  Despite he fact that I have been running for more than 30 years, it's not easy to explain.  Mostly I think you either get it, or you don't and no attempt to dissect the experience will make much sense.  But luckily, Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has penned a short book of essays called "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" that explains his own fascination (or perhaps obsession) with long distance running and documents his ups and downs running in Japan, Hawaii, Boston and New York.  The book has been recommended to me by other long-distance runners in the open source world and, short of embarking on a 26 mile run from Athens to Marathon (yes, I know that's the wrong direction), it does the best job of explaining long distance running or perhaps any endurance sport.  For those who run, the marathon running is not just a metaphor for life, it becomes as important as the seasons in marking the flow of life.

I expect that this winter I'll run another marathon somewhere in the world.  And I'm sure come next summer I'll be out in another traithlon somewhere, giving it my best shot.  Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by.  I'll age one more year, and probably finish another novel.  One by one, I'll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can.  Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can.  I am, after all, a long-distance runner.

My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance --all of these are secondary.  For a runner like me, what's really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, amd am able, in my own way, to be satisfied.  From out of the failures and joys I always try to come away having grasped a concrete lesson...

And I hope that, over time, as one race follows another, in the end I'll reach a place I'm content with. Or maybe just catch a gimpse of it... 
Some day, if I have a gravestone and I'm able to pick out what is carved on it, I'd like it to say this:

Haruki Murakami
Writer (and Runner)
At Least He Never Walked

If you're a runner, or want to understand someone who is, this is a great read.  It's short, inspiring in a modest way, and you'll finish it in less time than it takes to get from Athens to Marathon.