As I step out into the chilly air, I can feel the weight of the past year bearing down on my shoulders. My Achilles tendon still aches, a constant reminder of the injury that has slowed me down for so long. And yet, despite the pain and the setbacks, I lace up my shoes and begin to run. It’s the first day of a new year, and I am determined to make it a successful one.
The road stretches out before me, slick with dew, and I am reminded of a passage from Haruki Murakami’s «What I Talk About When I Talk About Running»: «Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.» It may be an overused quote, but it’s a sentiment that has always resonated with me, and I repeat it to myself like a mantra as I settle into my stride. Yes, the pain is there, but I can choose whether or not to let it defeat me.
«Rather than focusing on a specific finish time or placing in a race, I can set goals that are within my control — like running a certain number of miles each week or incorporating strength training into my routine.»
As I run, I think about the strategies I’ve been researching to help me make this year a successful one. One of the most promising: visualization. By picturing myself succeeding in my goals — whether it’s finishing a race or simply running a certain distance without stopping — I want to build confidence and motivation. Studies have shown that visualization can actually help improve physical performance by strengthening the neural pathways that control movement.
Another strategy: setting process goals rather than outcome goals. Rather than focusing on a specific finish time or placing in a race, I can set goals that are within my control — like running a certain number of miles each week or incorporating strength training into my routine. By focusing on the process of getting better, rather than the outcome, I plan to avoid getting discouraged by setbacks and stay motivated in the face of challenges.
And more than anything else, I find myself drawn to the quiet, contemplative practice of mindfulness meditation, seeking refuge from the doubts and fears that have troubled me. And so I try to breathe calmly, letting my mind and body become still. In this moment, I am not a runner struggling with injuries and motivation, but a being simply existing in the present, at peace with myself and the world around me. As I continue my run, I carry with me a newfound sense of calm and clarity, a steadiness of purpose that I hope will help me through the trials and tribulations of the coming year.
A sense of fear and uncertainty
Nearly three months have elapsed since then, but then COVID-19 hit me unexpectedly. I had managed to evade this virus for three years, but it seems that it inevitably catches up with all of us sooner or later. Overnight, everything shifted once more, and my focus shifted from chasing objectives to simply regaining my strength and tackling some fundamental questions. Will I be able to get back to my old level of fitness? Will I ever be able to run without pain? And how long will it take? It’s a reminder that the only thing we can control is the present moment — the here and now of each step, each breath, each beat of the heart.
«Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.» (Haruki Murakami)
And so, as I reflect on the challenges that lie ahead, I am reminded of another quote from Murakami that has stayed with me: «Don’t feel sorry for yourself. Only assholes do that.» These words remind me that wallowing in self-pity will not get me any closer to my goals. Instead, I must summon the courage and resilience to face my setbacks head-on, with a spirit of determination and grit. Whether through the physical training of my body, the visualization of success, or the meditative calm of mindfulness, I will find a way to overcome this slump and emerge stronger and more focused than ever before. With each step I take, I am reminded that the path to greatness is not easy, but it is worth fighting for. And the strategies are still the same.
And so we arrive at the heart of the matter, the very essence of what we have explored thus far. For all the setbacks and challenges that we face, for all the worries and uncertainties that weigh on us, there is one truth that shines through like a beacon of hope: uncertainty is the fuel that drives us forward, the spark that ignites our imagination and propels us towards new horizons. It is the raw material from which we fashion our dreams and our destinies. Without uncertainty, life would be a sterile, predictable affair, devoid of mystery and surprise. We would have nothing to strive for, nothing to explore, nothing to challenge us and push us beyond our limits. And so I try to embrace the uncertainty, to welcome it with open arms, for it is the very essence of life itself.
And yet, as I reflect on these strategies, I cannot help but acknowledge that they are not new. They are not groundbreaking or revolutionary. They are, in fact, quite simple and straightforward. The power of visualization, the importance of process goals, the calming practice of mindfulness meditation — these are all well-worn paths, trodden by countless athletes and performers before me. And yet, in their simplicity, there is a kind of wisdom, a recognition that the fundamentals are often the most important. It is easy to get lost in the weeds, to become so consumed by the latest trends and fads that we lose sight of the basics. But as I run, I am reminded that there is a reason these strategies endure, a reason they continue to help people overcome their fears and achieve their goals. They work. And in a world that is constantly changing and uncertain, it is reassuring to know that there are some things we can always rely on — the power of the mind, the resilience of the body, and the timeless wisdom of those who have gone before us.
And so, I will run. And with each step, I will feel a sense of strength and resilience growing within me. The pain in my Achilles tendon, the setbacks, COVID-19, all that will fade into the background, replaced by a sense of purpose and determination. I don’t know what the future holds, but for now, in this moment, I will be a runner. I’m a runner right now. And that’s all that matters.