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Only assholes do that

A person wearing running shoes is sitting on the floor, only the upper legs visible.

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.

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