“All I do is keep on running in my own cozy, homemade void, my own nostalgic silence. And this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says.”
~ Haruki Murakami
I was going to write about working as a freelancer today, or talk about the thing that's better than motivation, and I will either later this week or next week. But I've been thinking about running a lot recently, and I here's why I think you should be, too.
First of all, if you haven't already watched this, have a look at Why I Run (below) by Alastair Humphreys.
When I tell people that I love to run over lumpy ground, sometimes for hours at a time, some of them look at me like I've just sprouted another head. Others will ask "why do you like running?" or come out with the old chestnut that it's "bad for your knees."
The first question is valid. I used to hate running. Genuinely detest it. I love walking, and always have, but there was something about running that made me want to punch the first person I came across in the face every time I tried it, just to have somebody to share the pain with.
I tried running while listening to music or podcasts, which actually made me hate music and podcasts for a while.
Somebody suggested running in the rain, because it was "fun". Imagine doing something you hate while piss wet through.
And just when I was ready to concede that running simply wasn't for me, I read Born to Run. And that book mentioned running without shoes on which, as someone who likes going without shoes, held a strange appeal. I had basically decided to give up running and gave it one last shot before conceding it just wasn't for me. I was hating that last run like all the others before it and, just before I was about to throw my shoes into the river, I took them off and ran barefoot for a hundred metres or so.
Now, I'm not going to claim that the heavens opened and I had a revelation, but I didn't hate it. In fact, I kind of enjoyed it.
My first few barefoot runs were painful as hell. Not only was I using muscles I hadn't used for a long time - if at all, really - I also realized how dreadfully out of condition I was.
But I stuck at it and, over time, my runs began to not only get longer but infinitely more enjoyable.
How running is like work
A lot of people hate the work they do. That's one of the reasons we hear about people wanting to go freelance.
I didn't actually hate my work when I went completely freelance the first time, nor when I went into business as a partnership later on. Rather I was enticed by the "freedom" of working for myself. That freedom wasn't as great as I imagined it would be, but more about that later.
When I started running barefoot I found a style of running - mid-foot strike, high cadence, long-distance - that I began to love. Yes, love.
Running was no longer something to be tolerated (or loathed), it was something I looked forward to, made time for, and thoroughly enjoyed doing. I still do.
It brings me clarity, it makes me feel great, it helps me solve problems, it allows me to meditate, it lets me explore new places, it gives me a sense of adventure, it keeps me healthy (physically, emotionally, and mentally), and more.
“Some seek the comfort of their therapist's office, other head to the corner pub and dive into a pint, but I chose running as my therapy.”
So what does that have to do with work?
As I mentioned, I worked as a freelance writer for a couple of years before going back into full-time employment. For various reasons, being a full-time freelance writer wasn't right for me at the time. Neither was the full-time job I went on to, nor - for other reasons - the partnership I started.
Fast forward a few years and I work semi-full-time in education and freelance as a designer and writer. For now, I've found a sweet spot: regular wages in a job I enjoy and care about, and semi-regular cash from design and writing work on the side.
Sometimes the side work brings in more money than the regular work. Sometimes the regular work is a lot more fun than the side work. Sometimes I love both, and sometimes I don't like either.
But overall I'm the happiest I've been for some time, and getting close to having income from multiple sources that is as regular and secure as it can be. And as the income rises, so does the enjoyment and satisfaction I'm getting out of my work.
Which brings me back to running.
It pays to experiment. If I'd listened to the naysayers, never read a book about running, never tried to find out more about it, never experimented, or never taken my shoes off (something that loads of people still think is ridiculous) I'd never have enjoyed running.
Likewise, if I hadn't tried a few styles of working, I wouldn't have found the one that works for me.
It might not work for me in twenty years time, or even in a year's time, but - as I found out through being injured - when that time comes I'll have to find ways to adapt. Anyone can do it.
You should try new things and experiment, as it can open up ways of doing things you'd never thought about, new opportunities, or even a career you love that you'd never considered before.
Read, listen, ask questions, experiment, watch, try, have fun.
And if you try something and it doesn't work, it doesn't mean you've failed.
You just might not have found the style that suits you yet.
When you do, you'll love it.
Time for a run.
“People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But don't think that's the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree”
~ Haruki Murakami