I need a mantra.

I have a 22k run tomorrow. That will be the longest I’ve ever run in my life.

When I first started running I had a vague idea that this would get easier. But yesterday after finishing What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it suddenly dawned on me: It doesn’t.

All that really happens is that I get healthier and my body changes so I am actually capable of reaching those distances. But easier? That’s not happening.

Part of the reason I started listening to music on my runs as a beginner was in an attempt to distract myself from the discomfort and pain. Then I stopped listening to music and I thought maybe THAT would help. It does.. but it’s still hard. It will ALWAYS be hard.

This is a revelation for me, because I had always assumed that none of those seasoned runners had it as hard as I do. But Murakami struggles all the time. So now it becomes a test of mental stamina and willpower as opposed to just a physical test of my body. I know that my physical body is capable of completing a marathon TODAY – my physical structure isn’t going to change much in three months. But mentally I’m not there yet. Hell, I’m still scared of 22k.

Murakami uses a mantra when he feels like stopping to walk, so I’ve decided that I need one too. His mantra is:

I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery.

I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead.

I like that. Totally sci-fi. I borrowed this mantra a couple of days ago for a hilly 12k run. It worked fairly well, but I still want my own. So I’ve started collecting quotes to get my creative juices flowing.

The Thirteenth Mile blog has a great list of running quotes. You can read them here.

I don’t have a mantra yet, but in the process of finding one I have developed a love for quotes in general. I don’t know why I didn’t love them until right now! They’re awesome. So I started a journal. Just a place where I can keep these quotes. They’re not all related to running, but here’s what I have so far:

Believe in all your beliefs but the best bet is to believe in yourself.

– Mrs. Shapson

Mrs. Shapson was my grade seven English teacher. In that year our entire grade took national tests in the major subjects like math and English. When the results came in, Mrs. Shapson made me stand in front of the whole class and announced (to my horror) that I was reading and writing at a grade 12 level. I know she meant well, but because I was still actually in grade seven I felt humiliated.

She kept encouraging me to write, but the things that I would come up with were all religious. I was living under my dad’s regime at the time and I wasn’t actually aware that I could write down my own original thoughts as opposed to sermon excerpts and the things that my dad had said. She would look at me strangely and I always sensed that she didn’t like my content, but she was afraid to say anything that would be interpreted as offensive towards my religion.

At the end of the year I asked her to sign my yearbook, and she wrote the above quote. I’m not sure if she got it from anywhere. I think she just made it up.

At the time, I didn’t really understand it. I thought she didn’t get me because she wasn’t a Christian, and that maybe she thought there was something wrong with me. Now I know exactly what she meant. And I think it was both brave and wise of her to write that.

In each shave lives a philosophy.

– Somerset Maugham

I love this quote because it means that everything has meaning and value. That in even the mundane, we might find a deeper truth. It also implies an attention to detail, which I love.

This above all: To thine own self be true.

– William Shakespeare

To me this is about not compromising your standards. Not taking shortcuts even though others won’t see. Running the whole way and covering the full distance.

No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act. As a writer, then, and as a runner, I don’t find that writing and publishing a book of my own personal thoughts about running makes me stray too far off my usual path. Perhaps I’m just too painstaking a type of person, but I can’t grasp much of anything without putting down my thoughts in writing, so I had to actually get my hands working and write these words. Otherwise, I’d never know what running means to me.

– Haruki Murakami

I like this because I feel the same way about writing – it focuses the mind. And the same goes for running. The two, for me, are intrinsically linked. I didn’t know other people besides me felt this way.

Age is not something that matters unless you are cheese.

– The Dedication in Brain Rules by John Medina

This can be my mantra when I’m old. I’m saving it until then.

When health is absent

Wisdom cannot reveal itself,

Art cannot be exerted,

Wealth is useless and Reason is powerless.

– Herophilies, 300 B.C.

This reminds me that what I have dedicated my life towards is a worthy pursuit. Good health is the basis for everything.

I like to think of myself as a tool that others can use to achieve health, which would then allow them to go on and do other great things in the world. I wouldn’t take credit for those things, but I would know that were it not for me, they could not have existed.

And so I hope that with my running, and with my mantra, I will also go on to do great things. And write about them.