Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. Ever since time began (when was that, I wonder?), it’s been moving ever forward without a moment’s rest. And one of the privileges given to those who’ve avoided dying young is the blessed right to grow old. The honor of physical decline is waiting, and you have to get used to that reality.

~ Haruki Murakami


This right here is just fine

There are only two things which seem to work for me: Plain old discipline, and regular, high-intensity exercise. Make a plan. Work the plan. Follow through. I don’t have to finish it all. (That used to be a huge problem too.) Each day, make a plan. And yes, some days the plan is, “today there’s no plan just follow your nose.” Where the mental freedom to believe that’s a good plan is banked during the days with a more plan-looking plan. The exercise acts as a baseline reset.

The result? An inevitable sense of disappointment. A sense that other people are doing better than us. We feel guilt. We feel pressure. We think “Oh, if only I had more money, or a better job, or lived in France where the child care benefits were different, if I had more custody, then things would be good…”

~ Ryan Holiday from,

Slowly, daily, my false sense of urgency ratchets up. It’s not healthy, but going out and doing something high intensity resets my personal brand of insanity. Every time I’m in the worst of moods, all I have to do is head out and just start running like I hate myself. (This is rare, but frequent enough that it’s useful to have a strategy ready.) I can go just a couple minutes running like I stole something, and then my crazy-brain starts bargaining… okay, uh, if we can just slow down a bit, I promise to stop acting crazy. I’m pretty sure that’s not the best way to deal with things, but it’s definitely a coping strategy that works well. And the side effects are awesome.



The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning. An end point is simply set up as a temporary marker, or perhaps as an indirect metaphor for the fleeting nature of existence. It’s very philosophical—not that at this point I’m thinking how philosophical it is. I just vaguely experience this idea, not with words, but as a physical sensation.

~ Haruki Murakami



Setting a challenge for myself seems simple enough. Pick a goal and then work to reach it. But there needs to be more than the goal, and the process. There also needs to be some sacrifice; What will it be necessary for me to give up in order to attempt the challenge? There also needs to be some risk; Risk of physical loss, injury or monetary cost are obvious options, but a good challenge has mental, even spiritual, risk attached. Who will I be after this challenge? What about success itself? I think a good challenge must seem achievable (it mustn’t fly in the face of reality) but must actually be uncertain. It takes a special person to set and truly attempt a challenge that they aren’t certain they can achieve.

I am going to try to convince you to spend the next 4 days watching a YouTube live stream of people running round a 4.1 mile loop in Tennessee, all day and all night.

~ Matt Webb from,

I’m not sure what to say about this “backyard ultra”. Fortunately for you, the race will be over by the time this post appears. You don’t risk being sucked into the live stream by reading Webb’s article. While I’m not the least bit attracted to attempting something like this, I read the article slowly. The challenge that lies at the heart of this race is something I understand. I’m not suggesting you go try to run one of these races, but I do hope you have experienced true self-set challenge.


Exerting yourself

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 than in a fog, and I believe running helps you 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 well. I believe many runners would agree.

~ Haruki Murakami


I am not a runner

I’m lately fascinated by the distinction between when I’m using an activity as a part of my identity (“I am a runner”) versus pointing out that I do an activity (“I run”). This sort of nit matters to me, because the nature of self-identity matters to me. If I am a runner, but then for whatever reason I don’t run… what then am I? What fascinates me isn’t the specific verbs, but rather: What actually am I? This locks me up thinking for long periods. I write. I run. I climb. I jump. Yes, but, what am I?

I look up at the sky, wondering if I’ll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don’t. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn’t be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature.

~ Haruki Murakami from, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I enjoyed reading Murakami’s essays. Particularly because I run poorly, I wanted to know what he talks about when he talks about running. In fact, he does talk a great deal about literally running, in addition to the larger perspectives on his life for which everyone loves the book.

But one thing is for sure: I run. But I am not a runner.


Practicing peace

Walking is a deliberate, repetitive, ritualized motion. It is an exercise in peace.

The Buddhists talk of “walking meditation,” or kinhin, where the movement after a long session of sitting, particularly movement through a beautiful setting, can unlock a different kind of stillness than traditional meditation.

~ Ryan Holiday from,

Running is also a deliberate, repetitive, ritualized motion.

But gosh do I hate running. There’s no peace at all. At the very least, I’m glad that I can run (in the shoes I like to wear, for the general health of my feet,) without injury. I can go a good mile—where “good” refers to the length, I’m not cheating calling the distance “a mile”… I emphatically do not mean the running of said mile is A Good Thing. I digress. I can go a good mile and I’m confident that the next day I will not be in agony. I know that running is exceedingly good for me. I sleep better that night, am in a better mood the next morning, and something about that level of effort just turns the volume down on the rest of the world for a good day or even two.

But I know people who swear that running is peaceful. …that running is meditative. …that running is an enjoyable part of their life. …something they even look forward to.

I sure wish I could figure out how to reconcile those two alternate realities.


Creating running intervals from Morse Code

Here’s an interesting way to use Morse Code to generate running intervals. It’s complex enough to generate infinite variety, but simple enough to generate a workout quickly.

“Running” Morse Code…

The dot duration is the basic unit of time measurement in Morse code transmission.

Select a corresponding amount of running time for the basic unit; Let’s say a “dot” will be 10 seconds of running.

The duration of a dash is three times the duration of a dot.

…so we’ll be running 30 seconds for each “dash” in Morse Code.

The letters within a word are separated by a space of duration equal to three dots,

…so we’ll have 30 seconds of walking between each letter.

and the words are separated by a space equal to seven dots.

…so 70 seconds of walking between each word.

…from Basics of Morse Code,

Finally, you need a handy Morse Code converter, such as (No relationship to me.)

Build a running sequence like this…

Grab a word, phrase, whatever you want to try “running”. For example, “I AM SLOW”, in Morse Code, is:

.. / .- -- / ... .-.. --- .--

The word “I”, one letter, is simply two dots, ..
…two dots at 10 seconds each, that’s 20 seconds of running for the letter, “i”.

For the space between the words, 70 seconds of walking.

“AM” is, two letters, .- --
…dot-dash is 10+30, so 40 seconds of running
…space between letters is 30 seconds of walking
…dash-dash is, 30+30, so 60 seconds of running

Another space between words, 70 seconds of walking.

“SLOW” is four letters, ... .-.. --- .--
run 30 (S = 10+10+10)
walk 30 between letters
run 60 (L = 10+30+10+10)
walk 30
run 90 (O = 30+30+30)
walk 30
run 70 (W = 10+30+30)

…or more simply, the whole running sequence can be written:

20 / 40 60 / 30 60 90 70

You get a 70-second walking break at the “/” between words, and the 30-second walks between letters at 40-60, 30-60, 60-90 and 90-70.

More examples…

“Mississippi” leads to:
-- .. ... ... .. ... ... .. .--. .--. ..
60 20 30 30 20 30 30 20 80 80 20
(with a 30 second walk between each of those letters)

“run faster” is:
.-. ..- -. / ..-. .- ... - . .-.
50 50 40 / 60 40 30 30 10 50

…and “movers mindset” is:
-- --- ...- . .-. ... / -- .. -. -.. ... . -
60 90 60 10 50 30 / 60 20 40 50 30 10 30