“Why do we keep on running?”
The question pops up in my mind as I jog around the dazzling route of Yangmingshan National Park—home for the tallest peak in Taipei City, Qixing Mountain.
I am in the middle of my evening jog, starting from Chinese Culture University, with the Yangmingshan Bus Station as the goal. It is the last stop for a bus from the city. From there, people should take a smaller minibus if they want to explore the mountain.
It is around 4.30 PM and Yangmingshan views are great as usual. The weather is perfect. As I run along the curvy road, I can see the greenery valley on my left and the sun setting down in far away sky. The road is calm. Only several cars and buses coming along in my hour or so of jogging. Along the road, there’s also a small river, flowing to somewhere only God know.
Off course it is just a beginner route, but still, for a beginner runner, it surely doesn’t feel like one. When I check my maps, it’s supposed to be merely a three miles route back and forth. But it’s a mountain indeed. The first mile is easy, just a flat course with some turn. But the rest is none like that. It is curvy, with a steep dan drastic change in elevation. In every corner, where you think you have conquer the worst, another steeps are waiting there to challenge you. As if it is a never-ending one.
Soon, my leg begin to stiff. Heartbeat increased. Sweat is coming from all over my body although the air is getting cold. It’s probably at the third or fourth steep that I started to doubt whether I can make it. I want to run, not walk, until the finish line. But probably there are storm we can’t weather—yet. It’s my first time to jog along the route, and I haven’t run for quite a long time. I slowed down. And I started to walk.
I’m little bit upset, but not much. At least, I said to myself, I have to make it to the finish line. So I walk one or two steeps. And when my leg begin to cooperate, I run. And run again. It’s a painful one. Forcing your stiffen leg to keep on swinging, while you breath heavily. As I keep on running, the sky is getting dark. When the night come, Yangmingshan can be a very cold place.
That’s when the question come.
Why do all the hard stuff. Why don’t I just resting in my place, warm and cozy under the blanket, reading some book while listening to Bach’s cello suite (I do it often though, to be honest).
Perhaps there’s something about running that interest me.
Maybe I should blame Haruki Murakami for this. I never felt that running are interesting untilI I read his memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk about Running. In it, he juxtapose his love of running with his writing life. It’s a wonderful book. It made me start to run.
Is it because the satisfaction I’m going to get if I can conquer myself? Giving one more step when my leg said no, as if there’s no limit to it. It seems like I can always pushing myself beyond. A second faster, and a mile further. The joy when I’ve done what I thought could never been done.
Or probably because running is different from other form of sports. I think it is more of contemplative than competitive. We already have a lot of competition in life, why add another one? It’s amazing how our mind can be so still while our leg are moving constantly. When I run, I worry less about others and focused on myself. I can think about whatever I want, imagining about everything, or just reflecting on my day. Maybe it sound a little bit selfish, but when I run, it’s a me time. An expensive moment in this hurried world.
Or simply because I started to love running, and it is worth it to fight for.
I don’t know.
As it’s getting darker, I come pass a small park with a Chinese style gazebo. The finish line should be near already. As I meet another turn, I can see a brighter light behind it. In the right, there’s a famous coffee chain store and just across it, right in front of me, the Yang Ming bus station. The last stop for any bus coming from Taipei city. My finish line.
When I reach it, there’s a smile on my face. I cannot yet do like what Murakami wants to write in his future tombstone: “at least he never walk.” But I will surely come back and try again. I sit in the bench while others wait for the bus. I rest a bit, getting my breath and giving my lazy leg the rest it deserved. After awhile, I get up and prepare myself. It’s time to run again.
And there’s still another miles to go.