What I Talk About When I Talk About The People Who Talk About Running

by Haniya Khalid

“Walking unlocked me”

These were the words that resonated with me after I read Get Fit With Haruki Murakami: Why Mohsin Hamid Exercises, Then Writes, a culture piece in The Atlantic that voiced Mohsin Hamid’s adoption of Murakami’s extremely simple philosophy. As I read it again, I felt as though I was slipping into the back of the lecture hall of a class I hadn’t really registered for;  I was not prepared and I don’t have any of the materials — arguably not even the capacity to attempt a passing grade — but I will stay and listen anyway.

Running unlocks me, too. It does everything it promises to: clears the fog and oils the rusty ridges and grooves of the inner thought-piled conveyor belts of my mind. It tires me, it makes me quit the day in a happy, childlike resignation.

Having spent a large part of this weekend reading (admittedly too much time on Into The Gloss, no regrets) about different primers and moisturizers, I have to also say that the best makeup is running makeup, the best primer is the thin sheen of sweat, the pink rush in the runners’ cheeks and the bright determined eyes. Running made me respect my body and my health, appreciate my own well being from tip to toe; running became as much a part of my routine as walking or talking and therefore opened up a tiny, finite universe of sorts: a universe of activities, observations and if I was lucky, then ideas.

Running reminded me, for example, that even in the most liberal, familial neighbourhoods there will always be a couple of men staring you down every time you turn the corner on the cyclical soft path, their eyes boring into your skull, then lower and lower. And while I spent, weeks, even months, lowering my gaze, lowering my entire head as I ran past this generic variety of the masculine form, I only very recently realized that I could continue running with my chin up. That I could run with my head high and still ignore them, that I did not have to choose between my steady gait and their intrusiveness, that I could lock them out just as easily as they had entered.

Running became my favorite time to listen to music, and I sampled music I can barely listen to if I am not: David Guetta, Macklemore, the repetitive beats of Daft Punk, the 90s nostalgia of Semisonic, music from live Broadway performances, from old Shahrukh Khan films, it didn’t matter, as long as I kept going.

So tonight, as I took my water break after running exactly half of my planned distance, I pulled out my phone for the always (un)necessary social media peep session. And as I ran through the myriad of painful possibilities, the problems that both existed and the ones I had created for myself, I slumped onto a nearby park bench and hung my head low, between my knees. Drops of sweat mixed with tears, maybe, I’m not sure, and burned my sensitive eyes and I started to wipe my face, forehead and neck with the back of my hand. I had nothing to do.

So I stood up and started running, and I ran and I ran and I ran until the air seared my lungs, my legs wobbled and I was done. I took another drink of cool water and rested my head against the metal water cooler, the same kind we always drank out of in school by cupping our hands beneath the inconsistent trickle. I drove home, and let the hot shower beat down on my cold, tired muscles, and got ready for bed.

Walking, or running, had unlocked me.

So if I were to take anybody’s word on life, or walking, or writing, whose word better than Murakami and Hamid themselves? If it worked for them, surely it will work for me.

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