I recently read Haruki Murakami’s “What I talk about when I talk about running“, an autobiographic tale of a serial marathon-runner and world-renowned author.
The unparalleled bliss that comes somewhere after 50 minutes of running, when the pulse is in resonance with the cosmic heart-beat and endorphins perform somersaults in the air above your head is an indisputable fact.
I ran a semi-marathon once and every time the season of longer and brighter days kicks in, I am somehow compelled to start running.
However, my most constant an unquestionable relationship is that to walking. As a general rule, wherever my feet can take me, I will go. The more I think of it, the more I realise what an intrinsic part of my life it has always been. I grew up in a car-less family. From going to school and running errands to recreation and holidays, walking was a very natural part of our daily life and it is still something that connects me to my kin.
During my university years, I managed to wear out several pairs of pants. One by one they would succumb to friction and the kilometres traveled on foot. Funnily enough, my shoes resisted much better.
I was a mean walker. I am still fast, but used to be even faster. I always walked with determination and speed. Walking duels with fellow pedestrians were not uncommon. My competitors would most of the time be male. Consciously or unconsciously they would speed up as I threatened to overtake them. And most often I did.
Remove walking from my everyday routine and I am frustrated. While in India a couple of years ago, it took me a week to figure out how to cross the street in one piece. I was heavily walking-deprived by then. Once I had mustered the courage to challenge my way over the zebra crossing, I could breath out and reclaim normality.
Walking does definitively not sound as spectacular or sexy as running. It is a form of low-intensity exercise though, which probably matches my personality quite well. Intensity mellowed down by constancy and endurance.
Walking also perfectly reflects a favourite oxymoron, σπεῦδε βραδέως, which more or less translates into “rush slowly”. For me this is how intensity, focus and intention all come together gracefully.
I do not need to walk for miles to fetch water; nor did I ever have to cross mountainous terrain to go to school. I don’t need to walk to the nearest village to go to the doctor. However, I don’t only walk for the mere sake of walking. It is in many ways an instrumental element of my life, embedded into my activities. It is like a useful relationship of give and take that I nurture. What I invest in it returns to me in increments of well-being.
When I am outside walking, surrounded by people, nature or urban landscapes, I am in a realm where opposites meet and through some kind of fast-paced magic, manage to coexist in harmony creating functional beauty.
For all of those reasons, and many more, I walk. And as I keep on walking, I learn how to balance discipline with joy, inertia with activity, relaxation with focus. I hope that walking will continue being a source of enjoyment and learning for many more healthy years to come.