It seems like I’m doing a lot of similar things, but this is my personality. When I lived in Tokyo, I walked overnight from Mt. Takao to Shinjuku Station (the distance was about 40 kilometers and it took about 8 hours). I was always running along the river during that period (I was working part-time at a convenience store and trying to become a novelist), and have run twice from the Asakawa River in Hachioji to the Tama River. The distance was about 42 kilometers round trip.
And of course, there was a trip from Tokyo to Sendai when I came back by bicycle. The distance was about 378 kilometers and it took 33.5 hours. It seems that I certainly like to travel long distances on my own. I looked at the scenery with my own eyes, smelled with my own noses, and moved little by little. Such actions directly connected me to this world.
Most people were surprised when I talked about my personal achievements. Well, perhaps that was indeed a very normal reaction. Because it’s not very reasonable to spend time and energy to do such a thing. But such a simple acts still attracts me.
So this time, I decided to run home from the apartment near Minami-Sendai Station where I live now to Kurihara City, Miyagi Prefecture, where my parents live. Yes, they are in the same prefecture, but the two cities are very far apart. I measured the distance on Google maps and found that it was 69.48 km. In the past, when I was in college, I used to take the highway bus home (it took about an hour), but that was frankly boring, so I decided to run home.
Thinking about it again, maybe this has always been the theme of my life. “To escape from boredom.” This is probably the reason why I still can’t get a regular job. Aiming to be a novelist is like gambling (maybe the situation is the same outside of Japan). Still, I’ve been writing diligently every day, and for some reason, such acts are linked to the behavior of running in me. I read that Haruki Murakami, whom I admire, also runs long distances every day. He once ran a 100-kilometer marathon! I can’t deny that the essay at that time dominated me. He wrote that he had a religious experience at the end of the race. “My planned distance is a little short, but maybe I can have that kind of experience too”. That’s what I thought.
The problem was that I couldn’t take much time off, so I only had one day. I work part-time at a convenience store, but I can’t maintain my life if I don’t work 6 days a week (5hours a day). Moreover, New Year’s Day is a big holiday in Japan and many students took a day off, so I had to work a temporary and long shift. So I worked for more than 8 hours in a row until 10 o’clock at night for 3 days and then left in the middle of the night. It was 0:27 midnight to be exact.
I put the light on my chest and right arm and started running. I had to fight drowsiness, but a strange energy filled my body. I’ve had similar experiences before, i.e., doing weird stuff made me feel better inside. I run while being watched by the moon and stars in the dark. The cars were speeding up and heading to their respective destinations. It was never an interesting sight, a boring city view everywhere in Japan. Drug stores, electronics retail stores, car sales offices, convenience stores, supermarkets, gas stations, a residence with a poster of a smiling politician… I just ran through such a situation.
Sendai is the largest city in Tohoku, so tall buildings are lined up in front of Sendai Station. I spent my college days in this city. I lived very far away (but in the same city) and came by car. I was studying law, but it wasn’t very interesting and I was exploring the meaning of life. What I was passionate about was foreign literature, and it seemed that they were thinking something similar to me. I read Dostoevsky, García Márquez, and Franz Kafka. Of course, I also read the works of many other writers. Haruki Murakami was the only Japanese novelist who attracted me at first. Later, of course, I also liked to read the works of other Japanese writers, but at that time, he connected me to foreign literature. I remember reading Richard Broughtigan’s Trout fishing in America in the park.
Well, anyway, I kept running like that, remembering the old days in the city lights at night. In such a situation, I was vaguely thinking about Jack Kerouac’s On the Road, which I’ve been reading in English recently. Bob Dylan’s words are written on the back cover of the book( “It changed my life like it changed everyone else’s”), and you can see that it’s a book that really influenced a lot of people. The characters in the novel were looking for the value of life that can’t be measured by numbers. I completely identified myself with Sal Paradise, that is, Jack Kerouac himself. He continued to move around America in search of life experience itself. It seems that he was also attracted to Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs, but after all, the one who caught his attention the most was Niel Cassady.
Cassady was the son of an alcoholic and lost his mother when he was 10 years old. He grew up doing various wild things (for example, shoplifting and stealing cars). He was very crude, restless and inconsistent, but full of passion to know something. I think what he was looking for was to live life itself. Because that feeling was simple and pure like a child, I think we found our own lost innocence in him. But of course he had to pay the price. He couldn’t stand a stable life like a normal adult. He was always moving in search of something exciting. Such a condition led to dependence on drugs and alcohol as a reaction.
Despite such a negative side, his life force is still attractive. I also probably wanted to burn this life simply. It’s quite difficult to be original, but I think I might be able to live for a moment, that is to say, living with death here and now without thinking anything. After all, this may be the only most important thing. It needs no saying that the shape as a result will vary from person to person.
I got off topic, but while running, I was superimposing myself with Kerouac and Cassady. Two lonely men, always looking for something, but never getting it (or did they already have it?). By the way, an attractive Mexican woman named Terry appeared in that novel, and it seemed that the woman who became the model didn’t know that she was a character in a historical novel until 2010. She was born in 1920, so she was 90 (or 89) years old at that time! I loved her brother who was always laughing. I understood very well that Kerouac was also a person who wanted experience and interaction.
While running this time, I remembered that I used to drive on the same road in my car. I was unemployed at the time and lived in my parents’ house (I was 23 or 24 years old at that time). I thought I was out of the normal route and lonely and couldn’t believe in the future. But now that I think about it, I guess I just didn’t have the courage to step forward. After that, I lived in Tokyo for 7 years and came back to Sendai last May. But the desire to go back to Tokyo was also born. Tokyo is probably the most suitable place for individuals to live freely. It’s true that you have to endure a lonely life, but that’s the price of escaping from customs and boredom. In any case, the important thing is what you do there. No matter where I am, I can’t escape myself, so in the end, it’s important to create a system that lives well. A lot of people are wasting their time by getting addicted. If you can be more free, it’s a good place, and if you’re not, you’d better move. This is just my personal opinion.
It’s a terribly boring act to keep running alone in the middle of the night. I told myself that this was a kind of training, and I was only focused on stepping forward step by step. There weren’t that many cars, but they were speeding up a lot. As I left Sendai, there were fewer tall buildings. I was wondering what people were living here for. I think there is a unique sadness in the city of Japan. It mixes with boredom and enters people’s lungs. This feeling is also in Tokyo. It’s a feeling that the real and most important thing is obscured by human behavior. But we can’t survive if we leave human society. I think if we stop asking for something outside, or the situation might get better. It’s always hard to continue to train yourself and become more free.
I was very tired at the 25 km point partly because I haven’t been running much long distance recently. So I went to the toilet at the convenience store and bought a drink, a jelly drink and a protein bar. I regretted that my body got cold after drinking a cold drink, but it’s too late. I had no choice but to keep running and warm my body by doing it. Still, the temperature was high for January in this region. It rained a little on the way, but it stopped soon. When I was a child, it used to snow at this time, but recently it hasn’t snowed much. Well, anyway, I stepped forward step by step.
I listened to a radio program that I recorded in advance while running on the way. It was Peter Barakan’s program (Barakan Beat), and there was a lot of wonderful music there. He is my music teacher and I started listening to his program when I was in Tokyo. That’s why when I was driving on this road before, Haruki Murakami was my only music teacher (he loves music too). In Tokyo, I was also listening to Haruomi Hosono’s program. He is also my important teacher now.
Music gives joy, encourages the mind, and improves the ventilation of consciousness. I’m going back to the story of Kerouac again (sorry for going off topic again and again), but for example, when I read his description of jazz, I really want to play music. It’s a way to release consciousness here and now, and I think it’s valuable because it disappears in an instant. But in a sense, Kerouac created a wild groove by writing. This can definitely be said for Haruki Murakami’s writing. I’m too influenced by Mr. Murakami, so I have to get out of his magic. I also want to create a good groove by writing, that’s for sure. In order to do that, I have to build my own style. It may start with somehow surviving these seemingly boring days. My legs were getting heavier and heavier and it was hard, but I kept running while thinking about that.
The running app I was using taught me the distance, time and pace every time I ran 5 kilometers, but that time range was getting bigger and bigger. At first, I was running 1 kilometer in about 6 minutes and 40 seconds, but it gradually became 7 minutes, 7 minutes and 30 seconds, and 8 minutes… 5 kilometers started to feel very long. I wanted to punch “5 kilometers” with my fist. This is a joke, of course.
To be honest, there wasn’t much interesting after that. I was just stepping forward with my feet trying to think that I was just a consciousness and a different thing from the body that was suffering like this, but it didn’t work very well. The pain in my knees, calves and hamstrings eroded my consciousness. I was happy when I passed 42 kilometers, but it was still too early to be relieved because there were still nearly 30 kilometers left. At that timing, the night broke and I just went through the area where the rice fields spread. It’s a scenery that is ingrained in my deep memory. You can never see it in the city. A flock of swans and ducks fly in the sky and you can see the beautiful mountains covered with snow in the distance. The air was crisp and cold, and I thought nature ruled the world rather than human consciousness. People in the countryside may be quick to give up on nature. Because they have chosen to coexist instead of fighting it for a long time. Thanks to our old wisdom, we have survived. However, I think there was also an aspect of neglecting the renewal of consciousness by taking too much. There is a beautiful and deception-free light there, but human consciousness is stagnant in a sense. I think that kind of feeling doesn’t exist in the clean, well-organized, and artificial urban world.
I remember that the last 20 kilometers were quite hard. I was running hard, but the speed was no different from the walking pace of ordinary people. I was going to fall down with a little step, so I had to be always careful. I thought about walking very slowly, but I decided to run somehow until I was about to die. This felt a little strange to myself, but when I told myself that “I’m not going to die yet, I’m not going to die yet…”, my feet somehow came forward. I was trying to think only about every step in front of me as much as possible, because I was going to go crazy if I didn’t do that. The drivers of the car passing right by must have been wondering what this man was doing. But I couldn’t even afford to be embarrassed. I have my own strange rules that are difficult for others to understand. I had known that for a while. I felt lonely, but I had no choice. “Just follow the path you believe in.” I just kept repeating that phrase in my head.
I remember being extremely happy when there were only five kilometers left. I thought I didn’t have to listen to any more announcements from this app. I passed by the temple where my ancestors’ graves are, the house of a classmate of mine, the old store where I used to shop (an aggressive dog was kept there), the district meeting hall, the house of a woman who was a distant relative of mine, crossed a now white bridge whose railings were once painted yellow, and finally, I arrived near my parents’ house. The surroundings were quiet and I could hear the birds chirping. There was the old house where I grew up (so many memories were ingrained in it), and at the back of the property was a nice new house that my parents had recently built. My mother was surprised that I had arrived so early. I had told her that I would be running home, but I had not told her what time. She was stunned, but impressed with what I had accomplished.
In the end, the time taken was 10 hours and 17 minutes (including breaks), for a total distance of 69.48 km. It was the longest distance I had run in my life, and I should probably be proud of that. But my real goal is to become an original novelist, and I have yet to make any money from my writing. I decided to put this experience in writing in English. I thought that by doing so, I might be able to connect my physical experience to my spiritual development. However, my English is limited, so I had to rely on translation apps for a large part. Please forgive any unnatural parts. I would be very happy if someone somewhere in a foreign country would read this. See you soon. Take care. Bye-bye.
P.S. Actually, four days later, on Sunday, January 7, I went back to my parents’ house for the second anniversary of my grandma’s death. This time, I left at 6:30 a.m. and arrived at 11:10 a.m. It took 4 hours and 40 minutes. Biking is easy. It’s tiring, though – of course. This time I took a different route, so there were 75 km – at least it was much less strenuous than running on my own feet. For example, even if there is a steep hill, with a bicycle you can go up all the way up at once, and then there is always a downhill slope. At that point, you can rest your legs. But with running…you can’t escape the burden. Or perhaps I should say that this is the point of running.
I ended up biking back the same evening (otherwise I would not have made it to work the next day), so I rode 75 km each to and from, for a total of 150 km in one day. It was cold. There was even a dusting of snow on the way. And I was hungry. Sometimes I wonder, “What am I doing?” Well, this is my personality, so I can’t help it. But I don’t know of anything more interesting than taking on a challenge and accomplishing it. After all, staying stuck in the status quo is a bit boring. And if you don’t seek something for yourself, you will end up seeking something outside to fill the emptiness (this is a self-discipline…). I feel that if you focus on moving yourself, you don’t need to spend much money. Well, it’s a case by case basis (come to think of it, I’ve always wanted a lighter and more expensive bike… while pedaling my heavy “mamachari” – or city bike – desperately. So there are cases where it costs money). In any case, I am sure that the human spirit will become bored if we keep doing what we already know. Or at least, my spirit will.
So I am back to my usual routine. Take care, everyone. See you soon.