So, Suffering is Optional?

A few days ago I finished reading “The Book Thief” and have been trying to decide what book to read next.

My Short list (in order of preference):

But then I remembered that Daniel had read a few months ago a book about running. Back when he bought it, I thought “yuck, how boring!” Even now, I have to admit, I have my doubts as to the entertaining value of a book whose title is “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” I mean, come on. What’s up with that title, anyway? But Daniel swears by Murakami so I decided to give it a go.


I’ve only read the introduction, so don’t expect a review of the book here. No, I want to talk about a specific quote from the book. It’s a type of mantra one marathon runner says he uses during his runs:

“Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.”

Now, I’m sure you and I can find a thousand ways in which these two simple sentences can be applied to everyday life. But I like to keep things simple, so I decided to put the mantra to the test in what else, but running. Well, to be exact, I thought, what if the simple act of reciting this mantra as I’m running up the Hill of Death (a.k.a Fort Tryon hill parallel to Dyckman St) can propel me to reach the top w/out resorting to that other dreadful way of getting from here to there known as walking?

Short Answer: Not really.

Long Answer: Watch the video below (WARNING: possible side effects include dizziness, shortness of breath and nausea)

I have to say that Murakami (quoting the runner) has a point. Suffering, in many cases, IS optional. And so, I choose not to suffer. At least not that much.

Yes, I would have felt incredibly proud had I kept running up that god forsaken hill. But since I don’t carry a defibrillator with me on my runs I’d rather be safe than dead.

The good news for today is that we finished the whole loop around the park. We usually stop at Sir William’s dog run for Zeus to get some play time, but because it was a bit wet today we just kept going home.

All in all, a good run.

PS. In honor of Murakami I decided to change the name of the blog to “Running is Optional” from “nyMESH.” What was up with that title, anyway?

Today’s route:

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10 thoughts on “So, Suffering is Optional?”

  1. Out of breath just watching that. One of my adjuncts told me the other day he saw me running in Central Park. I said he was being very diplomatic, but not a very accurate reporter, if he thought that was running…

  2. You know I loved The Obscene Bird of Night, but I’m not sure it’s a book I’d *recommend* for obvious reasons, namely that in addition to being difficult, it is quite unpleasant. If you give it another go, I’d say the running mantra PAIN IS INEVITABLE; SUFFERING IS OPTIONAL would apply. ;)

  3. Linnea, I think you should give running a go. You might be surprised after a few weeks how good it makes you feel…after you’re back home from a run.

    Tim, I’m sure you were doing fine at Central Park…one of these days I’m going to challenge you in one of your triathlons…give it a few years.

    Gena, and now you tell me? Dan bought me that book because I kept nagging him after your hubby recommended it. And ever since then he’s been “are you gonna read it? you have to read it, I bought it for you.” I’ll read it some day. Not sure when, but at the very least, I’ll try it again. I’ve tried 100 Years of Solitude three times already (mostly because it bores me).

    Lakshmi, I think a lot of us CUNYs have that book on a bookshelf.

  4. HI! I’m Jenn. Gena told me about your blog because I’m one of those running types. :)

    I love the Murakami book. Hope you enjoy it.

    And hills are death–I know because I live in Hill Town and have to run on them because running on the treadmill is SO NOT AN OPTION. Well, at least not a daily one. The good thing, though, is that they make flatland running feel a lot easier, if they don’t kill you first…

  5. a play by play ….. heh-huh. heh-huh heh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huh oh shit! heh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huh jeeeeez! heh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huh d.an.i.el…heh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huhheh-huh. heh-huh ….
    this is music to my ears…. u go girl…. m

  6. Hey Jen, thanks for stopping by to give me your words of encouragement. And believe you me, I think about flatland and downhills as I’m going over…but before long I only think of survival. Then I think of flatland again while I’m walking the rest of the way up.

    Maury, Maury, Maury…this might be the only video in a long while that I haven’t had to transcribe…Thanks for doing that for me! But ahem…you missed a “No!” directed at Zeus when a couple of dogs walked by and he tried to take a whiff.

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