What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

By Haruki Murakami


I haven’t read any of his fiction. I should, I hear that it’s great. And I love this little book, it rings as true as any training memoir I’ve read. What I Talk about When I Talk about Running can apply to any type of training or ongoing endeavour.

After thirty something years of pounding the pavement, this book focuses on ‘05 and ‘06. Training while living in Hawaii and Boston and Japan. Just running and writing and trying to get better.

No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running everyday is a kind of lifeline for me, so I’m not going to layoff or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.

The Gist

Murakami discovered running not long after he became a novelist. After running a bar he noticed that the switch to sitting down all day meant he was piling on the kilos. And smoking a lot of durries. So he started to run. Running more meant smoking less and then not at all. Running more lead to running faster and further and then to running Marathons. Now he runs one every year.

A marathon is no joke and neither is writing a novel, especially not a good one. Murakami talks about making his body stronger to handle the task of the novelist. He argues that writing is not as easy as lifting a pen or tapping at the keys but requires a laser focus. Such focus needs a strong body to house it.

His prose is lean,wiry and precise like a runner’s body. There’s muscle in the text but it’s efficient like a good stride.

This is a book that makes you want to run. To tie on some shoes and get out there. He writes of running along the river in Boston, through summer showers in Hawaii and winters in Japan. It makes you want to visit new towns and get to know them through running.

I used to run often and miss the action that it has on my thoughts. After a few kilometres of rehashing your day the mind starts to clear. As the body takes over a meditative calm descends that I love.

“The race was over. I didn’t drown, didn’t get a flat, didn’t get stung by a vicious jellyfish. No ferocious bear hurled himself at me, and I wasn’t stung by wasps, or hit by lightning. An my wife, waiting at the finish, didn’t discover some unpleasant truth about me. Instead, she greeted me with a smile. Thank goodness.”

The Lesson

Keep going. Training doesn’t stop at the finish line. Training is it’s own reward.

This is the book to give to anyone who doesn’t understand training. It’s all here. This is what I talk about when I talk about Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Or lifting weights or becoming a better writer. Hell or a better Dad or partner. Murukami puts it all in here. The repetitive action of training, of daily work to get to a far off goal. A goal that you may never get to, or that looks different when you get there. The joy of daily practice.


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