What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami


In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Haruki Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and–even more important–on his writing. Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.

My first-ever Murakami book. Those who know how much I read and love to might wonder why I have never read his books before this. I honestly don’t know.
Murakami’s books have been on my TBR list for a long time now. The title ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ seemed more approachable than all the others.
This book is worth all the hype. Or, maybe I needed a book that was of the right pace and tone now. After my father’s prolonged illness and death, I needed to read something that soothed me.
Strangely enough, this was that book. Strange because I am not a runner or a Japanophile. Yes, I am a writer.
For me, this book is not about running or writing. It’s about life. Everything seems simple in Murakami’s world. He speaks of himself as an ordinary person trying to persist in activities, such as running and writing, in his unique way.
He does not persuade you to do any of those things. Nor does he offer advice. Yet, he inspires by showing that even a person (as ordinary as him) is capable of these things by keeping at them. He discusses running, writing, creativity, aging, and life in general.
Since this is a translation (by Philip Gabriel), I cannot comment on his writing style. It is simple, unvarnished, and meditative, which makes the book seem like a collection of unstructured thoughts.
I may not re-read it. However, I may hark back to it and look up bits and pieces from it later on.

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