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Book Review – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I think my book slump has finally ended! I’d heard of my latest literary conquest while browsing an old issue of Runners World and I’m so glad it came up in my book queue when it did. I was gearing up to race the R Baby Mother’s Day 4 mile race and trying to get my running groove back. I know I go through phases with running, but I struggle with all the mind games I start to play when my running shoes have been in the closet for more than a few days.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami, is truly a meditation on running. A dramatic departure from his other books, WITAWITAR is a collection of diary entries, mixed in with recaps of races he wrote for running magazines and interviews. Much of the book is a tribute to Murakami’s love of long distance running, a passion he began cultivating at the respectable age of 33. He describes, with vivid detail, some of his favorite, and most challenging runs. And he highlights the many ways in which running and writing have become inextricably connected in his life. Both require talent, focus and endurance. This is why Murakami has run and written every day. And he has run a marathon almost every year since he began running.

The commitment to the practice of his trade, and to his passion, is remarkable and humbling. When I raced in Central Park on Mother’s Day, I chuckled as I remembered Murakami’s musings on how quiet his mind becomes when he runs. “Essentially I’m not thinking of a thing…all I do is keep running in my own cozy, homemade void.” I tried to absorb every moment of the race, mulled over each signal my body was sending me. I pushed through my fatigue because “It’s precisely because of the pain,” Mr. Murakami writes, “precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive.” And what do you know, I came out the other side with a new 4-mile PR: 33:15. That’s an 8:18/mile average, folks, and boy did I feel alive after that!

I might not be signing up to run from Athens to Marathon in the middle of the summer (Murakami did this) or running a 62-mile ultramarathon anytime soon (he did this too), but I am definitely excited to hit the streets consistently, to build up my own habit and commitment to regular running. And I’m also dying to read more of Murakami’s books! In the meantime, I’m going to read and re-read this interview. Enjoy!

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7 Responses

  1. Oooo sounds like a great read!

  2. What an interesting book – I will have to go and check it out!!!

  3. I really want to read this book!! It’s right up there on the list with Born to Run.

  4. Norweigan Wood by Murakami was good.

  5. I LOVED that book. I let someone borrow it and never got in back 😦

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