By Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami is a wildly popular Japanese novelist who also has a growing American fan base. To date, Murakami has more than a dozen works of fiction but he is also a runner. One year while training for the NewYork City Marathon, he decided to keep a journal of his experiences. As he asserts in the Foreword, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is not a book on how to be healthy or how to run or even how to motivate yourself to run. Instead, Murakami simply shares what running means to him.
To set the tone of the book, Murakami notes a saying from Somerset Maugham: “In each shave lies a philosophy.” It sounds funny, but when a person does something consistently enough, the act becomes contemplative. So it is with a runner, a writer, and with many other pursuits.
Each chapter of the book stands alone. For example, in one chapter Murakami reflects on the mental preparation for a triathlon in Japan despite a total lack of confidence; later he recounts the confidence he felt when he finished his first marathon in Athens; in another chapter he reflects on language, on the difference between Japanese and English and how running can help to collect his thoughts. In contrast, Murakami also writes about how running clears the mind: “I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void. But as you might expect, an occasional thought will slip into this void …the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void.”
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a great book for someone who has read a lot of books on running and athleticism; it’s also great for someone who doesn’t care about running at all or for someone who is looking for a softer look at an active lifestyle.