I first heard about Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running three years ago in my intermediate nonfiction writing class. One of my classmates, who I knew and respected, was reading the book. She sung its praises for an entire class period, but I wrote if off because I wasn’t a runner, never thought I would be a runner, and figured it was a book only runners would enjoy.
I’m not sure if my opinion has really changed much, but I do believe this a book that every single runner should read.
It reads like a journal written over the course of a couple of years. Murakami discusses his training goals, his triumphs and pitfalls in the world of running, and the history of how he became a runner. It’s a little running geek oriented, which is why I’m still not convinced non-runners would really enjoy it. Maybe if the reader really enjoyed memoirs about sports.
He compares running to writing, and considers the personality traits he has that have made him both a runner and a writer. Finding joy in isolation. Being able to push through when things are very difficult and strenuous. Sticking to a schedule.
What really makes the book for me, however, are the little sentences that pop up unexpected. Little things that make me say yes.
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. (73)
Murakami has also done some pretty amazing things as a runner, which makes the book even easier to read. My favorite story he tells is of running from Athens to Marathon, the original marathon route in reverse. It was so incredibly hot, even though he was running early in the morning, and he basically cursed himself the entire time he did it. But he did it.
I read this in two or three sitting, but easily could have read in one. At only 175 pages it’s not a huge time commitment and a very relaxing read. The only problem was that I started reading it and then felt like going running, which interrupted my reading schedule.
But that’s not such a bad thing.