THE BOOK REPORT: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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

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At 33 years old, acclaimed Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami started his writing and running careers, both of which because he wanted to. In this memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, Murakami puts into words what many runners just leave in their minds.

From the start of the book, Murakami has two goals: to train for the New York City marathon and to finish this marathon with a smile. Murakami takes the reader on runs in blissful Kauai, Hawaii; around the Charles River in Cambridge, Massachusetts; through Jingu Gaien, Tokyo; and along the congested Marathon Avenue in Greece. There are also marathons in New York, Boston, and Narashino (Chiba Prefecture, Japan), as well as triathlons, and finally the 62-mile ultramarathon!

One of my favorite parts is the 1983 Athens solo run he does backwards along the original marathon course. A men’s magazine had asked him to write a travelogue as a running novelist. Although the original course of the marathon in Greece has become a major highway full of dead animals and cars whizzing by, and although the magazine encourages him to stop due to the overwhelming heat, Murakami’s determination to complete what he’s started carries him through to the end.

As a runner, I can relate to the range of emotions a runner experiences. Murakami doesn’t glorify running; rather, he seeks to explain what it is he goes through. At the end of some races, it’s not reward he feels, but relief. He keeps things interesting by transforming himself. What I learned from him was not what the runner goes through, but how the rhythm of running, like writing, has to carry over to the next day to keep up its momentum.

Having always said that I need to run to be able to express myself, I now understand even more, why Murakami is such a fantastic writer. I never got such a great glance into what he’s all about as I did through reading this book. I’ll admit, I missed his fiction at times, but reading this was well worth it to see how Murakami can create what he does.

Christine Thelen

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