What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

By Haruki Murakami
192 pp. Vintage. $15.00.

While the athletic accomplishments Haruki Murakami shares are both entertaining and reputable, it’s fair to say “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” was not intended to raise the bar of renowned running achievements. However, where I do find Murakami setting a standard is with his writing style. It’s easy to interpret his thoughts from his words. There’s a tangible, successful transfer of skilled oratory range to his eloquent writings. (I envision Murakami as talented a speaker as he is a writer.) This ease of comprehension enhanced my ability to recollect much of the book’s contents well after reading the Afterword. He’s poetic. Murakami’s words left me recollecting the smell of ocean salt as he’s telling it, seeking warmth for his interpretation of a cool New England’s autumn morning, and with a salivating mouth for one of his ritual post run beers. Likely, anyone with an interest in reading, or more accurately, writing, has in the past found themselves wanting to emulate a certain style. Admittedly, I wish I could write like Haruki Murakami.

Murakami is quite the worldly traveler. His memoir (mostly) spans Boston, Hawaii, Athens, New York City, and throughout Japan. These pages are as much about his professional experiences as they are of sport (a well received overlap as I’m often keen on learning how others find time to both run and pay the mortgage).  In his early post college years, Murakami owned a Tokyo-based jazz club. Lacking a business background, he still found a path to success. Hard work and some family business acumen on the part of his wife played roles. From here he sets course to fulfill the far flung notion of writing a novel. It doesn’t necessarily seem he’s against his life as a club owner. More so that Murakami is necessarily attracted to the idea of being a novelist. He writes 200 pages and sends the work to a magazine’s new-writers competition. His expectations can be surmised by his decision to forgo making a copy of his work before parting with it. But no matter. Murakami wins. He juggles the club and writing for awhile before forsaking the prior and wholeheartedly embracing the later.

While writing has it’s place in this book, it’s the word “running” that’s in the title. His informal Athens marathon recollection kept me engaged. In Pheidippides-like fashion, he covers the Athens to the town of Marathon distance (albeit nearly faltering due to heat stroke). Next, his sixty-two mile ultra run brought pause to my future considerations for going past 26.2. Although not for what he endured during the race. Instead, Murakami expresses a trauma-like effect in the wake of the experience, directly diminishing his drive to run. As in, if you associate Murakami’s running passion with a horse, by the end of the 62 miles he had beaten the animal to death. (Time heals wounds and later his call to run is revived.) Those with a curious interest in triathlons may find satisfaction in his plain talk of the matter. Unexpectedly, Murakami traverses the (non-running) intricacies of swimming and biking. In general, his athletic wisdom is refreshing in that he doesn’t instruct the reader how to perform better in running, biking, swimming, etc. Instead, he describes what has, and has not, worked for him. He professes his lack of desire to better anyone’s athletic accomplishments (aside from his own). A recurring theme throughout “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” reflects upon Murakami’s increasing build to the 2005 New York City Marathon. Oddly, few words are devoted to the actual event (but his talk of many other races and triathlons brought me satisfaction).


#DidYouKnow courtesy “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”: When running our knees are burdened with supporting 3 times our body weight (as each of our steps gives thrust, propelling ourselves). Notably, our soles do lessen the stress. Still, as Murakami contends, knees are not replaceable. (Not easily, anyway.)

#Follow Haruki Murakami Here