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


 I have read a lot of Haruki Murakami’s novels, but never his non-fiction. His writing style is thoughtful and accessible. His love for running seems very authentic. He talks about his running making him a better writer. This touched on something I have been thinking about recently: I have started doing Pilates every day and feel much better for it. Writers so often have to be in their heads all day; perhaps this is why many writers turn to drink or become depressed. I know I struggled with this writing my dissertation: it’s difficult being by yourself all day, thinking. It is, as Murakami suggests, perhaps not the natural state for people. He talks about his running making him a better writer, it is one of the main reasons why he runs, I thought this was interesting.

Murakami is very honest about his thoughts before some of his races. He talks about how insecure he felt just before one particular race. I thought it was bizarre that such a famous and respected author would think that he hasn’t done anything worthwhile with his life, even if that was just a fleeting thought because he was nervous about the upcoming race. I suppose everybody feels like that sometimes, but most people daren’t admit it.

I like how this was a meandering book. Murakami writes a few short essays on writing over the course of a year or so. He talks about how he feels before the New York marathon, and this is what these short essays read like: talks. He talks about how he feels before a triathlon and his training for it, he talks about why he feels his times are worse than they used to be. It’s a very honest yet relaxed book. Though I did cringe when he related the times that his leg muscles would cramp up, especially during a ultramarathon that he ran which was 62 miles long! Yet this resulted in a kind of ‘runner’s blues’, which is apparently ‘just like when you lose the initial crazy feeling when you fall in love.’ In this book he tries to get that crazy feeling back, he tries to overcome his slump.

This is a autobiography of sorts too; it’s a book that doesn’t really fit one genre. Murakami says that he sees this book as ‘a kind of memoir.’ It’s about running, it’s about his life, it’s about his writing and it’s a short collection of essays and thoughts. For somebody known for being notoriously private it’s a candid account of his life and loves; many authors in the public eye wouldn’t dream of writing their insecurities down. He pinpoints the exact afternoon that he decided he wanted to be a novelist. Murakami never follows the herd – he is as individual and original in his non-fiction writing as he is in his fiction writing. He discusses how much of an author’s ‘real voice’ should be revealed in writing like this, but I thoroughly enjoyed hearing it.