When I started really getting into running, I was reminded by Ash at English Major’s Junk Food that Haruki Murakami wrote a book about running called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. I love Murakami so was really excited to read this book. I ended up putting it down for a while in favor of more instructional running books like Marathoning for Mortals and The Competitive Runner’s Handbook. I’m really glad that I decided to take it home with me for my Christmas vacation because I really enjoyed it.
Murakami’s writing style translates well to a memoir about running. I knew going in that he runs one marathon every year, but I had no idea that he has run an ultramarathon and also competes in triathlons. Some of the most interesting parts of the book are his descriptions of the experiences of running these types of races. My favorite part was the story of his first marathon. Instead of entering a race, he decided to run the original marathon course from Athens to Marathon in Greece. He did this in the middle of summer by himself with a van riding beside him to give him water. This was such an amazing story because I can’t imagine wanting your first marathon to be so grueling.
There were many parts of the book that had me nodding and thinking, “Yes!” This passage from page 9 was one of them. It is exactly how I feel about running:
“It’s just that for some reason I never cared all that much whether I beat others or lost to them. This sentiment remained pretty much unchanged after I grew up. It doesn’t matter what field you’re talking about–beating somebody else just doesn’t do it for me. I’m much more interested in whether I reach the goals that I set for myself, so in this sense long-distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mine.”
I am not competitive at all. I don’t mind winning, but I’d rather not compete in the first place. I also get pretty uncomfortable around people who are really competitive so running is a great sport because they aren’t competing with me. I’m waaay behind the people who are going to be fighting for first place!
He also discusses how great running is for people who are solitary by nature. I am an introvert who has to be an extrovert at work. (Yes, public librarians have to talk to people all day.) After working with the public for most of my working hours, I love just running for a long time by myself. It recharges my batteries and helps me to be ready for spending time with other people. It is completely “me time” that no one can interrupt.
I highly suggest this book to anyone who is interested in running. Murakami talks about his writing process also, but not so much that I can say for sure that a non-runner would like the book. Check it out from the library to see if it’s interesting to you or read the first few pages in the bookstore.