Before I really get into this review, I want to say how much of a great writer Murakami is. He describes running as a metaphor to life and I for one am not only a better runner for reading this book, but a better person.
Murakami sold his jazz bar in 1982 to commit himself to writing however soon after, running became a second devotion of his. He became a serious runner later on in his life at the ripe age of 33 years. He narrates his training as 6 miles a day, 6 days a week, averagely. Murakami describes his running as average and himself as an ordinary runner. However as his tale develops it transpires that he has run over 20 marathons, all around the 3 hour 30 minute mark, as well as many triathlons, and he also holds the crown for becoming an Ultra Marathoner. Which is why I find long distance running so beautifully poetic; it is all about ordinary people doing extra ordinary things.
If I compare Murakami to myself I feel like we are not only very different runners but equally different people, and the more I turned the pages I quietly tell myself to be more like Murakami. Actually that’s quite a good hashtag; #morelikemurakami. Not that he would be at all interested in hashtags, as he confesses in the books he was still using MD players instead of iPods, which in the nougthies is rascal behaviour, however that is what I think is so precious about him.
The book is more a memoir rather than a novel or story, and in a way a collection of Murakami’s thoughts about running, harmonised with different pieces of writing extracted from magazine articles he has written and an honest and open training diary. But that is what separates ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’ from other running books I have read and really puts it in a league of its own. Not only is Murakami an extremely gifted writer but he is able to be incredibly humble in a book that is essentially about his own running achievements.
I would go as far as to not recommending this book for anyone who is new to running, for the reason that I really feel you need to have the respect for long distance running to be able to draw on the parallels Murakami draws on throughout the book. You need to understand who you are as a runner when it gets tough, when you physically and mentally cannot comprehend crossing a finish line less than 3 miles away. This book is a must for long distance runners but, most importantly, since I bought this book last year I re-read the chapters monthly, not only to ground me but to remember the true meaning of running.
Leaving you now with my favourite passage from the book and my closing thoughts. ‘When I am running I don’t have to talk to anybody and I don’t have to listen to anybody. All I need to do is gaze at the scenery passing by. This is a part of my day I can’t do without’. I am thankful for reading this book and as I said at the beginning of this review, I hope after reading to become not only a better runner but a better human.