7 Pieces of Running Wisdom From a Famous Writer

In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir, Haruki Murakami chronicles his development as, you guessed it, a runner. Reflecting on his experiences as a marathoner, ultramarathoner, and triathlete, the Japanese writer charts the courses of his races and his workouts, and, in this way, invites his readers into the physical and mental journeys of a runner. Along the way, he tells the story of how he became a writer. (Spoiler alert: Running and novel writing are good companions.)

If you’re a fan of Murakami’s fiction, you know to expect surreal landscapes and fantastical characters, a blurring of the real and unreal. In What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, though, Murakami’s prose is clear and insightful, more akin to that of Raymond Carver (to whom the book’s title pays a nod). Here’s how Murakami begins a chapter on running an ultramarathon in Hokkaido: “Have you ever run 100K in a single day? The vast majority of people in the world (those who are sane, I should say) have never had that experience.” Murakami, though, is no elitist. The race, he reveals, “was draining physically,” and leaves him with what he terms “runner’s blues.” I won’t reveal how the author overcomes his fatigue, but I will say that he does – and he does so with wisdom and an even keel.

This is a terrific book to pick up when you’re looking for inspiration (about anything) and just have time to read a quick chapter. It’s the sort of book that encourages thoughtful meditation. And, it’s a book that invites you, too, to reflect on the role fitness plays in your own life. Perhaps Murakami’s memoir will inspire you to start writing, too. In the meantime, here are my favourite seven take-aways. They’re about running, but they’re also about living a purposeful life.

  1. “For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elate myself. At least that’s why I’ve put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level…The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday.”
  1. “In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.”
  1. “I don’t think it’s merely willpower that makes you able to do something. The world isn’t that simple. To tell the truth, I don’t even think there’s that much correlation between my running every day and whether or not I have a strong will…I’ve been able to run for more than 20 years for a simple reason: It suits me.”
  1. “No matter how much long-distance running might suit me, of course there are days when I feel kind of lethargic and don’t want to run. Actually, it happens a lot.”
  1. “Sometimes taking time is actually a shortcut.”
  1. “Through experience you learn how to compensate for your physical shortcomings.
  1. “One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can…I am, after all, a long-distance runner.”

Related Articles