What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Yes, if you’ve ever read a Murakami story. Yes, if you ever lace up a pair of trainers and run to your own personal rhythm. Yes, if you’re interested in the art of the novel. Yes, if you’re none of those.
You’ll find a friend in these pages.
As you would expect from a writer of his pedigree, a book about the activity he has pursued since 1982, running, is about much more that the running-averse can get their teeth into. As the writer himself says in Chapter One: “running is both exercise and a metaphor.” (p10) This philosophy is made apparent in the approach he has taken to writing and presenting this book, and he subsequently reveals much of his inner-self as reflections upon the choices he has made and those activities he has chosen to pursue.
This is not a brash book revealing a brash personality boosted by the buzz of running. No, it’s a book about an individual constantly reinventing and fighting to find elements of a self that he is content to call his own. I think this is something we can all relate to, whatever lifestyle choices we make or have made.
Of course, as a runner, a reader of Haruki, and a bit of a word-doodler, you could say that this is a book tailored to me. But its reach is far broader than that. As a reader, I enjoy opening my mind to experiences and insights that lie beyond my own world, as you can only really be enlightened by that which you don’t already know or have realised – and my engagement was thus rewarded here.
That’s not to say that, as I have already mentioned, it doesn’t have any value for those to whom it appears to be made – far from it. Through reading the reflections of someone as perceptive as Murakami on issues we have all wrestled with or experienced, you are able to smile at a metaphorical moment shared and/or be comforted by a familiar problem or obstacle surmounted.
For me, the time with this book was like time spent with a good friend: we talked, we laughed, we consoled, we supported, and then we went home. It was all-too-brief and we haven’t changed the world, but it was special and a great comfort to us both.
For those of you whose world of experience falls beyond that of Haruki, running and writing, you are, therefore, in a position to be enlightened, in some small way, about an aspect of each, which takes me back to what I enjoy about a book and, consequently, makes me think that you’d enjoy it, too.
Which is a long-winded way of reiterating that I think there is something in this short book for everyone that, whilst not maybe world-changing, is life-affirming and entertaining, and isn’t that really enough to expect?