What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

I can’t remember the last time I read a whole book in a single day! But that’s what happened with Haruki Murakami’s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, while I was traveling in Europe. It felt like a very meaningful book in a very meaningful moment for me.

I borrowed the book from my friend Dylan. And it was a bit of a joke between us, as he was reading it over the previous month or so, that I would regularly ask: “Well, so what is Murakami talking about, when he talks about running?!?” And Dylan never gave a very straightforward answer. He actually made it sound like it was a pretty simple, straightforward journal of a man preparing to run the New York City Marathon.

I read things very differently, though, as I zoomed through the book. It feels like Murakami and I are on a pretty similar wavelength: on running, writing, identity, aging… It was really a delight to find a kindred spirit in the pages of this book!

What is Murakami talking about when he talks about running? I believe he’s talking about aging! He’s talking about perseverance. He’s talking about the way that his career has unfolded — not always in line with his expectations. He’s talking about his understanding of himself and the world around him. It’s so ordinary, and so beautiful. I don’t know how much a person has to understand running and writing and aging in order to make all the connections — but man! This book hit the spot for me!

One particularly meaningful passage of the book came at almost exactly the half-way point:

People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life — and for me, writing as well. I believe many runners would agree.

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

I definitely agree. If you couldn’t already tell my feelings towards the book: I really enjoyed it. I feel like it connected with my interests and circumstances more powerfully than most books. Murakami speaks with a simple elegance about a lifetime of moving “toward a taciturn, unadorned maturity.” And I relate to that. This book motivated me to keep chugging along deliberately, day-by-day, even when it seems to be a situation of diminishing returns. In life, love, family, and faith, I want to just keep running as far as my legs will take me.

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