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Posts Tagged ‘what i talk about when i talk about running’

I am a runner who reads. I am a demanding and smart reader of all sorts of books, but am constantly on the hunt for well-written and thoughtful narratives — either fiction or nonfiction — about running. While I am willing to make certain exceptions to my standards for books about running, I still want to feel like the book was worth the effort (which is, concidentally, how I like to feel when I finish a race). I also read narrative books about running for inspiration and motivation in my own practice of the sport.

So when I heard the renowned novelist Haruki Murakami was writing a short memoir about his years of long distance running, I couldn’t help but get my hopes up that What I Talk About When I Talk About Runnning would be¬†almost as good as setting a new PR. Knowing Murakami’s reputation, I thought if he could avoid self-indulgence, and maintain a thoughtful approach, chances were good that WITAWITAR would be an fine additon to the slim canon of books about running.

As expected, Murakami is an excellent writer, and, as hoped, gently and sincerely explains his experience of long distance running. There is much here that daily runners, marathoners, ultramarathoners, and even triathletes will identify with and understand. Non-runners and Murakami fans will appreciate the passages where he shares a little of his years as an owner of jazz clubs, how his first novels were written and published, and what the writing process is like for him. I wasn’t so interested in that and skipped ahead a little; I’d say about 25% of the book is non-running.

Reading this book made me feel like Murakami is now part of my circle of running buddies; the thoughts he shares are the kinds of runnerly, intimate things we chat about as we trot through a long & slow one. He understands about pain, specifically about the attraction marathoners have to the pain of mile 22.

WITAWITAR is worth reading if only for this one line:

“Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself.”

Lucky for us, this isn’t the only line that captures the truth of running. Runners, I say to you: Read This Book for an articulation of why we love what we do.

*This review is also published on Goodreads.com. And read Sarah’s review of an excerpt that was published in The New Yorker several weeks ago.

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