Book Review: Haruki Murakami – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

This book was mentioned at the recent Write This Run event and it turned out many in the room had read it and someone even referred to it as their ‘running bible’ so I figured I’d better grab a copy.

This book shouldn’t work. It is written by a Japanese man who runs every day. Through the book he tells the story of why he started, how he does it, how he ran some marathons and did some triathlons. My synopsis is not much simpler than Murakami’s own prose, yet somehow he imbues his words with such an obvious passion for running that it resonates with the reader on a deeper level than other books on the subject I’ve read. There’s barely a narrative through the book with the end being near the beginning, the middle being the start and the ending tailing off in a series of races that didn’t go particularly well.

And yet somehow this is a gripping read. You are left eager to see how he gets on, and what  his next challenge will be. The real success of the book though is in the humility of the author. Other running books have told a story laced with dramataic “woe is me” injuries and tales of near fatal attempts at running ultramarathons, but Murakami takes all his setbacks in his stride (pun intended) and with the same prosaic approach that we, the runner on the street, must face such trials as bad weather and twinging hamstrings.

This book didn’t teach me anything new about running, I’m not sure it will make me a better runner, but I am sure it will have a lasting effect. Knowing that it’s okay to have a bad run, or to finish a race slower than expected, and still dream about a book deal…that’s what I’ll carry with me from now on!

*Last night’s hill reps turned out not to be hill reps, but were sustained pace efforts, just as I’d done in the morning. I can only assume I’m part reptilian, because after a day in the sun I beasted the session, running hard and getting my pacing spot on. It’s nice when it all comes together like that isn’t it? 🙂

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