In line with my recent running craze, another writer and runner recommended Haruki Murakami’s What I talk about when I talk about running, a memoir of sorts about Murakami’s long standing dedication to long distance running and writing, and how it all kind of links together.
It is a short and engaging book, helped greatly by Murakami’s matter-of-fact minimalist style, or at least that of the translation. And I don’t think you need to be into running to get anything out of it, but as I continue to come across writers who see running as their physical activity of choice, I think those of us who are both, recognise an affinity with the two activities.
Much of the book focusses on his preparation for the New York Marathon, how he prepares, what challenges he faces, particularly the onset of old age and inevitably slower times. Murakami’s incredibly philosophical about the whole thing and provides some honest insights into mortality and why he continues to run. It’s due to needing to keep healthy when you spend so much time as a writer at your desk, which makes sense, except weight isn’t really a concern for me (I can’t gain weight for some weird reason) so running is about keeping fit in case the bits inside me, the bits I can’t see, might be breaking down without any outward signs of my lack of health. It’s also time to think, which hasn’t exactly worked out that well for me personally yet and writing is much harder at the moment than running. You can keep running regardless of mental barriers. The process remains exactly the same. One foot in front of the other. I seem to have more control over it than I would writing sometimes, how exactly to start or attack an idea or image. Often these things puzzle me or it’s not as clear as looking ahead down a path and knowing how far left I have to go.
Through What I talk about when I talk about running, you get a real sense that Murakami is an incredibly focussed and disciplined person and that his routine means he probably doesn’t find writing as hard or sporadic as I might. It’s worth reading for writers who feel they lack motivation and discipline, as reading memoirs from writers often does.