September 25, 2013

What I'm Reading Wednesday: Running Inspiration

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami
Goodreads SummaryIn 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a dozen critically acclaimed books, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and—even more important—on his writing.

Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and takes us to places ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him. Through this marvelous lens of sport emerges a panorama of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments, his passion for vintage LPs, and the experience, after fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in running.

My thoughts:  This book was not what I expected, but I really enjoyed it.  I was expecting more of a memoir about Murakami's experiences in running through his life, but really What I talk about was more of a stream of consciousness at times.  Murakami jumped around time periods between the present tense while writing and past memories of races and training experiences.  Once I got used to the format, I really appreciated the candor, honesty, and insights.  I love how Murakami talks about the "void" you find as a long distance runner--the point after which everything calms down and your mind quiets.  I know that during a short run, my mind runs a mile a minute working out my "issues," but during a long run everything goes quiet--all I can focus on is forward motion.  I also love how Murakami's insights aren't all about running--they go beyond running and into the runner, into life.  Some of my favorite quotes:

I look up at the sky, wondering if I'll catch a glimpse of kindness there, but I don't. All I see are indifferent summer clouds drifting over the Pacific. And they have nothing to say to me. Clouds are always taciturn. I probably shouldn't be looking up at them. What I should be looking at is inside of me. Like staring down into a deep well. Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative often self-centered nature that still doubts itself--that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I've carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I'm not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I've carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.

People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they'll go to any length to live longer. But 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 then in a fog, and I believe running helps you to 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, for writing as whole. I believe many runners would agree.

Nothing is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness. 
((^Again, love the honesty.  Because yes, runners get delusional at the end of a long run, and yes, it's beautiful.))

3.5/5 stars
(As always, cover photo and summary are borrowed from!)

What have you been reading this week?
What are your favorite running  books?  While I liked this one a lot, my favorites are still The Courage to Start and The Nonrunner's Guide to the Marathon for Women.  

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy these so much. I need to start doing them but not today. But thanks!


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