Thursday, September 13, 2018

"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running"

Let me clarify. Not me, Haruki Murakami.

Yea, I know, it's not one of the books in the "1001 Books..." list that I'm working through, but I've been carrying a half-read copy in my backpack for the last several months, and so I finally pushed through the second half, mostly on the metro. It was well suited for the metro - a light easy read with short chapters. I haven't read a lot of Murakami, but he's a wonderfully skilled writer; tight descriptive prose with an honestly reflective emotional core. Some of his other books are on the list, and I'm definitely looking forward to them.

But this one is an odd choice for me, frankly.

Mostly because I hate running.

I've got several friends who run for health/fitness reasons, and a few who run for...pleasure?

I guess that's why I ended up reading this book. I've never understood what it is about running that draws people to it. I don't mind the solitariness of it, but there's an interior state that some people seem to relish.

Murakami deftly articulates the appeal that running holds for him through a series of personal reminisces and reflections, and draws parallels between the commitment that running demands, and the day-to-day dedication that is required of professional authors. In reading this, it's clear that his mix of gentle self-effacement and acute self-awareness are, in part, derived from his experience as a lifelong runner. The knowledge of his physical limits, and the mature judgement to know how and when those limits can be pushed.

This provides a common theme that runs through the entire book - pushing yourself past your limits can pay off, but it can also be an act of self-sabotage.

It's a lovely little book, with some beautifully descriptive vignettes on running in Boston and Central Park, and Greece, and throughout Japan. Not my typical read, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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