“What I talk about when I talk about running” by Haruki Murakami (2008)
Audio book narrated by Ray Porter
It seemed appropriate, in the week leading up to my first run all year, to listen to Murakami’s ponderings on running. The book was recommended to me (as so many are) by Damian, my running mentor, and so I was keen to receive some inspiration and motivation from the book.
My expectations were met, although the book was nothing like I expected it to be. When I started listening to it I hadn’t even made the connection that Murakami is an author. I have his book, 1Q84, sitting on my waiting-to-be-read shelf, but it wasn’t until the Foreword that I realised whose writing I was listening to.
Early on, Murakami wrote that he had no intention of writing a philosophical treatise. This book was a memoir, if anything, a pondering on what running meant to him. No one had asked him to write it and he didn’t know if anyone would read it, but he wanted to put down on paper what he loved about running, why he did it, what it had meant to him during his life.
I must say that it was a challenging book to listen to, as opposed to reading. Murakami is a well known Japanese author and he wrote quite a lot in this book about translating things into Japanese and how stilted his own use of English is. In that context, I did find it quite anachronistic to be listening to a really drawly, arrogant sounding American reading it to me. No offence, Mr Porter, you’re probably lovely, but your voice was annoying.
At the core of this book is Murakami’s insistence that runners are all different and only a runner knows what running means to them and a runner is never going to convince a non-runner to become a runner. So, there’s no point in me recommending this book to you if you’re not a runner. But I thoroughly enjoyed it. And it certainly got me in the right frame of mind for Sunday’s event. I think it’s fair to say that I think of running as one of the great achievements of my 40s. Like Murakami, I do my best thinking when I’m moving. He taught me, in this book, to stay focused on my own achievements, and compete against myself. This was advice I needed to hear. Read it if it’s your thing.