23 January 2009

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

8 Jan 09
6 miles 48.50 - freezing weather, it's minus 5 Cº. I put on thermal longjohns under running tights, cover my face with aloe vera lotion and put on sheepskin mittens over runners' gloves. When we come back dogs get warm milk outside, but I retreat inside for stretching - in this weather muscles seize up very quickly.

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a new book by Haruki Murakami, the award winning Japanese writer. Since the 80-s he has been running in at least one marathon a year and has completed many triathlons and super-endurance races - while producing book after book. I was given it for Christmas and have just finished.

I think it is the best book about running ever written.

It is not a training manual, though there are tips for training, staying fit and avoiding injuries. It is not a collection of reviews of races in which he took part, though preparing for a marathon is described in detail, with schedules, times and tips gear. The power of Murakami's writing is in explaining what it is that makes running so special and how it blends in with creative life.

Here is a passage:

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

And for me the book is specially appealing, because Murakami started running in 1982 - the same year as me, and, again just like me, in Tokyo. He describes the same routes I used to pace - the footpath around the Imperial Palace and the Jingu Stadium.

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