For those who know me IRL, it seems crazy that I’d ever read a book about running. Come on, I run half a block and I’m totally out of breath, begging my 7-year-old for mercy.
But Murakami got me there, and I have him to blame that Goodreads now recommends me books like “Lore of running” or “Marathon: the ultimate training guide” (algorithms beware: I’m a tough cookie to crack).
As a matter of fact I have been misled by the French title, that reads as: Portrait of the writer as a long-distance runner. It got me thinking that Murakami was doing a kind of deep metaphoric parallel between running and writing.
Yes he does, sort of, but it’s also as straightforward as the Carver-inspired English title: “what I talk about when I talk about running”. He just means business.
The book is about his passion for running, why he came to this discipline when he decided to become a professional writer (as a way to keep fit after his more physically active first career as a bar owner), and how he trains for various races and why on earth he would impose himself such an ordeal a to run an ultra marathon or a triathlon (he admittedly hates cycling).
I liked the tone of the book, decidedly humble and down to earth (no pun intended). Murakami doesn’t take himself to seriously (although he’s dead serious about never walking in a race) and he doesn’t even try to convince you that running is the best sport ever and that you have top run a marathon otherwise you’re a loser (running has become such a competitive fashion these days that I’d feared the preaching): he’s clear that not everyone is made for it and will love it. More often that not it feels like getting a peek into his private diary and running log.
It was hard for me to relate to his experience, but I enjoyed his honesty and his direct very visual sense of painting a scene (he ran in many places, among them Cambridge, Mass. where we intend to go later this year). At the end I was moved and surprised how he touched the universal subject of getting old and the ineluctable limitations of our body.
PS. The book was not enough to make me want to run, but it’s a great motivational reading for anyone who wants to get fit and develop good habits!