A (sort of) Book Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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I received this book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami as a Christmas gift (thank you, Amazon Wish Lists – you rock!) and took it on my recent work trip (you know, the one with the bed bugs). 

This was a quick read and I really enjoyed the book. I recommend it for runners, writers, and anyone who wants to learn about the creative process and where different people draw inspiration from. 

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book (you can see all the post-its flagging them in the picture above):

On running through the pain –

“Here it is: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand anymore is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.”

For new runners – 

“When I first started running, I couldn’t run long distances. I could only run for about twenty minutes, or thirty. That much left me panting, my heart pounding, my legs shaky. It was to be expected, though, since I hadn’t really exercised for a long time. At first, I was also a little embarrassed to have people in the neighborhood see me running – the same feeling I had upon first seeing the title novelist put in parentheses after my name. But as I continued to run, my body stared to accept the the fact that it was running, and I could gradually increase the distance. I was starting to acquire a runner’s form, my breathing became more regular, and my pulse settled down. The main thing was not the speed or distance so much as running every day, without taking a break.”

On running the original marathon route in Greece – 

“I can’t imagine how this was where, several thousand years ago, the Greeks defeated the invading Persian army at the shore in a ghastly battle. I sit at a cafe in the village and gulp down cold Amstel beer. It tastes fantastic, but not nearly as great as the beer I’d been imagining as I ran. Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness.”

On pushing your limits – 

“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.”

On adopting a mantra – 

“Ultimately, using every trick in the book, I managed to grit my teeth and make through thirteen miles of sheer torment. 

I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead. 

That’s what I told myself. That’s about all I thought about, and that’s what got me through. If I were a living person of blood and flesh I would have collapsed from the pain. There definitely was a being called me right there. And accompanying that is a consciousness that is the self. But at that point, I had to force myself to think that those were convenient forms and nothing more. It’s a strange way of thinking and definitely a very strange feeling – consciousness trying to deny consciousness. You have to force yourself into an inorganic place. Instinctively I realized that this was the only way to survive.”

 The final dedication of the book – 

“Finally, I dedicate this book to all the runners I’ve encountered on the road – those I’ve passed, and those who’ve passed me. Without all of you, I never would have kept on running.”

What is the title of a great book you’ve read recently? Comment below! 

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