Friday, July 22, 2016

Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my first Murakami and rest assured I haven't been disappointed after all the crazy hype around his works even though this is a book which is far from what he's actually famous for as an author. Still, he's got a riveting style of composition.

This book is quite honestly strictly for runners or anyone planning to get into long-distance running. Murakami does state however that this could be taken as a brief biography of his life (minus the laborious details that oldies tend to get into when writing about their lives bordering senility) so it might interest his groupies from that respect but it is primarily about running/triathlons and how taking his body through such extreme forms of punishment has helped him become an accomplished novelist. I particularly enjoyed the read because of currently training for a half-marathon myself. Undertaking a full distance marathon is still a year away, at the very least but honestly this book has been such a massive source of motivation. So much so that today I ended up going for a 6km Murakami inspired run and made good time too even though it was supposed to be a rest day. Motivation can come from multiple and unexpected avenues I guess. I've already accomplished above and beyond what I'd ever expected of myself and hope to continue on this crazy path in hopes of realizing the goals I've set. The feeling of elation I get after every run is now tenfold having gone through hell pre- and post-ACL reconstruction surgery in November last year.

The book indulges in a fair bit of philosophical discourse in relation to life in general and how something as monotonous as running day in day out might help in achieving extraordinary levels of focus and resilience, and will power which comes into play more often than not when attempting any challenging feat - mind over matter.

One of the things I really loved was how Murakami touched on the social stigma that's weirdly attached to exercise and fitness in general. I've been the butt of a lot of taunts and jokes over the years since I've started taking care and listening to my body's feedback. But oh well, I guess one just learns to live with it and so have I. Very interesting quote from the book makes for a good response to all the naysayers:

"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 year, 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."

Another intricate detail recursive within the realm of runners and particularly very close to my heart was regarding how ordinary and mundane, dogged by similar ruts, the lives of triathletes must be outside of the competitions they take part in. They've got families and kids, and day jobs to go to hence taking time out for training must really be hard, and if I may add, absolutely impossible without support from their partners. Training for a marathon isn't only hard on the body but also on immediate relationships and social lives since the lifestyle the runner tends to follow becomes the antithesis of what generally is considered normal. Socially, my family's entertainment revolves around food with very minimal outdoor activities (BBQ is hardly an activity), therefore, declining invitations to feasts can at times have very dire consequences. These super-athletes really are a unique breed.

On a final note, this book is recommended for runners primarily. People with no interest in fitness will find the book highly pretentious and would most likely find themselves drifting away from Murakami. He's an absolutely amazing author and deserves to be read. I hope this books serves to be a source of motivation come October when I find myself nervously slipping on my running shoes for the longest run of my life until that point at time. 


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