I recently finished listening to the audiobook What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, by Haruki Murakami. I don’t know how to write a proper book review, nor do I actually care to know, to be honest. However, I thought I’d write my impressions of it for consideration of writing such a book myself, having been a runner for almost 25 years now, and not shy to writing collections of vignettes. I didn’t keep great notes during those years, not even racing stats, but I’ve just started a new phase of running where I am running differently, and have technology for it like never before in the form of a Garmin. So perhaps I can write that running book, a sequel to a book I had never written, with some flashbacks to what would have been in that prequel. That’s possible, is it not?
The part I enjoyed most about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running wasn’t actually about running. It was about writing, as Haruki Murakami is a writer by trade, and likely by identity first if someone were to ask him to describe himself. Being new to writing, and hearing he was a writer, that was also what drew me to the book. So to that end, I was not disappointed.
As for the running part, writing about stats, training routines, and such, would be quite boring, in my opinion. That I did not want to see, or hear, about, and that I didn’t much so that was great. A little for context, sure, for the far more interesting insights of how the person felt while doing some of them, from general feelings, to their impact, to insights into them from how to do them, or not, to their perceived value, and maybe how they changed the person. However, it was all too much the same type of running for my taste, aside from a few memorable runs that were more like adventures that involved running, even, rather than memorable runs. It’s like generally the same training just done over and over again, with a few scenery changes, with the odd adjustments due to reactions to life events and changes, rather than running with training plans, intended changes, and so on. For that kind of training, one would expect some improvement from the get go, with the occasional set back, peaking in about ten years as most do in distance running with consistent training, then having the effects of age draw one back down.
Somewhat interestingly, the training the author took was how the book felt to me. While that may not sound flattering, it’s actually a compliment to how the author was able to capture the feel of his running training in what he talks about when he talks about running, with much of it being a sharing of his running experiences. It was just that, for me, his running experiences weren’t all that interesting besides those few adventures. It felt a bit lacking in meaning, though it written and read very meditatively, somewhat like how general running is, if one didn’t vary running much with planned hills, intervals, long, recovery, short, trail, road, and other kinds of runs. I got the feeling that if he hadn’t been a writer, the book could have been a real drudge. Contrast that to me not being a writer, but with more interesting running experiences, could end up making my book a real drudge when it shouldn’t be. That natural talent the author had for writing, with someone lacklustre content, transferred to running results, is what led me to summarize how I felt about the book as “a 50 minute 10k”. It’s not bad. Well ahead of average time (about 58 minutes factoring in gender demographics of 10k races), but on natural potential applied to generically consistent training.
Notes for me and my possible running book
On the same analogy, I feel I could write a “40 minute 10k” running book, with more varied experiences, including over 30 marathons dedicated to people as a motivation, such that there are at least that many stories. A book on the adventures of each marathon would also be fun, or even just the one memory I took from each, that I have been telling myself I should write, would be entertaining enough on its own, never mind the whole running story! But on running as a whole, there was also some training with elites, some exposures to their experiences besides training with them as an above average runner fortunate to be allowed to do so. There’d also be lots of considerations of what I’d put my body through, and what I wouldn’t, like the economics of running psychology. There were ebbs and flows, life priorities and life second priorities. There’s the running poem collection, among many other personal running experiences considering how I think of running as being where I get answers from the divine regarding my life questions! Finally, hopefully still, there’d be an actual 40 minute 10k story from this second phase of running. I had done 39:20 for a personal best in my first phase.