What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami - Book Summary - Kristopher Cook

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

As you’d expect from Murakami, this book delves into the depths of a runners mind, specifically his own, and what his motivations are for continuing to do so. It also explores the thoughts that occur while running, mostly marathons, and when sitting in his office, contemplating said runs.

What is it that makes a runners mind tick?             

Having competed in over twenty marathons, with an ultramarathon (62 miles) to his name, Haruki Murakami sits down to tell us what he was thinking.

This is a non-fiction piece, so the surrealist dreamworlds of his other works are replaced by the dry sands of the Gobi desert and the open roads of Athens.

As a runner myself, something I’ve done increasingly more of in the last few years, this book home. There are a lot of emotions to connect with, such as pushing yourself that final mile, focussing on the countryside and how beautiful life can be, or simply getting up and putting your shoes on. This is a metaphor for most things in life. If you want to start something, put on your shoes and take that first step.

Now I’ve never run a marathon, let alone an ultramarathon, but there are times that I’ve had similar feelings.

His daily routine involves waking up early, running in the morning, working on his book, relaxing and getting plenty of sleep. Simple.

In these glimpses into his life, Murakami makes jokes, mostly at his own expense. These centre around how much of a pain he can be because of his rigid routines.

I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day’s work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that.

Haruki Murakami, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

As mentioned above, I can relate heavily to Murakami’s experiences with running, and I think that’s why I adored reading this book.

My favourite section is when he describes being asked to do an interview for a running magazine, and they’re left dumbfounded when he suggests that he’d be a hypocrite if he didn’t do the marathon run himself. This is what leads him to run from Athens to Marathon early on a summer morning. The television van follows him around to get their shots, and the guy interviews him at certain points along the way.

It does raise the question though of why anyone would want to do an ultra-marathon in the first place. What could possibly be gained from it?

The Question of ‘Why Run?’

Murakami replies in kind, with achievement and self-pride. These are the things that only a real test can provide.

There are connections to his writing here.

‘What’s crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you’ve set for yourself.’


He explains that he writes his books in the same way; not to sell out bookstores or win awards, but to prove to himself that he can do it.

Closing Thoughts

Overall, I did like this book, but I’m not sure how much somebody who doesn’t run would enjoy it. Sure, it has moments that make you question your own motives for doing something, but it always comes back to running. A little faster, a little further.

With that said, if you do take pleasure in running, then I’d undoubtedly recommend What I Talk About When I Talk About Running in a heartbeat.

Filled with witty anecdotes and philosophical wonderings, it’ll give you the motivation to want to take on your own marathon… maybe!

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