Running, a simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, can lead to profound insights and experiences. This was beautifully captured in Haruki Murakami’s account of his journey as a runner, as detailed in his book “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.” Through this personal narrative, Murakami not only shared his love for running but also the parallels he drew between running and writing, shedding light on the mental and physical challenges of both pursuits.
Murakami’s story began during a time when he was running a pub and writing on the side. He grappled with the decision of whether to fully commit to writing, much like how modern YouTubers contemplate transitioning to full-time content creation. Ultimately, he chose to chase his passion for writing and started running as a way to fill the void left by his pub’s closure. What he discovered was far more than he anticipated: a profound sense of freedom and clarity that only running could provide.
In his early thirties, Murakami embarked on his running journey. He started with basic running and gradually pushed his limits, experiencing the unique euphoria that runners often describe. He highlighted his almost meditative state while running, where passing thoughts were like fleeting clouds that didn’t linger. Murakami’s ability to detach from his thoughts and be in the present moment during his runs became an addictive and liberating experience.
This state of “flow,” where the body and mind synchronize seamlessly, is akin to what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls a state of optimal experience. It’s when the act becomes so engaging that the person loses track of time and self-consciousness. Murakami’s description of this phenomenon echoed Csikszentmihalyi’s theory and emphasized the powerful connection between focused engagement and achieving extraordinary results.
As Murakami ran, he observed his surroundings and drew inspiration from his environment. Just as writers find inspiration in the world around them, runners like Murakami see the beauty and rhythm of life during their jogs. He recounted instances where he saw monuments in Rome, a girl with a shaking ponytail, and the changing outfits of an Indian lady – all minor yet meaningful details that enriched his running experience.
Through his account, Murakami also compared running to the writing process. He highlighted the mental battle required to push through physical exhaustion, drawing parallels to the determination needed to find the right words when writing. He discussed the challenge of persevering in the face of writer’s block, comparing it to the urge to stop running when the body is fatigued. This connection between mental strength and pushing physical limits resonated with his readers, offering insights into the determination required to excel in any creative or physical pursuit.
Ultimately, Murakami’s narrative extended beyond the realms of running and writing. His journey spoke to the broader theme of persistence, discipline, and finding fulfilment in one’s chosen endeavours. The book encouraged readers to explore their passions, embrace challenges, and experience the joy of accomplishing personal goals.
Haruki Murakami’s “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” is more than just a book about running. It’s a profound exploration of the intersection between physical activity, mental resilience, and personal growth. Murakami’s ability to translate his experiences into relatable insights resonates with readers from all walks of life, inspiring them to chase their passions and overcome challenges. Whether you’re a runner, a writer, or someone seeking inspiration, Murakami’s journey through running offers valuable life lessons beyond the finish line.
This book is a massive combination of elements of philosophical musings about running and writing. In this book, Murakami says “I’ve never been able to keep a regular diary for very long, but I’ve faithfully kept up my runner’s journal.” He shares his feelings about being a novelist as well as a runner. It is more of an autobiography in a brief novel way. To everyone who loves running, who loves doing what they feel like – this book is such a relatable piece of writing. Do listen to this book and share your views on it.