26-Sep-2011

What I talk about when I talk about running by Haruki Murakami


Rating - Read

I became a devoted fan of Murakami after reading Norweigian Wood (as did many others, going by the fact that it was Murakami's best selling novel). Till then, I enjoyed his writing, but not quite enough to actually admire it. Now, I was interested in knowing the person behind the writings.

And what a person he is. I had somehow envisioned Murakami as an old and wise Japanese guy, with withered hands, wise eyes, long white hair tied into a pony, and a thin, frail, mien. A man who slowly and sincerely wrote in a notebook, sitting in a house located in a picturesque place in Japan, while wearing a slightly flashy traditional dress (Even as I write this, I realise I sound like one of those people who think that everyone in India does the rope trick and has a pet snake).

Anyway, assuming he was more likely to be the type who carried the latest notepad and wore normal everyday clothes (considering the Japanese are considered to be 10 years ahead of the rest of the world), what I did not expect was to learn that he was passionate about running.

Murakami makes it quite clear, that he is first of all a writer. He runs in the time he has, over and above his writing and is not a professional runner at all. But for an amateur runner, he does very well. Having started running in his 30s, he has taken part in several marathons and started participating in triathlons sometime from his 40s. Every year, he does a marathon in the winter and a triathlon in the summer. The book covers his training while preparing for the 2005 New York City Marathon. Murakami talks not just about this race, but also about the preparations and the various races he has participated in, the feeling of doing long-distance running where you are competing mostly against yourself, the sincerity and discipline that is needed to keep going and the feelings that come during a race. In between, he also digresses into life in general, and his writings.

All of it is interesting reading despite being about experiences which an average bloke is unlikely to have in a lifetime. Murakami goes about quietly cataloguing the hours he puts in, the people he runs with, the places he lives and works in. I especially liked reading his descriptions of his body, as a machine independent of the author’s mind.

Presumably runners would be able to identify with it a lot more than I can. Infact, the book was bought for D, who participated in a half marathon for the first time last year. Yet, non-runners like me have been brought closer to the strange world of plodding on and on.


7 comments:

Aparna said...

Sounds pretty interesting. Given that I have many fanatic runner friends, maybe I shd pick up a copy or two and gift them!

Anita said...

Yup. Good gift for runners who like to read

Mum's delight said...

Sounds good, I think I'll order a copy though I'm not a keen runner. How did D do in the half marathon? Is he planning to go again this year, and has he persuaded you to also try the half marathon. There's a running club organished by the mums in Sumedha's school and I was so tempted to join, but the minimum they run is 7 km!! Would be awful if I just collapsed on the road, there's no auto or anything to take me back to the car, I'll have to walk back myself :)

Anita said...

Mum',s delight - d did pretty ok last year. Signed up this year too. And I have no intention of running so much.
The club sounds cool though. I think u can easily manage 7 kms.

haathitime.com said...

oh man, im so going to get this one. cant call myself a murakami "fan", but i went through a phase where i read a few of his books one after another and have a tremendous amount of respect for him as a result. just when i thought i cant take anymore of his absurdity, you've made me want to read this one too :P

Sonal said...

this is the only one of murakami i read and though i felt it was a very honest account of his running experiences, did nt enjoy the book quite as much. should probably try some of his other books.

Orion said...

I love Murakami... he sort of says the darnest things with such ease as if they were borne out of a figment of my own imagination rather than his.