The BYOB Party in September started with a discussion of a book that is not typical Murakamiesque. When you speak of the writer who currently withdrew his name from the Alternate Nobel Prize, you talk about a surrealist cult writer. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a conversation that the author has about running, of course, and endurance and writing and many things. It’s a slim book and a practical one with life lessons. You might want to read this review of the book in the Review and a Half post at the IS blog.
Mukesh and Sowmya, both fitness fans, enjoyed reading the book. I’ve read about how Murakami became a writer many times but it is one of those tales that does not tire you and Murakami seems to know this for he talks again about how he sold his jazz bar to do writing full-time. Fitness has been an integral part of the discipline that is needed to wrote as prolifically as he does and running has been the fulcrum of his fitness plan.
To run you need to prepare and execute and endure, something like writing.
“I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.”
“Fortunately, these two disciplines—focus and endurance—are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago.”
Another book that focuses on running is Running: A Novel by Jean Echenoz. This book tells the story of Emil Zátopek who was a factory worker with contempt for athletics. His participation in a single race changes his perspective and he acquires a passion for long-distance running.
Sowmya identifies with Murakami’s logs.
Says Murakami, “No matter how mundane some actions may appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes contemplative and at some point it is meditative.”
“Even cooking and reading are therapeutic for some people. But you never start happy….it’s a struggle to keep up everyday. Until you get on the road it’s hard, then you are sorted. Taking the step is good enough-that is the motivation- finishing 1 km. And the energy is contagious after a while.” Soumya talked about the marathons she attended in Mumbai and the sweetness of the encouraging crowd. “It’s different in Bengaluru; runners are seen as traffic stoppers and resented sometimes. Whatever is the case, fitness should never be compromised.”
Running is a journey and Murakami writes about in the true spirit of a committed runner. More books in Part 2.