Review: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Review What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

On just about any list of Best Running Books, you’ll find Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami‘s What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. As a runner, reader, and writer, I was excited to dive into this memoir.

From the publisher:

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon, and now, after dozens of such races, he reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life and on his writing.

Equal parts travelogue, training log and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon and settings ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston.

By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, this is a must-read for fans of this masterful yet private writer as well as for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running. 

As a pretty serious amateur runner, I was disappointed with the training advice dispensed in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. For as serious and committed a runner as Murakami seems to be, he is woefully uneducated on the basic principles of improving distance running performance. It’s likely the reason for his disappointment in his race performance.

As a memoir, it leaves out a lot of detail and reflection. Murakami makes a seamless transition from nightclub owner to successful novelist without much difficulty. He appears to have had none of the self-doubt one might expect, but he doesn’t delve too deeply into this subject.

There aren’t many memoirs about running, much less written by successful novelists. It’s a short book, and might be worth a quick read, but there’s not a whole lot to be learned about running or writing in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

Leave a Comment