What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami (2008) translated by Philip Gabriel, is Murakami’s memoir that is more a collection of essays, both new and previously-published, about long-distance running.

I’m not terribly familiar with Murakami’s other work–I read 2/3 of the trilogy of his first novels (Hear The Wind Sing/Pinball, 1973) in 2018–but enjoyed them and know that he has a cult following.

He compares the similarity of many of the lessons he learned through long-distance running to lessons he uses as a novelist, which I appreciate. I agree with this quote and would apply it to walking or any individual sport: “Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running, and a metaphor for life–and for me, for writing as well.” And “No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.” I believe this is true for reading, writing, and walking: the three practices that I try to at least a little of every day.

Unfortunately, he states that the reason he started running was because he was “becoming fat” when he switched to writing as a career; his previous job of running a bar required a lot of hard physical labor. So without his fear of “becoming fat,” he would not have begun to run, and thus, would not have written this book.

He writes about seeing other runners as “overweight,” about how as he became a “serious” runner, he was able to “keep the weight down,” and as he continued running, his weight stabilized “where it should be.” He spends entirely too much time explaining how his impetus for running, and continuing to run every day, is so that he doesn’t gain weight and can have as many Sam Adams beers and Dunkin Donuts as he wants when he is in Cambridge.

Although I liked the quotes I noted above, the fatphobia overshadowed my enjoyment of the book. Unfortunately, I had already downloaded a couple of Murakami’s books from my Audible Plus membership. Luckily, I didn’t use a credit for either. I will have to think long and hard about whether I want to spend my reading time listening to another book he’s written, when I know that the reason he runs every day is because he is afraid he will become fat.

I don’t need to give my precious attention to any book that has a high likelihood of being fatphobic.

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