1/17/14 - "What I talk about..." review

Recently I read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Based on suggestions from the reddit running community, this was the number one book to be read by runners. It was praised as being a great book both about life, running and writing. Of course, I was actually only interested in the running part, but the other sections were interesting as well.

I didn't have any expectations going into the book, other than hoping to get a few motivational thoughts, quotes or stories in an attempt to get me back on the road. I was not disappointed. In fact, the introduction of the book left me with this gem:"Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional."  This same statement has been made multiple times, in multiple ways, but I had never heard it phrased this way before.  Although Mr. Murakami
was referring more to the physical nature of pain and suffering, I felt that it just as well applied to other life applications. No matter what happens, there will be struggles and they will suck. It is up to the individual to determine if they will let those down times be a point of suffering in their life, or allow it to strengthen them.

To touch on more of the concept of the book, it is a memoir of the author's life and his interactions with both being a runner and a novelist.  He explained very well through different specific instances how his running and writing played a major role in each other.  It was through these different individual events that he was able to put together several chapters if interesting reading and motivation for the reader.

His thoughts on life and more specifically the inevitability of death was very interesting to me.  He expressed how he learned to appreciate the slow crawl towards the end of his life and accepted that as a challenge.  He recognized that his physical performance would continue to decrease, but that he would never quite the constant struggle to better himself.

Another of the quotes from the book that I particularly enjoyed was simply "As long as you have running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart’s content." Having talked with other runners in the past, this is a very common theme.  With most sports or athletic endeavors, lots of equipment is needed, or specific locales.  Basketball for example requires a ball and a hoop at minimum.  Ideally, a backboard, net and court would also be available.  Swimming requires no particular equipment, but you need a large body of water.  With running, however, you just need to have legs that will propel you.  Shoes obviously help, but you can run anywhere.  Paved roads or dirt roads, uphill courses or flat runs, the variances might be there, but the end result is the same, just go run.

The final quote was not motivational at all, but hit very close to home. As he was retelling his experience with his final training run before his first marathon, he explained that he traveled 22 miles in preparation for the upcoming event.  After finishing, he felt great and was ready for the full distance.  His following comment was: "It was only later that I found out the hard way that the toughest part of a marathon comes after twenty-two miles."  I was able to make an immediate connection as many of my longer runs for my second marathon (the first one I was really prepared for) ended around 20 miles, each with stops in the middle to refuel and such.  On race day, it was mile 19.5 that decided the real running started.


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