What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book Summary - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running Book explained in key points
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running summary

Haruki Murakami

A memoir about running and writing

4.3 (144 ratings)
24 mins

Brief summary

"What I Talk About When I Talk About Running" by Haruki Murakami is a memoir exploring the author's love for long-distance running and its impact on his life, creativity, and overall well-being.

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    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
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    For Murakami, running is all about clearing the mind.

    August 5, 2005. It’s a beautiful day on the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The sun is out, the warm trade winds are blowing, and there is not a single cloud in the sky. In this gorgeous weather, dozens of joggers are steadily making their way up and down the road to the beach. Some move fast; some move more slowly. 

    One of them is the author, Haruki Murakami.

    Murakami is out there running nearly every day. He tries to run an hour a day, six days a week. That adds up to 156 miles a month. Sure, it doesn’t approach his personal record. After all, he’s over 50 now and not nearly as spry as he once was. 

    However, for Murakami, running has never been about winning races or maintaining a peak physique. For him, it’s more about the experience.

    The key message here is: For Murakami, running is all about clearing the mind. 

    Murakami didn’t begin running or writing until his thirties. Before that, he’d owned a jazz bar and had never seriously considered either pastime. In the fall of 1982, he sold his bar to become a full-time writer; shortly after, he started running seriously. In the two decades since, he has organized much of his life around the habit of running. While his dedication has ebbed and flowed, it has never completely abated. Since first hitting the road, the author has completed 23 marathons – one every year. 

    Something about the solitary nature of running keeps Murakami coming back to the sport. He doesn't find motivation from competing against others. Instead, he measures success based on his own, personal expectations. Like his approach to writing books, it’s less about impressing an audience and more about satisfying his own desires. That’s why, even as he ages and slows down, he still enjoys a daily jog.

    One of the things Murakami enjoys most about this regular ritual is the calm it brings. When he is out on the trail, his mind begins to clear. Yes, he still has the occasional thought, a fleeting memory, or a twinge of emotion – but mostly, he just zones out. He calls the almost meditative state “the void.” Every day, Murakami laces up his shoes to run toward this void.

    Knowing that the void is just a short jog away is an immense reassurance. The peace that it brings has helped Murakami smooth over life’s rougher edges. Even when angry, sad, or distraught about some petty thing, he can simply go running – and soon enough, the outside world will melt away.

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    What is What I Talk About When I Talk About Running about?

    What I Talk About When I Talk About Running (2009) is a memoir about the intersection of two solitary passions: running and writing. In this personal work, author Haruki Murakami gives an intimate look into how these two practices inform his inner world. 

    Best quote from What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

    For a runner like me, whats really important is reaching the goal I set myself, under my own power. I give it everything I have, endure what needs enduring, and am able, in my own way, to be satisfied.

    —Haruki Murakami
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    Who should read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running?

    • Fans of Murakami’s surreal prose style
    • Writers who run, or runners who write
    • Late bloomers looking for inspiration

    About the Author

    Haruki Murakami is a Japanese author best known for his quirky and cerebral fiction including best-selling novels like Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Kafka on the Shore. In addition, he has published more than 40 works of nonfiction including Underground and Portraits in Jazz.

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