Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday: “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami and Philip Gabriel

I suppose it’s a self-help, but it’s funny to think of it that way. After all, author Haruki Murakami is a philosopher, not a salesperson. Still, don’t read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running for a suspenseful plot or a colorful cast of characters. Think of it as a book that feels like a conversation. Oh, and listen carefully to that conversation. Take notes. This is self-help.

Key Takeaways

  • Mundane acts aren’t mundane. They’re actually pretty important. They reveal one’s philosophy of life. Murakami writes, “Somerset Maugham once wrote that in each shave lies a philosophy. I couldn’t agree more. No matter how mundane some action might appear, keep at it long enough and it becomes a contemplative, even meditative act.”
  • Don’t try to be something you’re not. Murakami writes, “Nobody ever recommended or even desired that I be a novelist—in fact, some tried to stop me. I had the idea to be one, and that’s what I did. Likewise, a person doesn’t become a runner because someone recommends it. People basically become runners because they’re meant to.”
  • There really is such a thing as hitting a wall, and sometimes, you can feel yourself doing so. “While I was enduring all this, around the forty-seventh mile I felt like I’d passed through something. That’s what it felt like. Passed through is the only way I can express it. Like my body had passed clean through a stone wall. At what exact point I felt like I’d made it through, I can’t recall, but suddenly I noticed I was already on the other side. I was convinced I’d made it through. I don’t know about the logic or the process or the method involved—I was simply convinced of the reality that I’d passed through. After that, I didn’t have to think anymore. Or, more precisely, there wasn’t the need to try to consciously think about not thinking. All I had to do was go with the flow . . . In this state, after I’d passed through this unseen barrier, I started passing a lot of other runners . . . Since I was on autopilot, if someone had told me to keep on running I might well have run beyond sixty-two miles.” Wow.
  • “Usually when I approach the end of a marathon, all I want to do is get it over with, and finish the race as soon as possible. That’s all I can think of. But as I drew near the end of this ultramarathon, I wasn’t really thinking about this. The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance.
  • Life has meaning, and it’s up to us to figure out what it is. “It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has meaning.”
  • Pauses in passion are normal. “My lifestyle gradually changed, and I no longer considered running the point of life. In other words, a mental gap began to develop between me and running. Just like when you lose the initial crazy feeling you have when you fall in love.”
  • Sometimes, that passion comes back. Especially if you just keep going. “Now I feel like I’m finally getting away from the runner’s-blues fog that’s surrounded me for so long. Not that I’ve completely rid myself of it, but I can sense something beginning to stir. In the morning as I lace up my running shoes, I can catch a faint sign of something in the air …”
  • Running is life. Everything you do is life. The important thing to do is to persist. “Thus the seasons come and go, and the years pass by. I’ll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner. My time, the rank I attain, my outward appearance—all of these are secondary. For me, the main goal of exercising is to maintain, and improve, my physical condition in order to keep on writing novels, so if races and training cut into the time I need to write, this would be putting the cart before the horse.”

About the Author

Haruki Murakami is a highly acclaimed Japanese novelist known for his unique and imaginative storytelling. His works often blend elements of magical realism, surrealism, and the mundane, creating a distinct narrative style that has gained him a dedicated international following.


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  1. Mollie, I really enjoyed reading this blog. I will try to get that book and read it. As always great job !