What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

( 65 )


An intimate look at writing, running, and the incredible way they intersect, from the incomparable, bestselling author Haruki Murakami.While simply training for New York City Marathon would be enough for most people, Haruki Murakami's decided to write about it as well. The result is a beautiful memoir about his intertwined obsessions with running and writing, full of vivid memories and insights, including the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical,...
See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
BN.com price
(Save 37%)$14.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (36) from $4.54   
  • New (18) from $8.22   
  • Used (18) from $4.54   
What I Talk about When I Talk about Running

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
BN.com price

All Available Formats & Editions


An intimate look at writing, running, and the incredible way they intersect, from the incomparable, bestselling author Haruki Murakami.While simply training for New York City Marathon would be enough for most people, Haruki Murakami's decided to write about it as well. The result is a beautiful memoir about his intertwined obsessions with running and writing, full of vivid memories and insights, including the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer. By turns funny and sobering, playful and philosophical, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is rich and revelatory, both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer and for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in athletic pursuit.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“A fascinating portrait of Murakami’s working mind and how he works his magic on the page.” —The Plain Dealer"A brilliant meditation on how his running and writing nurture and sustain each other. . . . With spare, engaging prose . . . Murakami shares his runner's high." —Sports Illustrated"Enthralling. . . . A quirky, brilliant gem."—Time Out New York"Murakami's descriptive eye is as acute as ever. . . . Fascinating. . . . A glimpse into the creative process of one of the world's great writers." —The Hartford Courant"A genuine memoir, filled with gentle minutiae that truly communicates the rhythm of Murakami's daily life and work...Murakami actually offers himself whole." —Jesse Jarnow, Paste Magazine"A felicitous, casual series of reflections and anecdotes...[Murakami] has a Warholian way of tinting the mundane with mystery and restrained humor...Do still waters run deep? This paean to a runner's life keeps us, pleasurably, wondering." —Joel Rice, The Tennessean"[What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is] a graceful explanation of Mr. Murakami's intertwining obsessions, conveyed with his characteristic ability to draw unexpected connections. Running may be a matter of placing one foot in front of the other on the ground, but, as is so often the case with Mr. Murakami, terrestrial objects have a tendency to take flight." —Chloë Schama, New York Sun"Beautifully written and full of great running aphorisms...Anyone who knows perseverance can appreciate this work." —Helen Montoya, San Antonio Express-News"Engaging, insightful...What I Talk About When I Talk About Running extends [Murakami's] winning streak." —Jenny Shank, Sunday Camera"Murakami constructs this piecemeal narrative with the same masterful, accessible prose marked by humor and streaks of magic which has made him a household name, the same staggering insights, the same fascinating connections...this is exactly what makes Murakami so special: his ability to render everything a part of everything else, and to end with monumental poignancy...In an extremely personal, candid and moving way, the book makes one want to read and run at the same time." —Reynard Seifert, Austin Fit Magazine"[What I Talk About When I Talk About Running] provides a fascinating portrait of Murakami's working mind and how he works his magic on the page...[a] charming, sober little book." —John Freeman, Newark Star-Ledger"Highly recommended...Practical philosophy from a man whose insight into his own character, and how running both suits and shapes that character, is revelatory and can provide tools for readers to examine and improve their own lives."—Library Journal
Library Journal

Murakami is neither a conventional novelist nor a conventional memoirist. In this work whose title was inspired by Raymond Carver's short story collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love, he explores how running has shaped his life. The best memoirs inform readers and enlighten them; this memoir contains practical philosophy from a man whose insight into his own character, and how running both suits and shapes that character, is revelatory and can provide tools for readers to examine and improve their own lives. Murakami wrote most of it between 2005 and 2006, but a key chapter from 1996 reinforces his later examination of his own development and the cadence of his life. This book will be appreciated by runners (as well as Murakami's usual readership) because it is ostensibly about running, but anyone interested in the processes of writing and self-examination will also be well served by it. Highly recommended for all collections. [See Prepub Alert, LJ3/1/08.]
—Audrey Snowden

The Barnes & Noble Review
Although the title of Haruki Murakami's memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, gives you a fairly clear idea of the book's subject matter, the choice of running as a subject for Murakami, who is better known for his novels and short stories than for his participation in the Boston Marathon (seven times), calls for some explanation. So, in the foreword to the book, Murakami explains: "I'm not trying here to give advice like, 'Okay everybody -- let's run every day to stay healthy!' Instead, this is a book in which I've gathered my thoughts about what running has meant to me as a person. Just a book in which I ponder various things and think out loud."

The modesty of this claim will be familiar to readers of Murakami's fiction: it sounds like something one of his protagonists -- Toru Okada in The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle or Satoru Nakata in Kafka on the Shore -- would say. Murakami is widely known as a surrealist, but his great and perhaps underappreciated strength lies in the creation of characters who possess a kind of ethical force. They may not be exceptional in any other way, but they are unimpeachably reliable: not only do you believe their accounts of the almost impossibly strange things that happen in Murakami novels; you come away with the feeling that if you were in a bind (stuck at the bottom of a well, say), Murakami's heroes are the sort of people you could turn to for help.

This kind of determined humility keeps What I Talk About When I Talk About Running from lapsing into self-congratulation (even if Murakami stumbles, now and then, with a sentence like "Exercising every day, I naturally reached my ideal weight, and I discovered this helped my performance"), and it also casts light on the sources of Murakami's fiction. Because, of course, What I Talk About isn't only about running; it's about writing as well, and the connection between running and writing. Murakami, as some readers will already know, began his adult life as the owner of a jazz club in Tokyo; after years of that grueling work he decided to try his hand at writing novels. His first two books (Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball, neither of which has, to the best of my knowledge, been translated into English) were well received, and he sold the bar in order to write full-time. The decision was good for Murakami's fiction (A Wild Sheep Chase came next) but bad for his health; he took up running in order to keep the pounds off.

There have, historically speaking, probably been more writer-walkers than writer-runners, but you can see why a writer would choose running over, say, baseball: it's something you can do alone, without special equipment; it requires endurance rather than speed. In fact, as Murakami observes, running is good practice for the long haul of a novel. Setting aside the mystery of talent, writing a book takes stamina and concentration, both of which can be learned; and just as runners who train conscientiously do better than runners who get by on natural speed, so writers with discipline outlast those without it. All of which leads Murakami to conclude, "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."

Which is, to be honest, a platitude, even if it's a true platitude. If such affirmations were all What I Talk About When I Talk About Running had to offer, it would be merely a collect-'em-all curio for Murakami fans or, worse, a work of inspirational literature. But an "individual limit," as Murakami knows (and as the authors of inspirational books tend not to mention) is more of a negative than a positive concept; and it's in the awareness of the negatives, the limits -- of both writing and running -- that Murakami's memoir finds a melancholy richness akin to that which animates his fiction.

At the beginning of the book, which chronicles the author's running life from August 2005 through October 2006, there's a curious statement: "It's two and a half months now since I resumed my old lifestyle in which, unless it's totally unavoidable, I run every single day." Why, you ask, resumed? The story gradually unfolds: after 13 years of steady progression toward longer distances and faster times, Murakami undertook an ultramarathon, a 62-mile run around a lake in northern Japan. After the elation of completing the race wore off, he writes, "What I ended up with was a sense of lethargy, and before I knew it, I felt covered by a thin film, something I've since dubbed runner's blue." What I Talk About is, among other things, Murakami's attempt to write his blues away, to awaken an enthusiasm for running that lay dormant for almost a decade, and to make peace -- in the 2005 New York City Marathon, as it happens -- with what he calls "the honor of physical decline."

Did he succeed? For the reader, it's a low-stakes question, but, as anyone who's read Raymond Carver knows (the title of Murakami's memoir is taken from Carver's What We Talk About When We Talk About Love), strong feelings may turn on small gains and losses. So I won't give the ending away, except to say that, unless you know Murakami personally, it's probably not what you expect. And that it is, in a Carver-ish way, moving. However low the stakes may seem, they are, in the end, always the same, for everyone; beyond your "individual limit" as a runner (or mine, which is very low: bad knee) or as a writer, there's an absolute limit, which only follows "the honor of physical decline" if you're lucky.

Near the midpoint of the book, Murakami reflects on a pair of young marathoners who died in a car accident: "And I always think this: they put up with such strenuous training, and where did their thoughts, their hopes and dreams, disappear to? When people pass away, do their thoughts just vanish?" The obvious sequel to this question would be a vindication of writing, but Murakami is too smart, or too committed to his humble persona, to attempt it. Instead, he goes on to talk about a running course near his house in Kanagawa Prefecture: "The only problem is that it's a course where you loop back halfway, so you can't just quit it in the middle if you get tired. I have to make it back on my own steam even if it means crawling." Endurance -- this seems to be the point -- is not the loftiest virtue, but it may be the one that proves useful the most frequently. --Paul La Farge

Paul La Farge is the author of two novels: The Artist of the Missing and Haussmann, or the Distinction.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307389831
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/11/2009
  • Series: Vintage International Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 47,996
  • Lexile: 990L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.22 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami was born in Kyoto in 1949 and now lives near Tokyo. His work has been translated into forty-two languages. The most recent of his many honors is the Franz Kafka Prize.



The The story of how Haruki Murakami decided to become a novelist says a lot about his work, because it is as strange and culturally diffuse as the works he writes. While watching a baseball game in Toyko in 1978 between the Yakult Swallows and the Hiroshima Carp, Murakami witnessed an American hit a double. At the crack of the bat, Murakami -- who had never had any ambition to write because he assumed he didn't have the talent -- decided that he should begin a novel. He then started his first book, in the night hours after work.

If you're waiting for a connection between the double and the epiphany, there isn't one. It's often that way in Murakami's fiction, where cultures blend and seemingly incongruous, inexplicable events move the story forward. People disappear or transform as quickly as the worlds around them, and the result is a dreamlike atmosphere that blends mystery, magic realism and sci-fi while remaining unmistakably distinct from all three.

Murakami was brought up in a suburb of Kobe by parents who were teachers of Japanese literature; but the literature of his parents did not interest him and he read mostly American authors, listened to American jazz and watched American shows. For this reason, though his books are set in Japan and originally written in Japanese, they do not seem terribly foreign to English speakers. South of the Border, West of the Sun's title derives from a Nat King Cole song; and you're as likely to find a reference to McDonald's, Cutty Sark or F. Scott Fitzgerald as you are to anything Japanese.

Murakami began his career with the coming-of-age novels Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973, but he hit his stride with A Wild Sheep Chase, a novel about a twentysomething ad executive who is drawn into the quest for an elusive, mutant sheep. The novel appeared in the U.S. seven years after its 1982 publication, introducing American audiences to this unclassifiable author. It contained many of the traits that mark Murakami's novels: a solitary male protagonist who drifts just outside society; first-person narration; and philosophical passages nestled within outlandish, unconventional plots. An admiring New York Times Book Review called Murakami a "mythmaker for the millennium."

The author's commercial breakthrough in Japan had come with the publication of Norwegian Wood in 1987, which sold two million copies. The story of a man who becomes involved with his best friend's girlfriend after the friend's suicide, it stands alone as the author's most straightforward, realistic work. Murakami acknowledges the book's impact on his career, and stands behind it; but he is also aware that it represented a departure from the surreal books that had made him a "cult" author with a modest following. "After Norwegian Wood, I have not written any purely realistic novels," Murakami said in a 2001 publisher's interview, "and have no intention of writing any more at this time."

Murakami's return to surrealism with Dance Dance Dance (the sequel to A Wild Sheep Chase), however, did not slow his career growth. Further translations of his work and publication of his stories in the New Yorker assured a growing following in the States, where his best known (and, to some, his best) work is The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which appeared here in 1997. It's a masterful work that draws together all of the themes Murakami had been exploring in his fiction up until then: modern ennui, the unpredictability of relationships, a haunting backdrop of Japanese history.

In addition to his sublime and profoundly strange short stories and novels (Sputnik Sweetheart; Kafka on the Shore; Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman, etc.), Murakami has made occasional forays into nonfiction -- most notably with Underground, a compilation of interviews with victims of the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway, and his 2008 memoir of the New York City Marathon, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. He has also translated several works by American authors into Japanese, including title by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Raymond Carver, and John Irving.

Good To Know

Murakami owned a small jazz bar in Tokyo for seven years after college, an experience that he enjoyed and called upon when creating the main character of South of the Border, West of the Sun, who also owns a Tokyo jazz bar.

Murakami's first three novels, -- Hear the Wind Sing, Pinball 1973, and A Wild Sheep Chase -- comprise The Trilogy of the Rat.

His most often cited influences are Raymond Chandler, Kurt Vonnegut and Richard Brautigan.

Murakami told an interviewer from Publishers Weekly in 1991 that he considers his first two novels, Hear the Wind Sing and Pinball 1973 "weak," and was not eager to have them translated into English. The translations were published, but are not available in the U.S. Third novel A Wild Sheep Chase was "the first book where I could feel a kind of sensation, the joy of telling a story. When you read a good story, you just keep reading. When I write a good story, I just keep writing."

Daniel Handler, aka children's author Lemony Snicket, is a vocal fan of Murakami's who once wrote a review/paean to the author in the Village Voice entitled "I Love Murakami." "Haruki Murakami is our greatest living practitioner of fiction," he wrote. "....The novels aren't afraid to pull tricks usually banned from serious fiction: They are suspenseful, corny, spooky, and hilarious; they're airplane reading, but when you're through you spend the rest of the flight, the rest of the month, rethinking life."

Murakami has taught at Princeton University, where he wrote most of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and Tufts University. The twin disasters of a gas attack on the Tokyo subway and the Kobe earthquake in 1995 drew the author back to Japan from the United States.

Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Tokyo, Japan
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 12, 1949
    2. Place of Birth:
      Kyoto, Japan
    1. Education:
      Waseda University, 1973
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt


Who's Going to Laugh at Mick Jagger?

I'm on Kauai, in Hawaii, today, Friday, August 5, 2005. It's unbelievably clear and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. As if the concept clouds doesn't even exist. I came here at the end of July and, as always, we rented a condo. During the mornings, when it's cool, I sit at my desk, writing all sorts of things. Like now: I'm writing this, a piece on running that I can pretty much compose as I wish. It's summer, so naturally it's hot. Hawaii's been called the island of eternal summer, but since it's in the Northern Hemisphere there are, arguably, four seasons of a sort. Summer is somewhat hotter than winter. I spend a lot of time in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and compared to Cambridge--so muggy and hot with all its bricks and concrete it's like a form of torture--summer in Hawaii is a veritable paradise. No need for an air conditioner here--just leave the window open, and a refreshing breeze blows in. People in Cambridge are always surprised when they hear I'm spending August in Hawaii. "Why would you want to spend summer in a hot place like that?" they invariably ask. But they don't know what it's like. How the constant trade winds from the northeast make summers cool. How happy life is here, where we can enjoy lounging around, reading a book in the shade of trees, or, if the notion strikes us, go down, just as we are, for a dip in the inlet.

Since I arrived in Hawaii I've run about an hour every day, six days a week. It's two and a half months now since I resumed my old lifestyle in which, unless it's totally unavoidable, I run every single day. Today I ran for an hour and ten minutes, listening on my Walkman to two albums by the Lovin' Spoonful--Daydream and Hums of the Lovin' Spoonful--which I'd recorded on an MD disc.

Right now I'm aiming at increasing the distance I run, so speed is less of an issue. As long as I can run a certain distance, that's all I care about. Sometimes I run fast when I feel like it, but if I increase the pace I shorten the amount of time I run, the point being to let the exhilaration I feel at the end of each run carry over to the next day. This is the same sort of tack I find necessary when writing a novel. I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more. Do that, and the next day's work goes surprisingly smoothly. I think Ernest Hemingway did something like that. To keep on going, you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects. Once you set the pace, the rest will follow. The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed--and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage.

It rained for a short time while I was running, but it was a cooling rain that felt good. A thick cloud blew in from the ocean right over me, and a gentle rain fell for a while, but then, as if it had remembered, "Oh, I've got to do some errands!," it whisked itself away without so much as a glance back. And then the merciless sun was back, scorching the ground. It's a very easy-to-understand weather pattern. Nothing abstruse or ambivalent about it, not a speck of the metaphor or the symbolic. On the way I passed a few other joggers, about an equal number of men and women. The energetic ones were zipping down the road, slicing through the air like they had robbers at their heels. Others, overweight, huffed and puffed, their eyes half closed, their shoulders slumped like this was the last thing in the world they wanted to be doing. They looked like maybe a week ago their doctors had told them they have diabetes and warned them they had to start exercising. I'm somewhere in the middle.

I love listening to the Lovin' Spoonful. Their music is sort of laid-back and never pretentious. Listening to this soothing music brings back a lot of memories of the 1960s. Nothing really special, though. If they were to make a movie about my life (just the thought of which scares me), these would be the scenes they'd leave on the cutting-room floor. "We can leave this episode out," the editor would explain. "It's not bad, but it's sort of ordinary and doesn't amount to much." Those kinds of memories--unpretentious, commonplace. But for me, they're all meaningful and valuable. As each of these memories flits across my mind, I'm sure I unconsciously smile, or give a slight frown. Commonplace they might be, but the accumulation of these memories has led to one result: me. Me here and now, on the north shore of Kauai. Sometimes when I think of life, I feel like a piece of driftwood washed up on shore.

As I run, the trade winds blowing in from the direction of the lighthouse rustle the leaves of the eucalyptus over my head.

I began living in Cambridge, Massachusetts, at the end of May of this year, and running has once again been the mainstay of my daily routine ever since. I'm seriously running now. By seriously I mean thirty-six miles a week. In other words, six miles a day, six days a week. It would be better if I ran seven days, but I have to factor in rainy days, and days when work keeps me too busy. There are some days, too, when frankly I just feel too tired to run. Taking all this into account, I leave one day a week as a day off. So, at thirty-six miles per week, I cover 156 miles every month, which for me is my standard for serious running.

In June I followed this plan exactly, running 156 miles on the nose. In July I increased the distance and covered 186 miles. I averaged six miles every day, without taking a single day off. I don't mean I covered precisely six miles every day. If I ran nine miles one day, the next day I'd do only three. (At a jogging pace I generally can cover six miles in an hour.) For me this is most definitely running at a serious level. And since I came to Hawaii I've kept up this pace. It had been far too long since I'd been able to run these distances and keep up this kind of fixed schedule.

There are several reasons why, at a certain point in my life, I stopped running seriously. First of all, my life has been getting busier, and free time is increasingly at a premium. When I was younger it wasn't as if I had as much free time as I wanted, but at least I didn't have as many miscellaneous chores as I do now. I don't know why, but the older you get, the busier you become. Another reason is that I've gotten more interested in triathlons, rather than marathons. Triathlons, of course, involve swimming and cycling in addition to running. The running part isn't a problem for me, but in order to master the other two legs of the event I had to devote a great deal of time to training in swimming and biking. I had to start over from scratch with swimming, relearning the correct form, learning the right biking techniques, and training the necessary muscles. All of this took time and effort, and as a result I had less time to devote to running.

Probably the main reason, though, was that at a certain point I'd simply grown tired of it. I started running in the fall of 1982 and have been running since then for nearly twenty-three years. Over this period I've jogged almost every day, run in at least one marathon every year--twenty-three up till now--and participated in more long-distance races all around the world than I care to count. Long-distance running suits my personality, though, and of all the habits I've acquired over my lifetime I'd have to say this one has been the most helpful, the most meaningful. Running without a break for more than two decades has also made me stronger, both physically and emotionally.

The thing is, I'm not much for team sports. That's just the way I am. Whenever I play soccer or baseball--actually, since becoming an adult this is almost never--I never feel comfortable. Maybe it's because I don't have any brothers, but I could never get into the kind of games you play with others. I'm also not very good at-one-on-one sports like tennis. I enjoy squash, but generally when it comes to a game against someone, the competitive aspect makes me uncomfortable. And when it comes to martial arts, too, you can count me out.

Don't misunderstand me--I'm not totally uncompetitive. It's just that for some reason I never cared all that much whether I beat others or lost to them. This sentiment remained pretty much unchanged after I grew up. It doesn't matter what field you're talking about--beating somebody else just doesn't do it for me. I'm much more interested in whether I reach the goals that I set for myself, so in this sense long-distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mine.

Marathon runners will understand what I mean. We don't really care whether we beat any other particular runner. World-class runners, of course, want to outdo their closest rivals, but for your average, everyday runner, individual rivalry isn't a major issue. I'm sure there are garden-variety runners whose desire to beat a particular rival spurs them on to train harder. But what happens if their rival, for whatever reason, drops out of the competition? Their motivation for running would disappear or at least diminish, and it'd be hard for them to remain runners for long.

Most ordinary runners are motivated by an individual goal, more than anything: namely, a time they want to beat. As long as he can beat that time, a runner will feel he's accomplished what he set out to do, and if he can't, then he'll feel he hasn't. Even if he doesn't break the time he'd hoped for, as long as he has the sense of satisfaction at having done his very best--and, possibly, having made some significant discovery about himself in the process--then that in itself is an accomplishment, a positive feeling he can carry over to the next race.

The same can be said about my profession. In the novelist's profession, as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as winning or losing. Maybe numbers of copies sold, awards won, and critics' praise serve as outward standards for accomplishment in literature, but none of them really matter. What's crucial is whether your writing attains the standards you've set for yourself. Failure to reach that bar is not something you can easily explain away. When it comes to other people, you can always come up with a reasonable explanation, but you can't fool yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn't seek validation in the outwardly visible.

For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself. At least that's why I've put in the effort day after day: to raise my own level. I'm no great runner, by any means. I'm at an ordinary--or perhaps more like mediocre--level. But that's not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.

Since my forties, though, this system of self-assessment has gradually changed. Simply put, I am no longer able to improve my time. I guess it's inevitable, considering my age. At a certain age everybody reaches their physical peak. There are individual differences, but for the most part swimmers hit that watershed in their early twenties, boxers in their late twenties, and baseball players in their mid-thirties. It's something everyone has to go through. Once I asked an ophthalmologist if anyone's ever avoided getting farsighted when they got older. He laughed and said, "I've never met one yet." It's the same thing. (Fortunately, the peak for artists varies considerably. Dostoyevsky, for instance, wrote two of his most profound novels, The Possessed and The Brothers Karamazov, in the last few years of his life before his death at age sixty. Domenico Scarlatti wrote 555 piano sonatas during his lifetime, most of them when he was between the ages of fifty-seven and sixty-two.)

My peak as a runner came in my late forties. Before then I'd aimed at running a full marathon in three and a half hours, a pace of exactly one kilometer in five minutes, or one mile in eight. Sometimes I broke three and a half hours, sometimes not (more often not). Either way, I was able to steadily run a marathon in more or less that amount of time. Even when I thought I'd totally blown it, I'd still be in under three hours and forty minutes. Even if I hadn't trained so much or wasn't in the best of shape, exceeding four hours was inconceivable. Things continued at that stable plateau for a while, but before long they started to change. I'd train as much as before but found it increasingly hard to break three hours and forty minutes. It was taking me five and a half minutes to run one kilometer, and I was inching closer to the four-hour mark to finish a marathon. Frankly, this was a bit of a shock. What was going on here? I didn't think it was because I was aging. In everyday life I never felt like I was getting physically weaker. But no matter how much I might deny it or try to ignore it, the numbers were retreating, step by step.

Besides, as I said earlier, I'd become more interested in other sports such as triathlons and squash. Just running all the time couldn't be good for me, I'd figured, deciding it would be better to add variety to my routine and develop a more all-around physical regimen. I hired a private swimming coach who started me off with the basics, and I learned how to swim faster and more smoothly than before. My muscles reacted to the new environment, and my physique began noticeably changing. Meanwhile, like the tide going out, my marathon times slowly but surely continued to slow. And I found I didn't enjoy running as much as I used to. A steady fatigue opened up between me and the very notion of running.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 65 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Perfect for the long distance runner

    First off, I am a big Murakami fan so this is already a little biased. Second, I am a avid marathoner and ultra-marathoner, so I'm even more bias. With that said, I of course really enjoyed this book. As other reviews have stated this is not a book for guidance on writing or running, it is simply a persons memoirs about running who also happens to be a writer. I found myself right there with him because I have had similar experiences and can easily relate to his tribulations. The background information about his life and beginnings as a writer were also very interesting. I found myself able to capture a clear picture of his persona and it gave all the books that I have read from him a great grounding. The one thing that I really took away from this book was a better understanding of balance in life. Murakami's idea of using running to balance out the adverse affects of his profession really resinated with my personal feelings about balance in my own life. Running is the focus of this book, so if you are a runner you will most likely enjoy the read, if not it, results may vary.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 15, 2014

    I have this theory that goes like this: sometimes we find books,

    I have this theory that goes like this: sometimes we find books, and sometimes books find us. Oftentimes I'll pick up a book, read a few lines, and quickly close the covers. I'll instinctively know that no matter how much I want to read it that that book's message was meant for a later time. And sure enough, years later, I'll spot the book on the corner of my shelf and be moved to pick it up, only to find exactly what I needed to hear. It's funny how life, and reading, works that way. Other times I'll find a book in the most random way - through a footnote or a random citation in an obscure periodical, for instance - and that book's message will be exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in my life. That was certainly the case with Japanese novelist Karuki Murakami's wonderful little book, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.
    While training for the New York City Marathon Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami decided to write about it as well. What materialized was a unique memoir that discusses his twin passions of writing and running, and the interesting way they nurture and inform each other.
    I've been struggling as of late staying focused on the hard work of writing, so when I opened the book and read the following lines I knew that a message that I needed to hear had found me:
    "One runner told of a mantra his older brother, also a runner, had taught him which he's pondered ever since he began running. Here it is: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you're running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can't take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running." If you feel called to creative work, and are struggling with finding the discipline necessary to create a body of work, you'll find this playful, oftentimes philosophical memoir food for your soul.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 6, 2013

    Try to read this if you are runner!

    My staff at work recommended this book to me since I start to running for a few year ago. I am Japanese and I have read his book before. However It was not easy for me to fully understand what he has been trying to say.... But this book was funny and I totally got it how he felt when it comes to running. I finished in a two days! Now my goal for next year is to accomplish 10K or half-marathon (if possible)!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 20, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    An interesting peek into the mind of Haruki Murakami.

    The first thing that I simply must say about this book, is that you do not need to be a runner to be able to relate to it. Trust me, my body is far from becoming a running machine. In fact, I am pretty sure my body would collapse into a useless heap upon the mere suggestion of it, but even I took something away from this book.

    Murakami, author to such books as the very popular 1Q84, Kafka on the Shore, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, and several more decided to write a book about his experiences as a runner. Not so much as a guide on how to become a runner, but more as a personal record of what he thinks about as he does it and how it affects his body and in turn, his writing.

    This was fascinating reading. His methodical approach to running is very much how he tackles his writing. He is very regimented in both his running and writing. Running each and every day, regardless of weather and writing for four hours every morning makes you wonder how he can maintain such a hectic pace, but the two are tied together. The running clears his mind and therefore allows him to focus on his writing.

    The book includes the obstacles he came up against while training for both the Boston and New York marathons. As usual, Murakami injects his quiet sense of humor here and there and the stories are both interesting and enlightening. I truly enjoyed this book. The easy, conversational tone was comforting and well¿wonderful. What did I take away from it? That the writing process does not have to be a complicated. It can be accomplished if you adhere to a routine and make it a part of your life.

    As I said earlier, no running required to enjoy this one, but anyone who is trying to attain a goal (no matter what it is) will be inspired by this book. I am seriously thinking about giving it to The Hub (the non-reader) for Christmas. He trained for this year¿s marathon and was not able to do it because his routine was affected by a heel injury. However, he¿s starting to train for next year¿s race and I think this would be good for him to listen to on audio. He is the ¿non-reader¿ after all.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 5, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Murakami in his own words

    For almost three decades Haruki Murakami has been providing his fans with a steady diet of quirky, imaginative and poignantly intimate novels and short stories. And yet, Murakami himself has written very little about himself, and has tried to keep his own life extremely private. So it is very enjoyable to finally get a glimpse of this author in his own words. Granted, over the years he had woven many elements from his own life into his stories, but it was never too easy to separate facts from fiction. In this book he has finally decided to talk clearly and forthrightly about some aspects of his writing career, but particularly about his passion for running. It turns out that he had picked up running at about the same time when he decided to become a novelist. He needed a physical activity that would compensate for his sudden switch to a more sedentary profession. Over the years, however, running had become a passion in its own right, but not quite an obsession. All the aspiring writers will find his analogies between long-distance running and writing, and novel writing in particular, very revealing and informative. According to Murakami, three indispensible things that any writer needs (in this order) are: talent, focus and endurance. Unsurprisingly talent is the most important of the three, but other two are required as well if one wants to become successful at writing. It is probably no coincidence that these three personal qualities are crucially important for long-distance running. The impression one gets from reading this book is that for Murakami running and writing reinforce each other.

    Even if you don't care about either writing or running in its own right, this book offers many interesting stories and reflection. On a very basic level this is a book about life, and how one particular individual managed to find his place in the world. In Murakami's case, we see a kind of life that many of us would be happy to trade our own lives for: living in some of the World's most desirable places (Cambridge, New York, Hawai'i, Tokyo, Greece), doing what you really enjoy doing without any external constraints, being able to indulge in your favorite recreational activity to the fullest. The book manages to elicit a certain level of envy, although I am sure that was not what Murakami intended to convey when he decided to write it. In fact, we get a sense of a person who bears his own success and fame with a remarkable poise and even humility. Murakami may claim that he is not very good at interpersonal skills, but to me at least this book confirms that I would enjoy meeting Murakami the person as much as I enjoy reading his books. An autobiography that achieves this is definitely worth reading.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 9, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    For the Murakami Fan

    I'm not a runner, although I have dabbled in running in the past. I did, however, do long distance swimming in high school. So even though I'm not a marathon runner and don't run now, I still felt that many of Murakami's musings on running resonated with me. I enjoy contemplative individualistic activities. Like reading too, hey! Being a Murakami fan I also loved the opportunity to get inside the author's head a bit about his process and how he got his start. I've seen some really terrible reviews of this book by people who are not Murakami fans and well, they just won't get this. So that's my advice.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 14, 2010

    Random thoughts from a brilliant author.

    The book is mildly entertaining. Being a Murakimi follower, I found the randomness comforting. If you're neither a runner nor a fan of Murakami, this book will be a let down. If your looking for tips on how to run or how to write a novel, this isn't going to help you. If your curious about the mind and habits of successful author, pick it. Overall, I enjoyed it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 11, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Not the best for me.

    Although not a bad book, I cannot recommend it highly; indeed, about a month later now, it's tough to remember. The writing is translated I think, and not the most fluid, and the story is intensely personal--sort of the author's own training log.

    I was hoping to get running--or writing tips from this, but found it to be mildly interesting, but without lasting impact or use.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 2, 2008

    What an interesting book!

    [B]What I Talk About When I Talk About Running[/B] by Haruki Murakami. What an interesting book! Its non-fiction, basically his musings on long distance running, writing, his career, and life in general. Its short (4 discs). If you are a long distance runner (I am) this is a must read. He puts into words many feelings I have about running that I have never been able to articulate. If you like Murakami's work ([B]Kafka On the Shore[/B] is my favorite) then it's also a must read. He's a very different person then I would have expected based on his novels! I really enjoyed the story of how he became a professional writer. This one was a good one to listen to, the flow just seemed right for audio.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2008

    Different things you Think everyday!

    From laughing at Mick Jagger in Kauai, Hawaii to the mantra of contemplative silence, you would never know what you would come across in these pages...a must read for anyone who still hasn't entered the world of Murakami.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted December 29, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 65 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)