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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami

Release date: 20th December, 2009
Publisher: Vintage

List Price: £7.99
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What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
By Haruki Murakami

Sportsbookofthemonth.com price: £4.69, saving 40% on rrp

We're slap bang in the middle of the 'I must get fit' season, when the familiar sound of newly kitted-out joggers and runners pounding and wheezing their way through parks and along footpaths resonates across the land. It's a time when regular runners are joined, for a while at least, by new year resolutionists, many of whom will discard their colourful tracksuits and expensive running shoes before the end of March.

Your reviewer is a regular (if slow) runner, a man whose knees can ache for hours after a relatively short run around the local park. Like most people, I find the first kilometre the worst, a time when you must continually push yourself to reach the next landmark, though once you've passed it, matters become a little easier.

However, I discovered very early on that the last thing I want to think about when I'm running isÖerÖrunning. Tackling a hill and being conscious that there's still another 3km to run can be disheartening if you're struggling, so from the 'off', I transfer my thought process and start thinking of anything other than the process of running.

For runners who experience something similar (or even for those who simply enjoy a well-written book with sport at its core), Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About offers an ample supply of topics and ideas for when they're next staring at a seemingly unforgiving obstacle.

Murakami was already an established novelist when he realised that his rather sedentary existence was making him fat. His response was to take up running and he has since tackled more than twenty-five marathons, too many half-marathons to mention and one particularly gruelling 100 kilometre ultra-marathon, the peculiar spiritual benefits of which are described here in satisfying detail.

Most runners have an objective when they set out on their first tentative steps to building an Adonis-like body. Most aspire to attain a level of fitness last experienced some years ago; others, like Murakami, realise that being sat down all day does little for the girth, while many start in order to eventually tackle a specific challenge.

Murakami clearly considers running a means to achieving fitness, but he also appreciates that it can stir something altogether more spiritual and meaningful. He hits the nail on the head when talking about how running requires purpose, determination, and a willingness to make the mind and body do things they don't really want to do.

Conversely, (and most runners will associate with this), there is an espirit des corps evident amongst those people so determined to get out and run, even in the foulest weather. Murakami notes this and the inclination of attractive young girls to smile at him as he tackles his regular circuit, of fellow runners to simply nod their head in recognition of what he's doing. It's enough to encourage most runners and, most importantly, ensures they return to do it all again the following day.

This is a delightful accompaniment to any runners' library, though even if you're not one to don lycra and strap an iPod to your arm, you will not be disappointed at Murakami's wonderfully-written prose.


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