Here’s a book recommendation for you. WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING, by HARUKI MURAKAMI, is a short but wonderful book about distance running and writing. If you undertake one but not both of these pursuits, you might not fully appreciate the wisdom of writing about them together. If you do neither, then I would say this book is probably not for you (that said, Murakami’s prose is so easy and beautiful that I’d enjoy reading a shopping list if he wrote it). If you regularly do both of those things as I do, then I can confidently predict you will love every page.
If you’re not both a distance runner AND a writer, you might be struggling to understand the connection. Take my word for it, it most definitely exists. They’re both endurance challenges that require substantial preparation, dedication, and discipline to complete. In my experience, a similar mental approach (albeit with very different physical approaches) is required for both. I first noticed this when I finished writing AUTUMN and posted it online at the turn of the century. I wrote and shared a few articles about writing at the time, one of which was called LONG-DISTANCE WRITING. It took me completely by surprise when I discovered how similar and complementary my two wildly different favourite pastimes were, particularly in terms of preparation, endurance, and perspective.
I ran fifty half-marathons between 1997 and 2019, and I think I’d still be running them today if it hadn’t been for that pesky heart attack that took me out in April 2020. Part of me would like to do the distance again. I only ever managed one full marathon, and I let myself down by not sticking to my running plan then hitting the wall at 18 miles. Running another one is an itch I’ll never now scratch because the risk far outweighs the potential gain. What have I got to prove? In any event, I promised my family that although I wanted to keep running, I wouldn’t race again. Reading Murakami’s book took me back to those days of pinning numbers on running vests and lining up with several thousand other like-minded souls. I miss the camaraderie and the euphoria of crossing the finish line, but otherwise, despite my brush with death(!), the joy of running remains intact.
Covering the months leading up to the 2005 New York City Marathon, WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING is a fascinating meditation on running, writing, and growing older. It’s a quick read that lingers long in the mind, and I very much recommend it.
These days, I can still say without hesitation that writing continues to benefit my running, and running definitely benefits my writing. I don’t know what I’d do without my (usually) three times weekly runs. They’re not as long as they used to be, nor as fast, but the physical and mental benefits of pounding around the streets are still as important as they ever were, perhaps even more so.