What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

It seems like Haruki Murakami is popping up on every bookshelf these days. His work appears on bedstands, in backpacks, and on tongues more often than any other single author. (Except for my homie, F. Scott. He’s experiencing a revival. I wonder why…)

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

His pervasiveness is exactly why I’ve been avoiding him. I’ve rented out my book-space to other works, some good, some bad. And then a friend handed me Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Since I both respect this friend’s taste and desperately needed a new book to read, I cracked it open.

All skepticism was dispelled immediately. Murakami writes candidly, artfully, and with (astonishing) humility. Right off the bat, he established his athletic hobbies as no big deal – marathons and triathlons are simply things he does because he wants to do them. He’s not in it for the glory or prize money or whatever. He’s in it to be in it. This is exactly the attitude I most admire in others. Simple, honest doing it for the sake of doing it.

I love the casual, shrugging way he tells the story of becoming a runner and, seemingly with the same breath, how he became a writer. Throughout the piece, running and writing weave together. The two activities are so thoroughly intertwined in Murakami’s life that it’s difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.

As a writer and runner who came to both writing and running in a gradual, almost accidental way way, I understand.

If I my pull just one passage to sum up the core of what I love about What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, it’s this:

“I didn’t start running because somebody asked me to become a runner. Just like I didn’t become a novelist because someone asked me to. One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run-simply because I wanted to. I’ve always done whatever I felt like doing in life. People may try to stop me, and convince me I’m wrong, but I won’t change.”

Excuse me. I have some running to do.

Have you read Murakami’s memoir or novels? What did you think?

Who inspires you to get up and go?


Going Bare(foot)

From ages 8-18, I was a swimmer. Happy, water-logged, and injury-free. Until a strained shoulder aggravated and ended my swimming career just as I was getting excited about swimming at the college level. Kicked out of the pool, I stood on land with a confused look on my face. What am I supposed to do now?

After quite a lot of peer pressure, I took up Ultimate. Which went well enough until I got good enough to make the sharp, sudden cuts that make Ultimate an awesome sport to watch and play. I kept spraining my ankles and wrenching my knees… and custom orthotics only made it worse…. Long story short, it seemed like my running career was over before it started.

And then I switched to New Balance Minimus Trail.

Pre-minimus, I couldn’t run for longer than half a mile on pavement. On my first minimus run, I ran four miles. I had never, ever run four miles before.

The soft Vibram soles connected me directly with the ground, letting my foot strike adapt immediately to irregularities without twisting ankles. The snug heel keeps my foot in place, while the roomy toe-box lets the mid- and fore-foot stretch and flex naturally.

There aren’t really barefoot running shoes, though. There’s a 4mm drop. While I don’t really understand what that means, the 4mm drop encourages the mid-foot strike. Even when I tried these shoes out for the first time, they forced me to adapt a more balanced, forward stance. (I am a supinator that likes to lean back and walk on my heels. Serious issue for running. And skiing.)

I love these shoes. I love them so much I often use them on day hikes instead of hiking boots. They got me through my first Spartan Sprint. They are the shoes that got me running and have kept me running ever since.

Long name, light shoe.
Yellow is my least favorite color. I hate it. Probably because I’m from Massachusetts and therefore find yellow lights offensive.

For my second pair, I opted to try out the Minimus Multi-Sport, the water-resistant cousin to the Trail. They’re essentially the same show with a less breathable coating. And I’ll say, for running on damp streets, the Multi-Sports are great. But I definitely notice the loss in breathability. With the Trails, I could run without socks on really hot days, but not with the Multi-Sports. I tried once, and it was pretty uncomfortable.

I’m planning on getting a new pair of Trails pretty soon. I’ll save the Multi-Sports for day-to-day use (like walking to the grocery store on a damp day. Being in a grocery store with soggy-feeling feet just ain’t right), while using the Trails my primary running shoe.

But guarantee, if you see me yogging through town, I’ll be wearing these.

Live, Learn, Run.