Friday, November 30, 2012

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As close to a Murakami memoir as we're likely to receive for quite some time.

I'm not making any secret of it, I am two weeks shy of my 30th birthday (original text written previously, obviously because I just wrote my brithday blogpost) and my health and fitness levels have been at all time lows in the past twelve months. I think back to when I was a younger man and wonder about the transition from athletic boy to lazy teen to lethargic man and I hardly recognise myself. This was something I couldn't stand the thought of, egged on by the distinct possibility of groaning from exertion whenever I lifted a book in the future I have been steadily working on my fitness for the past month with the aid of the C25K (couch to 5km) running program.

One of my least favourite things about exercise is the clothes that people wear, lycra seems far too popular and offensive to my eyes and don't get me started on those shoes they sell these days. It's virtually impossible to get an ordinary white pair of runners these days. Everything comes in neon with padding here, cushioning there, auto corrective-this and anti-that to the point that you may as well not run because the shoe is doing all of the work. I decided that if I was going to exercise I was going to do it on my own terms and be myself not another neon lycra clad automaton and so I came up with a simple outfit that reflects my semi-hipster nature and got in to some serious shoe research on the internet.
My Nike Pre Montreal Racers: No gimmicks, just running

Hands up who knows about Steve Prefontaine? I didn't, beyond the fact that Hollywood made TWO biopics of him in quick succession (played by Jared Leto and Billy Crudup) and that he was supposed to be good at running. Turns out Prefontaine is credited with some sort of boom in running back in the 70s and Nike designed a shoe for his Montreal Olympics run (SPOILER ALERT which he never made it to because he died in a car accident at the age of 24,) he also sported a mean moustache which despite my best hipster intentions I could never match.

My thoughts; if they were good enough for a running legend like Prefontaine back before technology became so prevalent then dammit they are good enough for me. I must say I love them, if they weren't so blue I'd probably try to find a way to wear them everywhere I go.

The idea behind learning to run without all the advanced technology is for my body to be able to cope with the physical act in any circumstances, what use is it getting fit if you have to run for the bus in your work shoes or worse than that, need to outrun some sort of mugger on a murder death kill rampage and can't because you can only run in super cushioned air bubble shoes? It's going well so far, but remember people it's not about the shoes, it's a state of mind.
Day 1: One is not enthused

Haruki Murakami is one of those authors who has managed to capture my imagination with his prose from the very first time I opened one of his novels. Dance Dance Dance is a benchmark for the kind of literature I wish I could write and I dream of somehow capturing the ennui of 21st century life that he seems to describe with ease in every script I ever conceive. This book, originally bought to encourage Leah in her running pursuits, seemed like the perfect match for where I currently am in my life. I wasn't disappointed.

He discusses the way he approaches his runs, why he does it, the way they make him feel and the comparison to writing novels. He doesn't offer tips, this isn't a training log, it's just a document of his thoughts on his career as a running writer and dealing with getting older. Having gotten to the stage of running 5km without too much pain in my out of practice limbs I am starting to feel good about it, with the gently encouraging and optimistic words of Mr Murakami I am feeling even more positive. He makes me want to keep running, to increase my distances, to run marathons. Hell, even being 10 days in to NaNoWriMo without having written a word I even feel positive about my writing abilities. He writes about the ordinary and everyday things with an eye and a voice that is unmatched in contemporary literature and this is reflected in his outlook on his own life.

Whilst this slight collection of writings will primarily appeal to runners, to a lesser extent writers, there is a beauty in his approach to life that will fascinate the casual reader of non-fiction work.

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