What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

In case you don’t know yet, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a book written by Haruki Murakami, a favourite author of mine.

The words extend my awareness of my body, my mind, my heart, my soul and my spirituality. My ‘human matrix’ improves when I read his words and listen to his jazz.

from the Murakami music

Listen  to My Favorite Things

I have read several of his books including The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Norwegian Wood, and Kafka by the Shore. Some are reviewed in the Reading Room. I am about to read — or rather listen to because audible books carry me through my running — After Dark.

The Murakami-styled philosophy of running and writing reflects the ‘home-made cozy solace in running’  wonderful and really simple way.

mind and body consciousness

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a rich and revelatory memoir. So as a writer and a runner, I found a particular intuitive connection to this book and decided that I too would run 10 km every day and since July 2018, have stuck to the plan. 

And, then I thought, what the heck — I will match my footprints with words. So I began my year long run/write challenge with a mental health charitable foundation in mind.

So I did the math. Starting August first 2018 to July 31 2019 if my running target is to log 3,300,000 running feet then my writing word target is 330,000. That means an average of 10km and a blog post average of 1000 words per day. So far, so good. 


the watershed moments are transforming

In 1982, having sold his jazz bar to devote himself to writing, Haruki Murakami began running to keep fit. A year later, he’d completed a solo course from Athens to Marathon.

Watershed moments are interesting things. They can happen and you don’t notice them or, if you are mindful enough, you can be part of the process. 

This is one of my watershed moments. It just feels intuitively right. Last July sending me into a year long recover from abuse and trauma was another. This time I am taking a more conscious agency over my narrative. Reflections on your intentions and intuitions is very empowering.

reflections like a ‘training and travel log’

After dozens of such races, not to mention triathlons and a slew of critically acclaimed books, he spends time reflecting. He reflects upon the influence the sport has had on his life. And, even more important, on his writing.

Equal parts training log, travelogue, and reminiscence, this revealing memoir covers his four-month preparation for the 2005 New York City Marathon.

It also includes settings ranging from Tokyo’s Jingu Gaien gardens, where he once shared the course with an Olympian, to the Charles River in Boston among young women who outpace him.

pushing through triumphs and disappointments

Through this marvellous lens of sport emerges a cornucopia of memories and insights: the eureka moment when he decided to become a writer, his greatest triumphs and disappointments; his passion for vintage LPs; and the experience, after the age of fifty, of seeing his race times improve and then fall back.

During the swim portion – the bane of his existence as a triathlete – he found his trusty old goggles had fogged up. They wouldn’t come clear, no matter how much he wiped them. It dawned on him, while treading water, that he did not clean the Vaseline from his hands from his pre-race lube to make pulling off his wet suit easier.


Murakami starts chapter six asking the reader,

Have you ever considered running sixty-two miles (100K) in a single day? The vast majority of people in the world (those who are sane, I should day) have never had that experience…..and for a while afterward I swear I’d never run again…..but who knows what the future will hold.


philosophical humour based in reality

By turns philosophical humour, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is both for fans of this masterful yet guardedly private writer (like me also). And, it is for the exploding population of athletes who find similar satisfaction in distance running.


Long-distance running is tough. It takes sheer self-determination. No one can tell you you should do it. It is one of those things that has to come from within.



There is no way you could do what Murakami writes about doing if not for an intentional attitude, mindfulness and a smart skills and strategies.

ACT (action and commitment therapy), is one source of such tools. It teaches us many skills and strategies but this book made me think of the acronym SOBER.

Stop — slow down your mind and become very aware of what you are doing and thinking and feeling at that very moment — Acceptance

Observe — Observe the sensations, feelings and thoughts; notice as much as you can about your experience — Reflection

Breath — Gather your attention and bring it to your breath

Expand — Expand your awareness to include your body, your experience, and to the situation if you can gently hold in all awareness.

Respond — (versus react) Respond mindfully, with awareness of what is truly needed in the situation and how you can take better care of yourself. Whatever is happening in your mind and body, you have a choice in how you respond. — Transformation

When you are experiencing urges or cravings (like when running you would like to jump in the shower or have a cold beer and a big steak), you need to step out of auto-pilot.

strengthening the mind

You can become less reactive to the situation and more aware and mindful of your responses to what you are doing at that very moment.

As my knee tells me sometimes to think of it, I do, and mindfully carry on. My physical and mental health depends on it.

The health of my mind, body and soul depend balance and equanimity. It is enhanced by having a strong, cohesive identity-narrative and on having a confident voice in speaking and writing.

Living with authenticity according to my core values, with integrity is vital. Running and writing encourages this kind of mindful reflection and transformation



you expect it to afford you a special sort of self-awareness

it should add a few new elements in understanding of

who you are

— writes Murakami

as, Gandhi says,

  • change yourself
  • you are in control
  • forgive and let go
  • without action, you aren’t getting anywhere
  • take care of this moment
  • everyone is human
  • persist
  • see the good in people and help them
  • be congruent, be authentic, be your true self
  • continue to grow and evolve

This amounts to my A. R. T. Project — acceptance balanced with lots of reflection and orientation towards transformation.


grit, endurance and focus

Running is a metaphor of life if you choose view it that way. Murakami’s writing not only establishes the metaphor, but beautifies it.

The most profound may be of what it takes to be a professional writer, which may have more to do with what it takes to be an endurance athlete: grit, endurance and focus.


most of what I know about writing

I’ve learned through running every day

Namaste,  LeahJ

~ a guide to healing mind, body, heart, soul and spirit.

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