For the last five years, I’ve been grappling with the question: ‘Am I a Runner?’. Sure, I run, but does that make me a Runner? What’s the threshold for that? How is this identity obtained and defined?
And I think maybe the litmus test, for me at least, is:
- Do you run?
- Did you enjoy reading and identify with ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’?
My answer to both questions is a resounding Yes, so I think I can finally settle into the title of Runner. Not Fast Runner. Or Marathon Runner. Just Runner.
Over the course of a few years, Murakami took time out of his busy fiction writing/lecturing/translating schedule to pen a short but satisfying Runner’s memoir. He covers his training regime, his goals, his injuries, his successes and his ‘failures’.
But he goes beyond the banal to really capture the essence of what being a Runner means. He’s articulated how it means that in some aspects of your life, you may be constrained and regimented. You may happily decline an invite to a boozy Saturday night gathering in preference of prioritising a pre-dawn Sunday run. You may plan your work and travel around races that you want to attend. You may feel your advancing years not in wrinkles and ever-thickening glasses lens, but in dwindling stats and longer race times. You may be both amazed and frustrated by your physical abilities and limitations, and marvel at the small incremental improvements that come with consistent training.
Murakami is not just a Runner. He’s a Daily Runner. A Marathon Runner. An Ultra Marathon Runner. And a Triathlete! His discipline and the joy it brings him shines through each page. The novel weaves in and out of a number of his race build-ups and let-downs. He deftly explains the depths of the ‘Runner Blues’ that set in following his successful completion of an Ultra Marathon. It’s a fascinating look into the life of an accomplished-yet-amateur athlete. His goals felt impressive yet attainable, which is perhaps why I was able to identify with the novel so well. After all, he’s also got to keep up his day job of pumping out beloved literature!
I’m currently training for my first half marathon and started the year doing only two runs a week. I saw little progress during this time. Simply increasing my runs to three times a week was transformative, and it’s not surprising why. As my race approaches, my training schedule calls for four runs a week soon… I’m excited to see what changes this yields.
As with most things in life, I think it’s easy to chalk other’s success up to ‘natural born talent’, ‘good genes’, or just plan luck. But this is rarely a reality. Study hard and your grades will improve. Practice your piano and you will be able to play a song. Run often and your endurance will improve. It’s not rocket science, and it’s definitely not sexy. But it can be hugely satisfying.
In the words of my (frequent marathon-running) father-in-law, the key to success as a runner is simple: ‘Time on your legs’. Murakami’s memoir is further proof of the beauty that can be found in the simple act of running.
I would recommend this memoir to any aspiring, budding, or established runner/Runner.
5 nutritional gels out of 5.