A short collection of memoir essays by Haruki Murakami about running. What’s most interesting about this collection is how banal he approaches the subject. To be fair, a lot of Murakami novel dwell in the banal by design, so this is not a surprise really, but it really works here. One of the reasons that works is because he actually is a serious runner, but still an amateur. So this is not a memoir by a professional or competitive runner, but of a writer who run seriously. This is different from say a Bill Bryson almost-dilettantish look at a subject of interest, but of an interest cultivated through decades of practice becoming the subject of a book.
I wonder if you need to be a runner to appreciate this book (I dabble in a medium way), or if being interested in Murakami’s writing is enough. Regardless, what this book ends up being is a collection of well-wrought, kind of boring (or unflashy) essays that are not trying to capture a sense of sublime or anything like that. He is not interested in elevating running in the slightest. In fact, he tells you what a lot of runners tell you: if you don’t like running, do go running.
Running is a lot like reading in this way. Because it is a process and tool, in addition to being a specific pursuit, it takes on a false sense of obligation. People value running, even if they don’t like to run. It’s seen as thing that one is supposed to do, and so like reading, especially in the cases of voracious readers, there’s a weird tension that sometimes reads as contempt and sometimes as envy for someone really being into it.