As well as being an popular global author of esoteric, whimsical novels, Haruki Murakami is also an ardent runner – competing in marathons and triathlons as part of his regular routine. In this book the author discusses his life as a runner, covering the period of a year when he competes in the New York marathon amongst others, and reminiscing about earlier triumphs and failures. Along the way Murakami gives some insight into what makes him work and get on with both running and writing, and how his sheer bloody mindedness keeps him going when it gets tough. To quote:
“Fortunately, these two disciplines – focus and endurance – are different from talent, since they can be acquired and sharpened through training. You’ll naturally learn both concentration and endurance when you sit down every day at your desk and train yourself to focus on one point. This is a lot like the training of muscles I wrote of a moment ago. You have to continually transmit the object of your focus to your entire body, and make sure it thoroughly assimilates the information necessary for you to write every single day and concentrate on the work at hand. And gradually you’ll expand the limits of what you’re able to do. Almost imperceptibly you’ll make the bar rise.”
There are probably no great revelations for budding runners in this book, but for those of us who enjoy gaining insight into the creative process of people we admire it’s a great read. Murakami blends his writing and running activities together into a coherent whole, and draws us back into his psyche to find the source of his focus. My only gripe about the book is its length – like After Dark it’s not the longest book ever – which given that Murakami’s writing about long distance running seems a tad ironic, but that said it is a good read.