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Book 5 of 24: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

Book 5 of 24 of A Year of Books. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running by Haruki Murakami. Read: March 2018.

Last night – which is a Friday night – I spent after hours talking about Haruki Murakami’s memoir while sipping red wine in our office common area. It was our second Book Club session. Nothing formal. Just a place where questions like “How did you find the book?” end up with topics around sport, determination, culture differences, the difficulties of being a creative professional, suicide, amassing huge amounts of wealth, retirement, and most importantly, how to get a husband that has lots of money so you can quit your job and be a “philantrophist”. (I mean…)

Imagine a Facebook group about books – but in person! Imagine the Good Reads review section – but with actual people conversing with each other about their learnings, lives, funny thoughts, misunderstandings and whatnot.

On the one end, there are our conversations on the web; our ability to interact with people around the world with witty 140-character or three-sentence comments; hit like, follow, love… There is some magic in that. On the other end, there are our conversations in real life; small pockets of time we allocate specifically to listen, and at certain times, speak, mostly about things you don’t usually talk about IRL. It’s getting all the rarer these days, but that’s what a Book Club is.


I’m at an ordinary—or perhaps more like mediocre—level. But that’s not the point. The point is whether or not I improved over yesterday. In long-distance running the only opponent you have to beat is yourself, the way you used to be.

I just run. I run in a void. Or maybe I should put it the other way: I run in order to acquire a void.

And now here I am living in this unimaginable world. It feels really strange, and I can’t tell if I’m fortunate or not. Maybe it doesn’t matter. For me—and for everybody else, probably—this is my first experience growing old, and the emotions I’m having, too, are all first-time feelings.

I never could stand being forced to do something I didn’t want to do at a time I didn’t want to do it. Whenever I was able to do something I liked to do, though, when I wanted to do it, and the way I wanted to do it, I’d give it everything I had.

From elementary school up to college I was never interested in things I was forced to study. I told myself it was something that had to be done, so I wasn’t a total slacker and was able to go on to college, but never once did I find studying exciting. As a result, though my grades weren’t the kind you have to hide from people, I don’t have any memory of being praised for getting a good grade or being the best in anything. I only began to enjoy studying after I got through the educational system and became a so-called member of society.

I’m struck by how, except when you’re young, you really need to prioritize in life, figuring out in what order you should divide up your time and energy. If you don’t get that sort of system set by a certain age, you’ll lack focus and your life will be out of balance.

In other words, let’s face it: Life is basically unfair. But even in a situation that’s unfair, I think it’s possible to seek out a kind of fairness. Of course, that might take time and effort. And maybe it won’t seem to be worth all that. It’s up to each individual to decide whether or not it is.

To tell the truth, I don’t even think there’s that much correlation between my running every day and whether or not I have a strong will. I think I’ve been able to run for more than twenty years for a simple reason: It suits me. Or at least because I don’t find it all that painful. Human beings naturally continue doing things they like, and they don’t continue what they don’t like. Admittedly, something close to will does play a small part in that. But no matter how strong a will a person has, no matter how much he may hate to lose, if it’s an activity he doesn’t really care for, he won’t keep it up for long. Even if he did, it wouldn’t be good for him.

The most important thing we ever learn at school is the fact that the most important things can’t be learned at school.

Plus, I don’t think we should judge the value of our lives by how efficient they are.

To a certain extent, I figured, it’s sometimes hard to avoid losing. Nobody’s going to win all the time. On the highway of life you can’t always be in the fast lane. Still, I certainly don’t want to keep making the same mistakes over and over. Best to learn from my mistakes and put that lesson into practice the next time around. While I still have the ability to do that.

Nothing in the real world is as beautiful as the illusions of a person about to lose consciousness.

I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.

focus—the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment.

If something’s worth doing, it’s worth giving it your best—or in some cases beyond your best.

You have to wait until tomorrow to find out what tomorrow will bring.

I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead.

That’s life. Maybe the only thing we can do is accept it, without really knowing what’s going on.

2 replies on “Book 5 of 24: What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”

Sitting in a coffee shop somewhere in Bali, I got this post update from an amazing girl. Will definitely give this book a try! I miss you, Pena! Xoxo

So, what do you think?

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