What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

One Sentence Summary:

  • The memoir of an esteemed novelist whose pragmatic view of running and how it has become a pillar for his success in his career. 

Below are notes I've taken while reading the book. This is not a comprehensive summary but thoughts and ideas I've found valuable. I recommend reading these notes after you've read the book first to compare our thoughts. I can't stop you if you don't want to so I guess you can use the below as an idea of what you may get out of the book yourself if you read it... though if it ain't clear it's cause you didn't listen to me. 

Raw Notes:

Chapter: One

On long-term projects he stopped at the point where he could write more. The purpose was to be able to continue the rhythm for the next day. The idea of continuing the momentum

"So, at 36 miles per week, I cover 156 miles every month, which for me is my standard for serious running. ~ In other words, six miles a day, six days a week." -> I see this as another example of a high performer breaking large scary tasks down into the smallest forms and executing on it. pg. 7

He has been running for 23 years and has competed in 1 marathon every year. Making it 23 marathons. He believes running has been the most helpful and meaningful habit he has developed and I'd agree in saying that is what I feel with powerlifting as well. 

"Beating somebody else just doesn't do it for me" -> Competitive doesn't mean that you must like "winning" or "beating" other people. I think the world puts people who love competition in a pedestal and those that don't as weak. i think I love the competition of powerlifting because it is all about self-improvement. A form of internal competition. pg. 9

Cities morph around rivers. Rivers themselves remain unaltered. 

Haruki owned a bar for 10 years. It was a coffee shop by day and a Jazz bar by night. Beauty. He attributes does tough 10 years of working 100+ hours a week as being material in giving him the experience needed to write novels later on. I do thoroughly believe that a writer will only be able to produce captivating writing only after he's "done things".

"-this is my first experience growing old, and the emotions I'm having, too, are all first-time feelings." -> Everyone is making shit up as they go. Think about this when you hear advice from people. They've only been 28 once and they are 40 for the first time. pg 18

"Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent." -> pg.19

Haruki about running: "-this is a pretty wonderful thing. No matter what anybody else says" -> Remember, fuck what others think. Think for yourself and stay true to that. No one else is going to live your life for you. pg. 23

Chapter: Two

At 29. "And pretty much out of the blue I got the idea to write a novel" -> Your career isn't what you decided to do at 22. It will take many different swings. As long as you embrace that journey and know that each decision is in YOUR best interest. It will work out. pg. 27

"If I wanted to have a long life as a novelist, I needed to find a way to keep fit and maintain a healthy weight" -> why he started running. Born from an enjoyment of writing to begin with. pg. 33

"I got up before 5am and went to bed before 10pm" -> his new life as an author. Sounds like my life. pg. 36

Haruki doesn't do any more work at the end of the day. He uses it to relax. It's a function of learning to prioritize the 2 essential resources of our life. Time and Energy. Allocating it correctly for yourself is a skill that should be learned by a certain age for longevity and prosperity of your life. 

People naturally continue to do things they like. They tend to keep that up if it's an activity they really care for. So to even build a habit. You must truly want it with your own motivation behind it. Without it. You won't give a shit. 

"The most important thing we ever learn in school is the fact that the most important things can't be learned in school" -> pg. 45

Chapter: Three

"It's a pretty thing, the wall separating healthy confidence and unhealthy pride" -> The importance in mastery of why masters always have the mindset of a student. pg. 54

Chapter: Four

To build habits, you have to carefully increase the load, step by step. You have to take your time and do it in stages. If the loading halts for a few days then you lose the consistency to continue onwards so must start from the earlier stages. This is the process Haruki uses to describe developing the appetite for distance running. But I see it as a process applicable in building any form of sustainable habit. 

"I generally concentrate on work for 3-4 hours every morning. I sit at my desk and focus totally on what I'm writing. I don't see anything else, I don't think about anything else." -> forced deep work. Always required to accomplish anything meaningful. pg. 77

Haruki speaks of 2 Olympic level runners. They were Olympic hopefuls that ran on the same running path as him. He didn't see them one day. Found out both died in a car crash. Both had also recently gotten married too. Death doesn't wait for noone. One may see this as "what is the point then of working hard to maybe get into the Olympics when you can die". One may see it as "At least they enjoyed their life up to that point focusing on what they loved". I agree with the latter. I also believe people who think the former are people who actually never experienced any form of activity they truly enjoyed and did for themselves. 

"If you're going to while away the years, it's far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits; That's the essence of running, and a metaphor for life - and for me, for writing as well" -> When you find you want to push yourself so hard to get better at something, you may have found something worth doing with your life. pg 83

Chapter: Five

Not a book note but as I read this chapter a guy in a coffee shop asks me which Murakami I am reading. It's continued reinforcement of my belief that many individuals actually enjoy reading and not all of us are wasting lives behind social media. 

Haruki doesn't fit the stereotypical 'degenerate' image of an author that is common in Japan. For this he has faced societal judgment. They say "he's no artist" for to be an artist you can't be as well kept and disciplined as he. But he ignores them. he just keeps on running. Doing his thing. For someone so successful to not be considered an artist by those who haven't accomplished half the things he has must be frustrating. But he seems to have built up a stronger reliance on his internal scorecard to block this out and that is admirable indeed.

Chapter: Six

"No matter how slow I might run, I wasn't about to walk. That was the rule. Break one of my rules once, and I'm bound to break many more" -> It's easier to stick to your principles 100% of the time than doing it 99% of the time. pg. 111

A refreshing thought of passion is the loss of love for it. Haruki describes how he has actually lost the love for running for some time after poor experiences in the marathon. I think this makes sense. You can't love something constantly all the time. You can love it on average more than other things. I think that is what separates passion from other activities. But seeing his struggle, it reminds of my loss of love for powerlifting and I think that is all okay. 

Chapter: Eight

"One day, out of the blue, I wanted to write a novel. And one day, out of the blue, I started to run - simply because I wanted to. I've always done whatever I felt like doing in life." -> It's so simple. What is the point of living life if you are not going to do what you want to do. I fundamentally believe if people choose to do things they truly want then they will figure out a way to adjust their lives to it. I think finances can be solved. Anyone who disagrees just has a boatload of excuses and an unfulfilled life to support that. pg. 150

Chapter: Nine

"~ sometimes taking time is actually a shortcut" -> It may seem slow at first. But that is the short term view. Over a long term, you were going much faster than everyone else. pg. 161

"It doesn't matter how old I get, but as long as I continue to live I'll always discover something new about myself. No matter how long you stand there examining yourself naked before a mirror, you'll never see reflected what's inside" -> No time is wasted time. With each passage of time you have the opportunity to reflect and that is why you journal. Capture the constant learnings. pg. 163

"Whether it's good for anything or not, cool or totally uncool, in the final analysis what's most important is what you can't see but can feel in your heart. ~ even activities that appear fruitless don't necessarily end up so" -> Humans are extremely poor forecasters. Even forecasting what you do will be of value can be incorrect, even if it is obvious. The only true thing that you can right about is in doing things you genuinely love and feel value for. Then the rest will work itself out on whether it benefits society etc.. pg. 172

"I'll age one more year, and probably finish another novel. One by one, I'll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can" -> Just tackle everything one at a time. It will seem slow. But it actually isn't. pg. 173

This is what Haruki envisions for his gravestone:

Haruki Murakami
1949 - 20**
Writer (and Runner)
At Least He Never Walked.

What will yours say?