In this simple little book, Japanese author Haruki Murakami presents his thoughts and experiences on running marathons. The book is partly a memoir on his life, partly a reflective travelogue of key running marathon and triathlon experiences, and partly a collection of meandering thoughts that often tie marathon running back to the art of writing.
A mixed bag of quotes and notes from the book:
• “I stop every day right at the point where I feel I can write more.”
• “I don’t know why, but the older you get, the busier you get.”
• Some of Murakami’s music likes: The album “Reptile” by Eric Clapton, and music by the band Lovin' Spoonful . Murakami owned and ran a jazz club for seven years after university. After a couple of his written efforts were published (he wrote them in the free minutes he could find while running the club), Murakami closed the jazz club to see if he make a go of being an author.
• Murakami is very comfortable being alone: “I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when give a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.”
• On running: “I run to acquire the void. …the kinds of thoughts and ideas that invade my emotions as I run remain subordinate to that void. Lacking content, they are just random thoughts that gather around that central void.”
• A runner’s mantra: “Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional”.
• A mantra used my Murakami to separate the mind from the body when the pain really hit hard, “I’m not human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. Just forge on ahead.”
• On achieving a terrible marathon time: “There are three reasons I failed. Not enough training. Not enough training. And not enough training. …Without knowing it, I’d developed a sort of arrogant attitude , convinced that just a fair-to-middling amount of training was enough for me to do a good job. It’s pretty thin, the wall separating healthy confidence from unhealthy pride.”
• On a strange sensation felt after the 47th mile of a 62 mile, single day marathon: “…I felt like I passed through something. …like my body had passed clean through stone wall. ..I don’t know the logic or the process or the method involved – I was simply convinced of the reality that I’d passed through. After that, I didn’t have to think anymore…All I had to do was go with the flow and get there automatically”. After running this epic marathon, Murakami feels a great sense of satisfaction and confidence, but then something he describes as the “runner’s blues” kicks in, diluting the attraction and dulling the instinct to run long distances in good times. This last for several years before the fog lifts.
• Then author runs the original marathon route in Greece in reverse, from Marathon to Athens. Along the road, in the stifling heat, he comes across three dead dogs and eleven dead cats.
• On quitting when life gets too busy: “Running every day is a kind of lifeline for me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. 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.