What I Talk About When I Talk About Running

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running By Haruki Murakami

Rating: 9/10

This book was very inspiring. To read, first hand, what it is like to run and build up the strength—mostly mental— that is needed to pretty much every day for more than two decades, is impressive.

I picked up this book to read more about running, to understand what goes through one’s mind while running a marathon and being under a lot of physical pain. But this book is much more than that. Through the running lens, Murakami paints a picture of his whole life. For him, running is a metaphor to writing, both are activities that require patience, endurance, focus and a lot of stubbornness.

A gentleman shouldn’t go on and on about what he does to stay fit. At least that’s how I see it. [Talking about marathons]
If you don’t keep repeating a mantra of some sort to yourself, you’ll never survive.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
I don’t know why but the older you get the busier you become. [ As we become older we should try to go the opposite way. Look for ways to avoid distractions and be alone with yourself. Perhaps this is why Murakami runs so much, it is one of the only moments he is alone and avoiding being busy]
  Running without a break for more than two decades has also made me
  stronger, both physically and emotionally.
[Just the sheer willpower to force yourself to run over this timestamp is impressive]
I am much more interested in whether I reach the goals that I set for myself, so in this sense long-distance running is the perfect fit for a mindset like mind. [Remember, your battle and struggle is against yourself. Don’t compare yourself to others. We are all in different universes]
What’s crucial is whether your writing attain the standards you’ve set for yourself. Failure to reach that bar is not something you can easily explain away. When it comes to other people, you can always come up with a reasonable explanation, but you can’t fool yourself. In this sense, writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. [Hold yourself to the highest standards. “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” – Marcus Aurelius]
Dostoyevsky, for instance, wrote two of his
  most profound novels in the last few years before his death at age sixty.
  Domenico Scarlatti wrote 555 piano sonatas during his lifetime, most of
  them when he was between the ages of fifty-seven and sixty-two.
[On late bloomers. This is very related to Range]
  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 not boring.
[Cultivating alone time is essential for Deep Work]

The thoughts that occur to me while I’m running are like clouds in the sky. Clouds of all different sizes. They come and they go, while the sky remains the same sky as always. … The sky both exists and doesn’t exist. It has substance and at the same time doesn’t. And we merely accept that vast expanse and drink it in.

[Meditation]
The fact that I am me and no one else is one of my greatest assets. Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent.
I had to give everything I had. If I failed, I could accept that. But I knew that if I did things halfheartedly and they didn’t work out, I’d always have regrets. [Bezos’s regret minimization framework]
Running has a lot of advantages. First of all, you don’t need anybody else to do it, and no need for special equipment. You don’t have to go to any special place to do it. As long as you have running shoes and a good road you can run to your heart’s content.
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. I place the highest priority on the sort of life that lets me focus on writing, not associating with all the people around me. [Lifestyle design]
As I continued to run, my body started to accept the fact that it was running, and I could gradually increase the distance. The main thing was not the speed or distance so much as running every day, without taking a break.
Being active every day makes it easier to hear the inner voice.
I never take two days off in a row. [Routine]
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. [Stoicism]

The body is an extremely practical system. You have to let it experience intermittent pain over time, and then the body will get the point.

  [Similar to intermittent fasting, and other dieting practices. Certain
  non-linear responses make you antifragile].
On the highway of life you can’t always be in the fast lane. [Stilness]
If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again.
If you don’t have any fuel even the best car won’t run.

If I’m asked what the next most important quality is for a novelist [first one if talent], that’s easy too: focus—the ability to concentrate all your limited talents on whatever’s critical at the moment.

[Deep Work]
After focus, the next most important thing for a novelist is, hands down, endurance. If you concentrate on writing three or four hours a day and feel tired after a week of this, you’re not going to be able to write a long work.
You can compare it to breathing. If concentration is the process of just holding your breath, endurance is the art of slowly, quietly breathing at the same Tim you’re storing air in your lungs. Unless you can find a balance between both, it’ll be difficult to write novels professionally over a long time.
  <div id="note"> Add a stimulus and keep it up. And repeat. Patience is a must in
  this process, but I guarantee the results will come.
  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.
It’s important to push your body to its limits, but exceed those and the whole thing’s a waste.
This is my body, with all its limits and quirks. Just as with my face, even if I don’t like it it’s the only one I get, so I’ve got to make do. As I’ve grown older, I’ve naturally come to terms with this. You open the fridge and can make a nice—actually even a pretty smart— meal with the leftovers. [Stoicism]
To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible.
You have to wait until tomorrow to find out what tomorrow will bring.
The end of the race is just a temporary marker without much significance. It’s the same with our lives. Just because there’s an end doesn’t mean existence has a meaning.
Just as I have my own role to play, so does time. And time does its job much more faithfully, much more accurately, than I ever do. [Time is the ultimate goal, the ultimate tester]
You can replace your breath any number of times, but not your knees. There are the only knees I’ll ever have, so I’d better take good care of them
Learning something essential in life requires physical pain.
I don’t care what others say—that’s just my nature, the way I am. Like scorpions sting, cicadas cling on trees, salmon swim upstream to where they were born, and wild ducks mate for life.
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.
One by one, I’ll face the tasks before me and complete them as best I can. Focusing on each stride forward, but at the same time taking a long-range view, scanning the scenery as far ahead as I can. I am, after all, a long-distance runner.

Notes and Highlights


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