Writers’ body parts don’t usually get media attention. The profile of Haruki Murakami in the Globe & Mail described a man with toned biceps and quadriceps. What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir of Murakami’s running and sitting life. Murakami, a former jazz club owner and successful novelist prone to reclusiveness, took up marathon running to combat the sedentary life of writing. This resonated with me. As a production artist working at a computer for hours, my extra pounds stay on an upward trajectory along with my age.
To say Murakami inspired me to start running is giving him too much credit. By the time I read Running, several things were already in place. For one, I’ve always admired people who get up early and run. If you run in the evening, I’m less likely to admire you. Two, I’ve always liked the sound of running. Three, I’ve recently scrapped bottom—my energy has been at a record low while my weight has almost reached a record high. Four, I can’t get the image of tubby people in hover chairs from the movie Wall-E out of my mind.
The day after reading Murakami’s book, I cycled downtown to the public library and found several books on running for beginners. On the way home, I bought a stop watch. The next morning, I typed up a 13-week schedule and hit the road. After the first week of training, I found a tangible goal—a 5k run/walk with the CIBC Breast Cancer Run for the Cure.
I liked the sound of Murakami’s life much more than the reading of it. At times, the writing is simple and repetitive. Murakami even breaks a basic rule: Don’t tell—show. He says he spent a lot of time polishing the manuscript. I felt embarrassed for the guy, but attributed it to the translation and wished I could read the author in his native language.
Critics have not been as kind. He’s called lazy by Geoff Dyer of the New York Times and clichéd by Michael Hingston of the Georgia Straight. Ouch. But as his perfect reader, this book has perked my interest in his novels. Murakami is on my summer reading list. Sort of.