What We Think About When We Run: Murakami

(An updated version of this post was published in The New Rambler)

“What are they thinking?”

In a recent New Yorker article, Kathryn Schulz ponders the 50,000 participants in the New York City Marathon, curious about what running could teach us of the “deep strangeness” of the human brain.  Her essay discusses research studies and books about running, including Haruki Murakami’s memoir, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  Murakami is not only an internationally acclaimed author who’s been lauded as one of the world’s greatest living novelists, he is also a long-distance runner who’s completed thirty marathons including New York City.  I was therefore somewhat surprised when Schulz dismissed his book as doing “very poor justice” to the question of what people think about while running.  She found it “neither inspirational nor aspirational nor descriptive.” Rather, it was “banal.”

It’s true, Murakami’s book has an ordinary tone and lacks the whimsical, surreal touches that grace his fiction.  But in re-reading the book, I found it addressed Schulz’ question head-on, just not in the way she might have expected. You see, when you’re running, what may matter more is what you’re not thinking….


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What We Think About When We Run: Murakami