Sunday, March 11, 2012

Murakami - Running, Writing and Life

I gave up on Murakami some time after I finished reading Kafka on the Shore. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed the book hugely while I was reading it. But a couple of days after I finished the book, while I was in the 'digestion' phase, I suddenly felt like I had missed a lot of layers and meanings in the book. Why had such strange things happened? What did this incident mean? I suddenly felt I had read a different book from the one that Murakami had written. And that completely threw me off reading any more of his books.

But a colleague of mine, who had got to know about my new found habit of jogging, lent me What I Talk About When I Talk About Running last week. I had seen it in book-stores a couple of times, and had been vaguely thinking of buying it, so she definitely picked  the right book for me.

WITAWITAR is very different from his other books (no cats, for instance!). It's a short book, quite introspective, and quite philosophical. He is mostly talking about running - about marathons, about triathlons, about the emotions in his mind when he's running, his experiences. But at the same time, he's also talking about writing, about willpower, about ageing, about life.

For a new runner jogger like me, it's extremely interesting to know the 'behind-the-scenes' story, so to speak. What goes on in a runner's mind during those grueling miles of the marathon? When I read about Murakami's first 'marathon', which was a solo run from Athens to Marathon on the Greek shore, and how hot it was, and how he had to push himself to finish the last few miles - well, I looked at myself and my puny 5 kilometers a day in the pleasant early morning weather of Bangalore, and felt rather foolish.

Murakami also expounds on his theory that writing is in general such an unhealthy profession, that writers need to do something intensely healthy in order to re-create the balance in their lives. Otherwise, they would burn out from sheer exhaustion.

The one thing I have realized after reading this book is that I will never become a marathon runner. I don't think I have the willpower to push myself to those limits. Murakami may be able to push himself to run the second half of an ultra-marathon (which is 62 miles as opposed to the 26.2 miles of a normal marathon) despite suffering from cramps. But personally, I would have just taken the cramps as a very welcome excuse to stop running. (I expect that's why he's a best-selling author and I'm not.)

Okay, I've just looked up the Bangalore 10K run - it's on 27th May this year. I may not be a marathon runner in the making, but a 10 kilometer run looks manageable, right? Let's see.
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