For a long time, I held the firm view that running sucks. Over the past few months, this view has softened considerably. While running still sucks sometimes, I've grown to kind of love it in a way.

I'm not sure where I first heard of Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, a memoir that shares life lessons and principles through the lens of training for the 2005 New York City Marathon, but I'm glad I did.

I really enjoyed the book, both from an entertainment and educational point of view. There's a lot to unpack, but these are my favorite takeaways and notes.


  • Keep at anything long enough and it becomes a meditative act.
  • Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional.
  • Set the pace and the rest will follow. The hardest part is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed.
  • There are always going to be days you don't want to show up. Do it anyway.
Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Say you’re running and you start to think, Man this hurts, I can’t take it anymore. The hurt part is an unavoidable reality, but whether or not you can stand any more is up to the runner himself. This pretty much sums up the most important aspect of marathon running.

Growing Old

  • The older you get, the busier you become.
  • Figure out how to divide up your time and energy. If you don't get a system set by a certain age, you'll lack focus and things will be out of balance.
  • Being young means your whole body is filled with a natural vitality. If you’re young and talented, it’s like you have wings.
  • You’ve done everything you needed to do, and there’s no sense in rehashing it. All you can do now is wait for the race.
  • At certain points in our lives, when we really need a clear-cut solution, the person who knocks at our door is, more likely than not, a messenger bearing bad news.
  • One generation takes over from the next. This is how things are handed over in this world, so I don’t feel so bad if they pass you.
  • Most phases aren't forever. You enter them, learn something, and then it’s time to leave.
Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. 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. I believe many runners would agree.

Being a Writer

  • Even if you don't write anything, sit down at your desk every single day and concentrate.
  • Writing novels and running full marathons are very much alike. Basically a writer has a quiet, inner motivation, and doesn’t seek validation in the outwardly visible.
  • Everybody uses their mind when they think. But a writer puts on an outfit called narrative and thinks with his entire being; that process requires putting into play all your physical reserve, often to the point of overexertion.
Most of what I know about writing I’ve learned through running every day. These are practical, physical lessons. How much can I push myself? How much rest is appropriate—and how much is too much? How far can I take something and still keep it decent and consistent? When does it become narrow-minded and inflexible? How much should I be aware of the world outside, and how much should I focus on my inner world? To what extent should I be confident in my abilities, and when should I start doubting myself?


  • Emotional hurt is the price a person has to pay in order to be independent.
  • Don't run into a void. Run to acquire a void.
  • I think certain types of processes don’t allow for any variation. If you have to be part of that process, all you can do is transform—or perhaps distort—yourself through that persistent repetition, and make that process a part of your own personality.
  • To deal with something unhealthy, a person needs to be as healthy as possible. That’s my motto. In other words, an unhealthy soul requires a healthy body.
Can I see kindness there? No, all I see is my own nature. My own individual, stubborn, uncooperative, often self-centered nature that still doubts itself—that, when troubles occur, tries to find something funny, or something nearly funny, about the situation. I’ve carried this character around like an old suitcase, down a long, dusty path. I’m not carrying it because I like it. The contents are too heavy, and it looks crummy, fraying in spots. I’ve carried it with me because there was nothing else I was supposed to carry. Still, I guess I have grown attached to it. As you might expect.

Wrapping up

What I Talk About When I Talk About Running made me appreciate long-distance running more than I did previously. There's something about setting aside an hour or so and just being with your thoughts. How could it not be meditative?

If you enjoyed any of these notes, check out the book in full and let me know what you think of it. Until next time, I'm going to go run — words I never thought I would say a year ago.

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