I am not a novelist: I'd like to be, I have a few ideas, and I can string a sentence together if I try hard. They say everyone's got one book in them, so maybe one day I will be. I certainly won't be betting my house on it though.
I am not a marathon runner either. I'd like to be though, and I hope I will be on April 18th next year, when I'll tighten up my trainers and try to get round 26.2 miles of Brighton and Hove's highways, twittens and beaches. My training's going more slowly than I'd hoped, but it's still going.
But I do love the novels of Haruki Marakami - and this non-fiction effort - What I Talk About When I Talk About Running - is as good as any of them, really. Though there can't be many marathon-running novelists out there, I bet there are a fair few people out there who, like me, would actually like to be both.
Even if that's not the case - Murakami's insights into a world seen through not one but two pretty solitary and weird lenses are quite compelling. With every new description you just want to yell 'weirdo' - then, taking a moment, realise he's actually spot on.
'What I think about...' is certainly a product of the orient. We don't chose to live either healthy or unhealthy lifestyles, he posits, for example, we're all a product of both - and it's getting the balance right that matters most. The solitary and emotionally draining practise of novel-writing is his most 'unhealthy' pursuit - running, he argues, is one of the ways he prevents writing from killing him. Mostly through suicide, he notes, being a novelist has taken a fair few lives prematurely.
Though he calmly slips in the fact that he gave up smoking as he realised it was simply incompatible with being a runner (perhaps the most compelling argument I've heard, really), and that he's cut back a little on the alcohol as he's become older, there's no preaching here. It's a compelling, and readable, account of what makes Murakami tick. It's so gracefully done that it's more like listening to a gentle monologue than reading, really, and I've absolutely no idea if it rings true or not. I'll take his word for it though.
If you're inspired by any of this, you can buy the book via this link, or, of course, get it free from your local library.
What I Talk About When I Talk About Running