4 Inspirational Running Lessons From ‘What I Talk About When I Talk About Running’

This year, my gift guide for runners happens to include one of my all-time favorite books — Haruki Murakami’s “ What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. ” And not only is it a beautiful, enjoyable read — whether you love to run or not — but it’s also chock full of some really poignant running lessons.

Running Lessons from 'What I Talk About When I Talk About Running'

And what runner doesn’t love a great inspirational quote about the sport they adore oh-so-much? I know I do, and I’m pretty sure you all do too 😉

This book is actually from 2008, so in internet time, it’s practically ancient. But I wanted to talk about it here today because, as I mentioned, it’s on my gift guide this year and it will forever remain one of my all-time favorite books.

A little about Murakami for those of you who are unfamiliar: He’s a best-selling author (I also really enjoyed his novel, “IQ84”) and he has run many marathons, and even finished an ultra-marathon. In other words, he walks the walk and can talk the talk (and very eloquently at that).

Here’s a look at what I think are some of the most inspirational and insightful quotes from “ What I Talk About When I Talk About Running ” and the running lessons we can all learn from them.

Running Lessons: The Best Inspirational Running Quotes

Quote #1: “People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. 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…” — Haruki Murakami

Running Lesson: Be Proud, Keep Pushing Your Limits

When you start running a lot, most people will probably commend you, but inevitably there will be one person who won’t stop calling you “crazy” for running so much. Or worse, that one family member or friend who won’t stop telling you how bad it is for your knees (news flash: it’s not).

But no matter what anyone says, be proud of your running goals and accomplishments. In training, everyday you’re pushing your limits and working hard to better your best — that’s an accomplishment on it’s own and you should own that! Embrace the “essence of running” and keep running simply because it’s what you love to do.

Quote #2: “No matter how much you might command your body to perform, don’t count on it to immediately obey. The body is an extremely practical system. You have to let it experience intermittent pain over time, and then the body will get the point. As a result, it will willingly accept (or maybe not) the increased amount of exercise it’s made to do. After this, you gradually increase the upper limit of the amount of exercise you do. Doing it gradually is important so you don’t burn out.” — Haruki Murakami

Running Lesson: Train with Progression

So funny he should mention this because this is one of the fist things any great running coach will tell you about training intelligently. Usually they phrase it this way: Don’t do too much too soon. If you run more or faster than your body can handle, it will likely break down, and then you probably won’t be able to run. Training progressively means being honest with yourself about your current level of fitness and what your body can handle and setting a plan and goals based on that threshold.

If you’re just starting out, the amount you can safely increase your milage weekly depends on how long you can run at the moment, but basic rule of thumb says you should stick to a routine for about 3-4 weeks before increasing your training regimen. More experienced runners can probably up their weekly milage by about 10% from week to week.

Related: The Truth About How to Run Faster

Quote #3: When I first started running I couldn’t run a long distance. I could only run for about twenty minutes, or thirty… But as I continued to run, my body started to accept the fact that it was running, and I could gradually increase the distance. I was starting to acquire a runner’s form, my breathing became more regular and my pulse settled down. The main thing was not the speed or distance so much as running every day, without taking a break.” — Haruki Murakami

Running Lesson: Consistency is Key

There’s no one simple, quick-fix type of secret that holds an easy answer to becoming a better runner. If you’re a beginner and you want running to feel more natural so you can start to run further and faster, consistency must be a key piece of your training recipe. In other words, you have to run and you have to run routinely.

Of course, this applies to runners of all levels, too. You can’t progress forward unless you are diligent about and committed to your training. Once you achieve that next level of running fitness, you have to continue to work in order to maintain it and (hopefully) eventually continue to improve your running performance.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to Running for Beginners (Including a Free Couch to 5K Training Plan)

Quote #4: “Even if there were two of me, I still couldn’t do all that has to be done. No matter what, though, I keep up my running. Running every day is a kind of lifeline for me, so I’m not going to lay off or quit just because I’m busy. If I used being busy as an excuse not to run, I’d never run again. I have only a few reasons to keep on running, and a truckload of them to quit. All I can do is keep those few reasons nicely polished.” — Haruki Murakami

Running Lesson: Make Time for Your Passion

Runners of all levels know how to make up all kinds of excuses (myself included), but luckily, once you get into the swing of a consistent running routine and that lovely runner’s high is a constant in your life, avoiding your running workouts becomes less of an issue because you actually want to run.

But regardless, everyone has days where they just “don’t feel like it.” On those days, as Murakami puts it, remember your reasons. Think of why you started and the goals you’re working for. Keep those reasons “nicely polished” and at the forefront of your mind (or on a sticky note somewhere you can read it everyday). When you don’t feel like lacing up and getting out the door remember why you started and let that help you to keep moving forward, regardless of any “excuses” you might have not to.

Related: 5 Tips for Getting (And Staying) Motivated to Work Out

Of course, being busy is a real thing, so make sure you have time for to work toward your running goals, sit down with your calendar each week and plan out specific times for your workouts when you know you’ll be able to get them done.

What are some of your favorite running quotes? Or, your favorite books about running? Let me know in the comments! 

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12 comments
  1. Great tips! I think the consistency piece is the most important and where’s I most often failed when trying to become a “runner.”

    1. It really does make such a big difference in terms of progress. And that’s true of anything really, not just running!

  2. Enjoyed reading these quotes! I can see why they are so inspirational to you!

    1. Thanks Jessica 🙂

  3. I’ve never read that book, but it sounds like a great one! Also, really love these running quotes. So inspiring!

    1. Agreed! Love a good inspirational quote about running 🙂

  4. Great lessons! I think these would be helpful to anyone starting any new exercise routine. So important to remember your reasons for starting when the going gets tough!

    1. Yes, great point. That’s so true!

  5. Love this, specially that consistency is key – I don’t enjoy running to be honest, but in anything we do, consistency is definitely key. Thank you for all the beautiful quotes as well!

    1. Thanks, Ana. So true, consistency is the “secret ingredient” (or at least one of them) to success!

  6. I really want to read this book, and I honestly can’t believe I haven’t yet!!

    1. It’s so good! I may just read it again soon 🙂

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