What do you get when a brilliant, best-selling author keeps a diary while training for the New York City Marathon? A lot of really great running advice. Haruki Murakami has run dozens of marathons, and even finished an ultra-marathon, both experiences which he recaps in his 2008 book "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running." It's a funny and insightful look into his world as a runner and writer, and the following four excerpts include some of his best advice about the sport.
1. Be Consistent
If you’re constantly searching for that one sexy secret that holds the easy answer to becoming a better runner, stop looking now. If you want to go faster and farther, you have to run and you have to run routinely. Smart runners have a plan, and they know the importance of sticking to it.
Murakami says: "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."
2. Train Progressively
You know how they say too much of even a good thing can be bad? Well running too much is a very real thing. Know yourself as a runner, be realistic about what you’re currently capable of, then set your goals and build a plan. If you’re a beginner runner, take it easy. The amount you can increase your mileage each week depends on how far or long you can run without stopping. Let your body adapt to your routine for 3-4 weeks before you move forward. Experienced runners can safely increase their mileage by about 10% each week.
Murakami says: “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.”
3. Make Time, Not Excuses
That next episode of “Mad Men” is entirely too enticing, you have to finish reading your Facebook newsfeed, and all of a sudden now seems like the perfect time to finally clean out all of your closets. Excuses like these might seem more inviting than heading out the door and pounding the pavement, but they definitely won’t help you reach your goals as a runner. And while being “too busy” because of things like school, work or family and friends sort of seem like legitimate “excuses,” in the end they’re really just reasons why you won’t accomplish your goal. Make a commitment by sitting down with your calendar and planning specific times for your workouts at the beginning of each week.
Murakami says: “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.”
4. Be Proud and Push Your Limits
If someone ever calls you crazy for running so much, take it as a compliment. You put your body to the test and work hard to better your best every day. Whether you’re a recreational runner or you live for a great race, keep your passion for the (extremely repetitive) sport sparked by constantly challenging your limits. And, yes, it’s OK to secretly believe that the non-runners are actually the “crazy ones.”
Murakami says: “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…”