The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running

The way of the runner

Author: Adharanand Finn
Published: June 7, 2016
Pages: 326

Stars: 4 out of 5

Synopsis:

It may come as a surprise to many people, but Japan is the most running-obsessed country on earth. A 135-mile relay race, or “ekiden” is the country’s biggest annual sporting event. Thousands of professional runners compete for corporate teams in some of the most competitive races in the world. The legendary “marathon monks” run a thousand marathons in a thousand days to reach spiritual enlightenment.

Yet so much of Japan’s running culture remains a mystery to the outside world, on par with many of the unique aspects of contemporary Japan. Adharanand Finn, the award-winning author of Running with the Kenyans, spent six months immersed in this one of a kind running culture to discover what it might teach us about the sport and about Japan.

As an amateur runner about to turn 40, he also hoped to find out whether a Japanese approach to training might help him run faster. What he learns—about competition, team work, form, chasing personal bests, and about himself—will fascinate and surprise anyone keen to explore why we run and how we might do it better.

Review:

I began reading this book because I have recently rediscovered my love for running. But as I read the words and really thought about what the author was saying, goosebumps spread across my arms. Just thinking about the dedication, love, and commitment to running.. It amazes me. But instead of the author keeping with the excitement, the book (at times) kind of drags out. Although I enjoyed what I read, I found myself putting the book down a lot. Don’t get me wrong, it was an enjoyable read. It just wasn’t the type of book you read in one sitting.
This book takes an in depth look at Japan’s running methods and beliefs. The author plans to travel to Japan and take a critical look at the Ekiden season. I really enjoyed reading about the Japan culture and how runners are somewhat idealized. For example: Japan is unique in that it offers long distance runners a salary to join a team. In Japan, road runners are a big deal. Not only are they faster than my mind can even comprehend, they are an idealistic symbol to the community and certain races bring in comparable rating to the Super Bowl.
As the story continues, my once amazed outlook on these runners turns to pity and sadness. The conditions Japan runners face isn’t ideal and the expectation is unrealistic, often leading to the racers burning out. At every point in a Japan runners development/career, they are expected to give maximum effort… All the time, every time. Their coaches expect the highest performance and often their motivation is all the runners have because along the way they have lost their own motivation/enjoyment for running.
This really broke my heart because running is amazing and supposed to be fun. I understand the competitiveness and the aspect that training isn’t always fun. But I have a hard time seeing what the point is. The author often asks- ‘why do me run?’ The author suggests the answer is understanding yourself. And I think I agree with him. Yes, I run for stress relief, escape, enjoyment.. But I run for me and I have learned so much more about who I am since I started.
This book has a bunch of history and fun statistics. The book is well written but longer than I think it needed to be. I am interested in picking up his other book- Running with the Kenyan’s and probably will be a book I would prefer via hard copy instead of electronic.  If you are a runner, I think you would enjoy this book.
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