What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is a memoir by Haruki Murakami in which he writes about his interest and participation in long-distance running. Not only is Murakami one of my favourite writers – currently reading The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle – but I also happen to be passionate about running. Addicted to jogging.

Last weekend I participated in Chappies Challenge.

The previous week I had a discussion with someone on the topic but why do you run, it’s so boring. Made me think and reflect. So…

Why I run

Until January 2005 I didn’t run. Running was for middle aged stinky poor men, who couldn’t afford to do any real sports. Real sports like gym classes, tennis, or downhill skiing.

As it happened, on Boxing Day 2004 I was one of the millions whose life – for some minutes literally and for good figuratively – turned upside down. To before and after.

Once back in Helsinki nothing felt anything. My corporate job felt completely meaningless, everyday conversations annoying and shallow. More than anything I felt angry. Running became a way to get that excess anger out of my system. [it took me 10 years even to be able to say the word tsunami]

My first run was 2 kms around Töölönlahti in Helsinki. I absolutely hated every step. However, in May 2005 I ran my first half marathon, and a year later my first marathon.

One can see from a distance I’m not a natural born runner, yet I learned to enjoy the occasional runner’s highs, time outdoors, and finding my own headspace. Every single run makes me happy and grateful for being alive.

Why I run Cape Town

Basically for the same reasons as above, I guess.

Running, and running events is one of the things I really love in Cape Town. Events are fun, casual, diverse, and most of all social.

The events are, apart from the big ones such as the Two Oceans Marathon, organised by running clubs. They cost a fraction of the events in Europe, and thus attract people from all backgrounds.


There is a lot of chatting, laughing, smiling, supporting and cheering involved in running in Cape Town. Those events and people there remind me of what South Africa could be, had the rainbow nation become reality. Those events keep me believing in someday it still could happen.

Why I run Helsinki

In addition to the reasons above, I do think a stress-relief factor is significant. Maybe it’s still part of the culture shock, but I find the Finnish lifestyle very stressful. Always busy, never laughing, seldom smiling.

The topics we talk about is 75 percent work, 10 percent the previous holiday, 10 percent the next holiday, and the rest miscellaneous (spouse, kids, hobbies, health, pets…). I’m not quite there yet.

I’d also like to steer my social life further away from alcohol always being involved (also because it’s so bloody expensive and I just cannot pay ZAR 150 for a shitty 12 cl glass of wine that you have to queue for 15 minutes). To some degree I think I’ve succeeded. Just that people don’t seem have time. Because people are so busy, I guess. Busy working in order to pay the mortgage, and the next holiday. Or they are injured. Or they like to run alone (what a funny thought for any South African).

I also run in Helsinki because otherwise I probably wouldn’t spend much time outdoors. You know. Weather. But at least we have central heating, and those soaking wet clothes and shoes dry pretty quickly.

Anyway. We run every Saturday morning at 8:30am, starting from Café Piritta in Hakaniemi. Five kilometres around Töölönlahti and Eläintarhanlahti, followed by a coffee in Piritta (at own cost). Everybody is warmly welcome!

A family of runners

So I run road, Sporty runs trail. Talky runs to the bus that takes him to school.

I bought my first pair of trail running shoes a while ago. Because there is no hiking in Helsinki. Trail running in the Central Park – which really isn’t a park, it’s a dense bushy forest – will have to compensate. I’ve also entered my first trail running race, aiming for May 2018.

Of us Talky is a natural born runner. Just that he doesn’t like it (boooooriiing). He tends to quit if someone passes him, and he’s no longer in the lead. However, his athletics coaches are pretty excited about him and his long legs. Yet Talky’s favourite is – very Finnishly – javelin throw.


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