The English title of this 2007 book of Murakami is “What I talk about when I talk about running”. Which is a parody of Raymond Carver’s collection of [superb] short stories, “What we talk about when we talk about love”. (Murakami translated the complete œuvres of Raymond Carver in Japanese.) It is a sort of diary about Murakami’s running practice and the reasons why he is running. It definitely is not a novel and the style is quite loose or lazy, but this is not a drawback as the way the book is written somehow translates the way thoughts drift away and suddenly switch topics when one is running. At least during low-intensity practice, when I often realise I have been running for minutes without paying any attention to my route. Or when I cannot recall what I was thinking about for the past minutes. During races, the mind concentration is at a different level, first focussing on keeping the right pace, refraining from the deadly rush during the first km, then trying to merge with the right batch of runners, then fighting wind, slope, and eventually fatigue. While the book includes more general autobiographical entries than those related with Murakami’s runner’s life, there are many points most long-distance runners would relate with. From the righteous feeling of sticking to a strict training and diet, to the almost present depression catching us in the final kms of a race, to the very flimsy balance between under-training and over-training, to the strangely accurate control over one’s pace at the end of a training season, and, for us old runners, to the irremediable decline in one’s performances as years pass by… On a more personal basis, I also shared the pain of hitting one of the slopes in Central Park and the lack of nice long route along Boston’s Charles river. And shared the special pleasure of running near a river or seafront (which is completely uncorrelated with the fact it is flat, I believe!) Overall, what I think this book demonstrates is that there is no rational reason to run, which makes the title more than a parody, as fighting weight, age, health problems, depression, &tc. and seeking solitude, quiet, exhaustion, challenge, performances, zen, &tc. are only partial explanations. Maybe the reason stated in the book that I can relate the most with is this feeling of having an orderly structure one entirely controls (provided the body does not rebel!) at least once a day. Thus, I am not certain the book appeals to non-runners. And contrary to some reviews of the book, it certainly is not a training manual for novice runners. (Murakami clearly is a strong runner so some of his training practice could be harmful to weaker runners…)
Archive for training
I missed this astrostatistics conference announcement (and the conference itself, obviously!), occurring next door… Actually, I would have had (wee) trouble getting there as I was (and am) mostly stuck at home with a bruised knee and a doctor ban on any exercise in the coming day, thanks to a bike fall last Monday! (One of my 1991 bike pedals broke as I was climbing a steep slope and I did not react fast enough… Just at the right time to ruin my training preparation of the Argentan half-marathon. Again.) Too bad because there was a lot of talks that were of interest to me!
I came upon this New York Times argument for placing Melbourne in #15 among the 41 places to go in 2011:
With a bunch of new hotels and restaurants led by notable chefs cropping up, Melbourne has been stealing the spotlight from its sister city, Sydney. The most notable addition comes from the luxury brand Crown, which is investing 1 billion Australian dollars (about the same in U.S. dollars) to expand its sprawling Crown Entertainment Complex on the southern bank of the Yarra River. In April it opened Australia’s largest hotel, the 300-million-dollar 658-room Crown Metropol, which has an infinity pool on the 27th floor with 180-degree views of the city, and is home to the Maze and Maze Grill, the celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay’s first endeavors Down Under. The complex also includes the Crown Towers hotel, which has four private penthouse gaming salons with 360-degree views of Melbourne’s skyline.
The city’s thriving arts scene now has stylish boutique hotels to match, too. Three Art Series Hotels, inspired by (and featuring the works of) famous artists, opened in the last year. The Olsen, named for the landscape painter John Olsen, is the flagship of the group, with 229 rooms (from 215 dollars a night) and a heated, glass-bottomed swimming pool.
Visiting foodies will be able to choose from a number of new restaurants. In October, the Australian chef Neil Perry, of Rockpool in Sydney, opened Spice Temple, a 200-seat contemporary Szechuan restaurant next door to his Rockpool Bar & Grill in the Crown complex, as well as a new bar, the Waiting Room, in the lobby of the Crown Towers hotel. Also within the Crown complex, a new seafood restaurant, the Atlantic, will debut in February with Donovan Cooke as executive chef.
This is fairly puzzling, Not the fact that Melbourne is on the list, of course, this is indeed an attractive and thriving city I enjoyed living in the past two weeks. But the reasons provided here are just so unappealing. A new expensive hotel? Duh. A new restaurant? Doh. (Plus, there already is a highly rated Spice Temple in Sydney! Why bother with a replica?) Reading through the series with a new eye makes me seriously wonder if this is anything else but covert advertising… (In the 2012 version of this NYT list, Montpellier appears as the French entry…not for its beautiful medieval centre but for its modern architecture and for its tramway, which has been completed but which construction created such a traffic nightmare over the years I have visited Jean-Michel Marin there.)
I had another training round today [Wednesday] with six 1000m that went reasonably well: 3’42” – 3’41” – 3’38” – 3’42” – 3’39” – 3’39″…. Of course, a few years ago I was finishing in 3’30… Too bad my friends from the INSEE Paris Club were running 500m’s today (in 1’41”!) Still, with just one more training to go on Sunday in Central Park, I hope I am prepared enough for the race in 10 days…. (It is fairly childish to get focused so much on a back-country race attracting a few hundred runners; however, I have been somehow preparing for this race since 1996, given that I had no hope for a top position prior to turning V2 (French grading) / V50 (UK grading)!)
I received this question from Luke Bornn to answer for a new Q&A entry in the ISBA Bulletin:
“From your experience, what skill do you think is most often lacking in today’s statistics Ph.D. graduates? What steps can a current graduate student undertake to remedy this deficiency?”
First, let me stress that I restrict my answer to French Ph.D. graduates and warn the reader that the environment for Ph.D. students in French institutions strongly differs from the ones in UK or US universities. Even though our students have a proper five-year training in maths, probability and statistics (plus possibly additional fields like economics, computer science, engineering, sociology, or, more rarely, biology, astronomy, ecology), there is not the same progressive integration of graduate students within the research faculty body as the one we see in the UK or the US. Ph.D. students remain students till the end of their thesis and often beyond. This is of course a terrible situation that we are trying to alleviate at our individual level, when the conditions allow as in CREST.
Under a scorching midday sun, I took part in the annual 10k of the Finance Ministry in the Parc de Vincennes this yesterday afternoon. I was quite surprised when I ended the first 5k loop in less than 17:34 and even more when I reached the finish line in 35:04! This was the third V2 [veteran 2] time but I am six month short from reaching the V2 category and I knew I had not ran that fast! Going over my lap times [graphed below with no correction], the first (3:05), fifth (3:09) and sixth (2:13) kilometers are definitely suspicious, so I think the course was at least 720m shorter than expected. At this pace, I would have needed at least 2:48 more to complete a genuine 10k, leading to a more reasonable total time of 37:52, especially given my lack of hard training… Anyway, I am quite happy with the outcome since I did not feel any special pain, apart from a slight headache due to the sun, and some burns on my neck and shoulders!, and I now thus re-consider training more intensely for the Fall marathons.
After resting for almost four months, I thought it was time for a test about the recovery of my legs towards a new year of running. So about two weeks ago I started a new cycle of soft training, with a maximum of 45 minutes per session and no fast session so far. The result is that I feel much better, less tired, and that my sciatica pain has not increased a bit. (Plus, running back in the local park gets me to see unusual birds due to a cold spell (like a heron, a grebe and a couple of cormorans… Ans also red squirrels which I thought were hibernating!) I will run a local 5K race on Saturday to check about a faster pace (if slower than last summer, for sure!). And to join again my fellow runners from the Insee Paris Club (IPC)!