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

3.79  ·  Rating details ·  1,895 ratings  ·  169 reviews
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 r ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published June 7th 2016 by Pegasus Books (first published September 8th 2015)
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May 23, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unfortunately this was nowhere near as interesting as his previous book 'Running with the Kenyans' which is mostly to do with the fact that the book seemed like a long magazine article extended into a book. The only reason he seems to find for the Japanese being good at running is the intense pressurised training they are subjected to in ekiden relays. However this very often leads to burnout and their racing careers are often over by their mid twenties. There are some interesting mentions of Ga ...more
Emmy Hermina Nathasia
I became a fan of Finn's books on running after reading his Running with the Kenyans two years back. I think that people would find it odd that I love Finn's books, or that the fact I enjoy reading books on running since, well, I'm not a runner. I don't participate in any of the fun run activities or marathons.

Well, the reason that I relate so much to his books is because I used to run.

When I was in Standard 4, I participated in 6 running competitions and I won 5 out of 6. I then went on to rep
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
For more of my reviews, check out my blog: Http://

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
Amanda Setasha Hall
Aug 21, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: zzz-2019, a-2-stars
I really wanted to love this book.
Honestly, the main reason I rated it 2 stars is all the information and details about Japan are fantastic.

My complaints about this book are that it doesn't actually focus on Japan. He's supposed to be studying Japanese running, but at every event he falls back to talk to Kenyans instead of the Japanese runners.
There's also a 10 page spread where he talks about his children going to school - and it lead to no progress in the Japanese running section.

It took me so
Matt Carl
May 13, 2017 rated it it was ok
Finn does a good job keeping the story engaging, but he is definitely the hero of his own tale. I think he dwells a little too much on his own accomplishments and disappointments rather than the story of the Japanese runners he's supposedly seeking out. I also feel like he was culturally insensitive at times, being the ugly westerner who comes in without learning the language and expecting people to fix things for him. He seems to have had a very narrow snapshot of Japan. Maybe there just wasn't ...more
Luke Leighfield
Dec 22, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had no idea that Japan was so obsessed with running. One of their ekidens – a long-distance relay race that's unique to Japan – gets viewing figures equivalent to the Super Bowl. In this book, Finn moves to Japan to find out more about its obsession with the sport and what we can learn from it. If you're a runner, and even if you're not, it's a fascinating read. And it totally made me want to go back to Japan.

"Running, too, can be a way to self-fulfilment. It has a purity, a power, a way of c
Feb 23, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: extfriendly
I read this in audio format while I was running, thinking it would be an inspirational read. Sounds like one, right? And to an extent it is, but it doesn't have a lot of the real ingredients you need: there's no central character struggling to excel themselves. There's no McDougallesque nonsense about secret, forgotten techniques that, once discovered, will let the reader tap into ancient wells of superhuman endurance. In a lot of ways, it's more of a cultural study of the japanese running scene ...more
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
Japan is different. Japanese Runners are different. Finn previously spent time in Kenya learning from and training with their iconic runners and a theme throughought this book is Japanese and Kenyan runners are different. I kind of wanted to slap him and say “no shit. We got it. Move on”, but I also really enjoyed this book.

When landing on a hundredth book, there was no better option than one about two loves given to me by a wonderful Bookcrossing friend. I was living in either Australia or jap
Julia Mihhailova
Feb 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
"The Way of the Runner" reveals a lot of secrets behind the Japanese obsession with running, the mysterious aura of ekidens, and the nation itself. Adharanand Finn's crafty depiction of the environment of the races in Japan (especially Hakone ekiden) pushes you to open YouTube for the visual proof. It was fascinating to follow the author's daily struggles in the foreign country with a rather closed traditional mindset and learn more about the secrets of better performance, do's and dont's. While ...more
Dec 18, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a good intro to ekiden running in Japan, what works and what causes problems. The author had an opportunity to examine his running form during the time he visited Japan. It was good to get the perspective of a competitive runner of running competitions.
Aug 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A book about running for runners by a runner. I loved it. I'm not entirely sure people who don't run will find this even remotely enjoyable, so I'll stick to recommending it to fellow runners only. ...more
Neil S W Murray
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it
An enjoyable read on running and an insightful look at why the Japanese are so good at long-distance running. I also enjoyed learning about ekiden, something that’s incredibly popular in Japan yet I’d never heard of before.
Malin Friess
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
4 stars. Fun look at the methodical, pain loving, competitive Japanese Runners.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it
Really lovely sporting tale, even if you don’t like running that much. Fact and opinion given in an unbiased and unprejudiced approach. Was really rooting for the author on his adventure.
David Gardiner
Jan 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
Enjoyable look at running in Japan - and Finn writes well... definitely read Running With The Kenyans first, as it is better.
Amar Pai
Nov 04, 2019 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed Running with the Kenyans and Rise of the Ultra Runners.

Didn't like this one quite as much. But salute to Finn for finding an excellent blag (all these books let him move to a foreign country w/ his family, write about running, get paid for it, talk shop with world class athletes, and work on his 10k time)
Mar 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
An interesting read about the Japanese phenomenon of long distance relay running - 'ekiden'. Have suggested the running club read this ahead of the Manchester Marathon Relay! Thanks to Chris for the Christmas present. ...more
Two Readers in Love
Travel and reading about travel is my gateway into the other countries and other cultures I'd like to experience more fully if I had a thousand lives to live.

In my limited experience, the travel that I've found most fulfilling is - strangely enough - travel for work rather than travel for pleasure. Having to buy a new router in a Swiss computer store, or navigating renting a German apartment makes me feel like I know a little slice of those cultures better than when I tour cathedrals and museum
Steve Chilton
Apr 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is difficult to pin down, but I found this less rewarding and also less engrossing than 'Running with the Kenyans'. There is much about the Japanese lifestyle and also the traditional ekiden relay race, but somehow the individuals he met seem to be represented slightly one-dimensionally. Long-distance running is big business in Japan and they have plenty of young/university athletes, but can't seem to translate it to the world stage and take on the Ethiopians and Kenyans at the marathon, and ...more
TJ Bryan
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Good Summary of Ekiden

I enjoyed the book, the third by Finn that I've read. Ekiden's emphasis on group success is at the cost of individual superstars who rarely achieve success outside ekiden. The Ekiden schedule leads to injuries and burnout and abandonment of running.

Finn's explanations are clear; he shows the connection between Japanese society's embrace of the collective good and an approach to running that values collective performance over individual performance.
Anna Epishcheva
Very zen book about isolated world of Japanese running, now I need to go to Japan in January again because last time I missed ekiden completely! Speaking seriously, good plot that leads to some deep thinking about nature of the concepts fast running, commitment , "wa" and learned paradigms that may limit not only your running but your life also. ...more
Apr 19, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a good read although not as good as running with the Kenyans. The factual insights are really interesting and the author writes well but as in the Kenyan book I didn't find him particularly likeable. I did share his disappointment at the race cancellation at the end although the attempt to make it meaningful could easily feature on /r/runningcringe. ...more
Quite disappointing, the whole book could have been a very good article. However the writer opted to the book format, which necessitated very long and irrelevant 'detours' that were in the end not offering anything to the final story. The world of Japanese running is exciting, but this book simply does not cut it. ...more
Grant Den Herder
Jun 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Adharanand Finn writes in a way that feels like you’re on his journey with him. Just like his first book, Running with the Kenyans, this book was fun and inspiring. It really is fascinating to be able to travel the world with Finn and to learn about different running cultures. It makes me want to get out and run right now!
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was ok
Shelves: running-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Craig Thompson
Apr 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: marathon runners
One of my favourite running books, brilliantly written with a great mix of fascinating details and insight into the Japanese running phenomenon.

As a foreigner (or Gaijin) in an isolationist society the author's task of integrating into Japanese society and running scene is difficult. However, (not unlike Murakami/Ghibli who he makes reference to frequently), the author's patience and persistence is rewarded and he does break through into the magical world of Japanese Ekidens.

We get treated to
Laurent Reinhardt
Apr 16, 2020 rated it liked it
Enjoyed comparing the perspective of this book to my own experiences in Japan. I got more out of Finn's earlier book Running with the Kenyans and get the feeling that so did Finn. Nevertheless, the Japanese attributes of perseverence and teamwork are admirable and help bring out the best in that country's runners. His own goal to be part of an ikiden team didn't pan out, but it was the zen journey that mattered most. Was left with the overall feeling that the Japanese bring unique strengths to r ...more
Desmond Reid
In the world of long distance running, it is the African nations of Kenya and Ethiopia that dominate. Surprisingly, it is the nation of Japan which comes a close third. Yet, we know so little of this other running powerhouse.

After the success of his book 'Running with the Kenyans', Finn travels to the Far East to find out more about this unique running culture. In a nation where Japans very distinct running event - the 'Ediken' or marathon relay draws Super-bowl plus television figures, he meets
Christopher Kelsall
Aug 20, 2020 rated it really liked it
Adharanand Finn, award-winning author of Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth, wrote a follow-up, The Way of the Runner: A journey into the fabled world of Japanese running, and in so doing exposed a somewhat ironic manifestation of divergent cultures.

For Kenyans, we now know that distance running is an expression of joy and a demonstration of pure human locomotion. To watch the great Kenyans move is to witness pure beauty expressed in kine
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Finn combines moderate expertise in running with his own family's fish-out-of-water story of moving to Japan and immersing themselves in its culture. Finn gives a good (though not great) narrative that focuses on a couple of interesting characters, though prevents the reader from giving Finn himself too much sympathy. The result is a book that can never really find its footing in any one place.

That said, I come to this book as a casual runner (though compared to Finn's times, I could safely be
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Adharanand Finn is the author of Running with the Kenyans, which was the Sunday Times Sports Book of the Year, won Best New Writer at the British Sports Book Awards, and shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book Award. He is an editor at the Guardian and a freelance journalist. He is also a former junior cross-country runner and now competes for Torbay AC in Devon, where he and his family usual ...more

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