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The Way of the Runner: A journey into the obsessive world of Japanese running

3.75  ·  Rating details ·  1,322 ratings  ·  132 reviews
Welcome to Japan, the most running-obsessed nation on earth, where: a long-distance relay race is the country's biggest annual sporting event; companies sponsor their own running teams, paying the athletes like employees; and marathon monks run a thousand marathons in a thousand days to reach spiritual enlightenment. Adharanand Finn - award-winning author of Running with ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published April 7th 2016 by Faber Faber (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 ...more
May 13, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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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
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
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
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
Julia Mihhailova
"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
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.
Malin Friess
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 stars. Fun look at the methodical, pain loving, competitive Japanese Runners.
Neil S W Murray
Jul 28, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Amar Pai
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)
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
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
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.
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.
Grant Den Herder
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!
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.
Desmond Reid
Mar 02, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: books-read-2017
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
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
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
Donn Lee
Sep 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The last few chapters of the book made up for what I felt was an “average” rest of book.

To be fair, this book achieved what I’d hoped it would achieve: make me want to run more. And it did. What is more, it did something even less probable: it helped improve my form.

Reading it before I headed out for my 32km long run, I got a little self-conscious on my form throughout the run. Even at the end despite the tired legs, cramping arms, and the rather oppressive heat, there was this self-awareness
Trung Nguyen Dang
The book is surprisingly fun to read if you are into running.
The book is about the author's 6 months journey in Japan to explore its culture. It's insightful on not just running culture but also Japanese culture in general. Japan is sports-obsessed country where kids start training hard and very focused since young. Running is a also probably the second most popular sports, after baseball. Japanese loves running as a sport and takes it very seriously. They train in large and dedicated group,
Jul 20, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up at the library with high expectations, but I was left disappointed instead. A few of the issues I had with the author and his writing: (1) While the book is about Japanese running, the author repeatedly insisted on inserting himself and his accomplishments (and failures) throughout the book. I understand needing background information to create a scene, but in his case it was excessive. (2) His sense of entitlement was nauseating. From uprooting his family to train, even ...more
John Adam
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Read this last year so memory of detail is a little sketchy now. These days I enjoy reading about travel experiences, particularly relating to places I’ve never been to and especially those that are quite different culturally. I’m also drawn to personal accounts and memoirs, not least of all about running and athletic endeavour. So naturally I’m drawn to a book like this one.

I like Finn’s writing style and the way he interweaves his exploration of Japanese running with his family’s experience
Istvan Zoltan
An interesting book on running in Japan. The writer, Adharanand Finn, wanted to understand the Japanese ekiden running world better. However, without adequate language knowledge and cultural understanding, he moved to Japan with his family unprepared and found that it is very different to interact with professionals in Japan as it is in the UK or Africa. Hence, he learned a good deal less about the running world in Japan and the way elite runners and their coaches train and think about running, ...more
Nitin Jagtap
Nov 14, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The two countries that most of us know about when it comes to long distance are Kenya and Ethiopia, however very few of us know that Japan is also a very serious and seasoned competitor in the world of long distance running having had 5 Boston Marathon winners till date and many more top level finishes in major races around the world. Japanese and their obsession with distance running is something unknown to a large part of the leisure running community
Author Adharanand Finn an Englishman who is
Matt Carl
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
Jun 08, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: running, sports
I wanted to like this book. I really did. Especially with all of the connections it shared with my life - I lived, quite literally, just a few kilos away from him. On top of that the Ekidens he mentioned in his book I have either run or been at, and the same with the university team mentioned as I have worked for them and know a few of the people he mentioned. But there was so much garbage mentioned in his book about the idiosyncrasies he mentioned about Japan that I just got flat out irritated ...more
Marija S.
I would recommend this book to a) runners and people generally interested in running, b) Japancurious people, however keep in mind that this is in fact a diary of a man who loves his life, his family, himself (and I don't mean this in a bad way) and is not shy to write about it. So to get to informative facts, you will have to put up with more or less relevant anecdotes about the author.

For casual listening of an audiobook, I didn't mind the (dis)balance too much, but I understand other readers
Sara Russell
May 17, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall an enlightening look into Japanese running culture, particularly the methods that may preclude them from achieving global renown in the form of gold medals on large stages. I have to wonder how this book would have read had the author not previously spent a similar amount of time in Kenya, as Japanese running was frequently analyzed from the lens of Kenyan running... which to a degree makes sense, as Kenyans are arguably some of the most successful runners of the world. At times, ...more
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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 ...more
“Most student runners here normally run about 800km per month.” 0 likes
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