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Why Writers Run

New Yorker editor Nicholas Thompson and staff writer Malcolm Gladwell have been bantering about running and the Olympics. In their—so far—four part series they talk about everything from doping to bar fights to Toni Kukoc (trust me, it all makes sense in context).

For me, the best part has been learning that Thompson is a 2:40 marathoner, Gladwell is a former cross country runner, and Peter Hessler, another New Yorker staff writer, has a 2:38 marathon PR. Running writers are not that uncommon it seems. (Of course there are some fabulous exceptions: try and picture Hemingway going jogging. I imagine the only time he ran was either across enemy lines or after a lion.)

In our small office there are at least three staffers and one publisher who make running a regular part of their weekly schedule. Christopher McDougall and the Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami are perhaps the most famous running writers. So why do writing and running seem to go so handily together?

Murakami probably nailed it in this 2004 Runner’s World interview: “The most important qualities to be a…writer are probably imaginative ability, intelligence, and focus. But in order to maintain these qualities in a high and constant level, you must never neglect to keep up your physical strength. Without a solid base of physical strength, you can't accomplish anything very intricate or demanding. That's my belief. If I did not keep running, I think my writing would be very different from what it is now.”