Reading Norwegian Wood there is a question, which is tackled in the introduction, over how much the main character is autobiographical. Murakami apparently plays it down but having started this there are clear similarities.
The first is the acceptance and ability to survive without much human contact. The loneliness that runners often have to put up with is something that Murakami embraces. He accepts that he has the sort of character that is able to cope alone quite happily. The same was true to some extent with Toru in Norwegian Wood.
Then there is the other personality trait of not heeding conventional wisdom. When others told him not to sell his jazz club and maybe some would have shied away from running heavily into their late 40s he did both. Again that strong headed mentality is a feature of the loner.
But, and it is a substantial but, you can’t help liking him and the simplicity with which he describes the joy of running is something that is attractive to even the most hardened couch potatoes.
Maybe that’s the reason why this works because ultimately he is not setting out to convert people to become runners but instead is sharing the thoughts that not only go through his head as he runs but his history and philosophy of life.