ENHANCING THE CAPACITY TO FEEL Japanese novelist and runner Haruki Murakami wrote a memoir, entitled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running, that captures a common fantasy among runners. In this slender volume, Murakami tells the story of running his first (and only) ultramarathon. Initially, he says, it was easy. But the going got rough after 50 km, and Murakami had to try every psychological trick in the book to force himself to keep running despite the astonishing pain and suffering he was experiencing. Eventually, he told himself: I’m not a human. I’m a piece of machinery. I don’t need to feel a thing. I just forge on ahead. Then a funny thing happened: It worked. Murakami did not, of course, turn into a machine, nor did he cease to feel anything, but somehow the very repetition of this thought enabled him to find a certain peace with his pain and suffering and catch a second wind. My muscles silently accepted this exhaustion now as a historical inevitability, an ineluctable outcome of the revolution, he wrote. I had been transformed into a being on autopilot, whose sole purpose was to rhythmically swing his arms back and forth, move his legs forward one step at a time. Now fully in the zone, Murakami found himself easily passing the scores of runners who had passed him in his earlier rough patch. It’s weird, but at the end I hardly knew who I was or what I was doing, he recounted. By then running had entered the realm of the metaphysical. First there came the action of running, and accompanying it there was this entity known as me. I run; therefore I am.
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