I think through life we all hit our limits at times. I’m a realist and of course there are things that one can’t do in this world. However for me the single most important aspect to furthering yourself is to understand if you really are at your limit, and understanding if that’s a ‘soft’ or ‘hard’ limit – and is it temporary or a constant? As a species we are capable of greatness, so much more than we often realise in day to day life. We often impose artificial limitations on why we cannot do something. I hear “I can’t / couldn’t” a lot, and to me all I hear that person saying is “I won’t/don’t want to”
A well-established quote that sums this up is from Henry Ford – “If you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right” and I think it speaks volumes.
There have been times in my life when I have thought I was at my 100%. However that marker was then moved, redefined, to a new level. And I’ve been astounded countless times at what is possible.
I used to talk about 100% effort a lot when I raced motorcycles. I’d say “I gave 100% on that lap/race”, however then I’d race again or at a higher level under more pressure and found I really had more. In all honesty in my whole motorcycle racing career I can probably only put my finger on a handful of laps that I feel now were truly at my 100%. I personally believe that the top class athletes just know how to tap into this 100% time and time again. Sure they are prepped physically, but I think it’s the mental ability to release that potential on demand that stands them apart.
I think the best fuel for me to test if I am at my limit is when someone tells me that I will not be able to do something. “It can’t be done / be realistic” those words seem to light a fire inside me to commit even more to the task.
I’m writing this post on reflection of a 40 hr Endurance event several weeks ago – Primal Events On Trial. We started 7pm Friday and finished 11am Sunday, with no sleep in between (the finish line was 53 hours from waking Friday) with constant challenges from high end PT, weight/load bearing, navigation exercises, running with packs, mental challenges/problems to solve, Tree felling – you name it. Now in normal life if I get less than 6 hours sleep I’m pretty rubbish at work, grumpy. And yet I can then go up to 53 hours over a weekend with no sleep and still operate / compete. There were times when I felt close to quitting, repeatedly saying to myself and others “I’m at my limit / I can’t run anymore” however then within minutes reaching deep to find a jog, or a TAB (run 6 walk 6 paces) which then always led to a run, and if the Race Directors upped the ante maybe into a sprint. My legs were the same, my lungs too – but all that changed was that decision to move faster. The decision to not give in. I was here, doing it, already suffering so why not find out what I really had left. Each time I was amazed.
The previous week I stood on the start line of the inaugural UK Spartan Stadium Race, 3 days earlier I was diagnosed with small airways disease (COPD) and told I had around 60% of Lung Function. This wasn’t really new news for me, I’ve been fighting what I thought was just Asthma for over a year, so actually it was just the explanation. However I let that news affect my race mentality. I decided that I would still race, still push – but on the start line I was different. I let a few people meander ahead of me on the line. I actually ended up starting about 50th this lead to congestion at the early obstacles and combined with my overtake instinct being turned down a notch led to the worst result of all my Spartan Races. My lungs were bad, but my mind-set lost me the places. Wind forward two weeks, following the mental awaking at On Trial and I started all 3 races at the Suffering aggressively, pushing from the front. Really over a course that wasn’t my forte, big distances, less obstacles, hills – however my mind-set was found over that On Trial weekend and kept engaged. My lungs and legs were the same, but my mind was focused. I took the overall Suffering Legends podium, aggregate time over 3 races – 27 miles.
Remember – “If you think you can, or think you can’t – you’re right”
I think to summarise I have a few views. The first is when you think you can’t, analyse why. If you truly want to do it, you will find a way. If you find you are just putting up barriers as to why you can’t do something – then odds are you don’t really want to do it. The second is however big the challenge ahead if you want it, take some small steps forward. When you can’t sprint, at least run, if you can’t run then at least jog / walk / crawl – just keep moving forward (and this is a life metaphor not just about running) I think we are all capable of more than we will ever realise, we just need to reach out and grab it. And the select few that truly do that in all areas of their lives must be very happy & accomplished people.
Make It Happen