I Could Never Do That

…or could I?

My friend Laura is running a 60K this weekend, her 102nd marathon-distance-or-more race.

I frequently tell her that she’s insane and her body isn’t like other people’s, and she disagrees.

I’m currently doing some research at work on people who have done crazy endurance feats or who have run a gazillion marathons, and it’s been really thought-provoking for me.

“If that person could run a million miles and a gazillion marathons, I can totally do more, right? I could totally do an Ironman, or at least a half…”

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This research – and my recent sub-4 marathon finish! – have changed my thinking a lot.

I’ve really learned that if you think you can do something, and you have the patience and determination to go after it and not let it go, you probably can. Or you can at least get pretty damn close.

But that’s the thing. How much do you want it?

I wanted a sub-4 so, so badly. I let go of limits, and I believed I could do it, and I doggedly went after that goal for two training cycles to get it.

I want to BQ. I’ve worked hard at marathon training, and made enough gains that I don’t think it’s outside of the realm of possibility, but I also don’t mind waiting until 35 (which, uh, is only a little over 4 years away, which isn’t scary at all.)

Sure, I probably could do an Ironman if I really wanted to. I could do a century ride if I really wanted to. I could bust out a lot more marathons, or run an ultra if I really want to.

But there’s the difference.

I don’t really want to, at least not right now. I really enjoy the schedule I’ve had the past few years: train my heart out for a fall marathon, do whatever I want for a few months, train for a spring half, do some tri training/base building, repeat.

I could run more marathons, but that would interfere with the finely honed work out when I want to, eat cookies when I want to November and December schedule I have planned.

So, Laura, I do finally believe you’re right. Well, half-right. I think your body started out not being any different than anyone else’s, and I think that a lot of people could do what you did if they really wanted to/had the means to. I think now, through all of those miles and marathons, it has become different through adaptation, through how it processes and recovers from miles. I can even feel it after four marathons, each a year spaced apart. My body recovered much better this time around.

What did you never think you could do…that then you did, when you stopped putting limits on yourself?

9 comments on “I Could Never Do That

  1. meghan @ little girl in the big world

    This is a well thought out and well written post, especially the part about “wanting to” versus “being able to”. I think so many people look at others and think that they couldn’t do something, when really what they should be thinking is whether they want to do it or not. Everyone’s ambitions and goals are not the same, and that’s because we’re all different. Some people want to run more, some people want to run faster, and some people want to do both. I’m at the point of pushing my limits distance-wise, and my speed is taking a seat in the trunk (not even the back seat). It’s a hard place to be, but after thinking about what’s important to me and what I want, I know that at this point my ambitions are on reaching new distances instead of times. I like that you recognize what you want to do and are able to name it that while realizing that you could do other things but aren’t at the place of wanting to right now. As far as what I never thought I could do an have now done? Everything related to running. I never was a runner before March of 2011 when I started the Couch to 5k program, and as I look back I continue to be amazed. I think the marathon and half Ironman are the two that I still have to pinch myself about. And I think the BQ is absolutely reachable for you, and sooner than 35. Reading your NYC recap seemed like such a breakthrough moment. When you said that you knew you had to be comfortable with being uncomfortable and did you want to feel better then or get the time you wanted, I loved that. I thought about you several times on my run at my half ironman last weekend, and I kept repeating to myself the motto, “pain now, pride late” when things started getting tough on the run. Congrats on all of this Theodora! You’re definitely an inspiration!

  2. Laura

    I love, love, LOVE this post. It is absolutely all about what you choose to / want to do. I think the most important thing is making a really CONSCIOUS choice about something instead of just deciding it’s too hard. One of my pet peeves is those who say “I can’t do X” or “I don’t have time for X” (going to the gym, eating healthy, etc). No, you DO have time for it – you just choose to spend that time/effort doing other things. And that’s totally fine, but it’s important to make that choice consciously – which is exactly what you’re getting at in choosing your goals carefully.

    I would really like to drop 10 pounds, but honestly, I don’t like sticking to a diet and prefer to have more-frequent-than-I-should indulgences. What made me happiest was when I finally admitted that to myself instead of whining about how I “couldn’t” lose weight, and instead started telling myself that I COULD lose the weight but that I am prioritizing other things. Sometimes I question that prioritization, but I think it’s really important to keep testing yourself and seeing if you’re striving for the right goals or just staying on the same path.

    Amazing post, and thank you for the shout out 🙂

  3. Erika

    The Mind is very powerful and capable of pushing us to our maximum limits. I honestly believe that if you think and believe you can do something, most of the time you will find that you can. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Ashley

    Run more than a mile, seriously. 4 months before my first half, I could hardly run ONE mile…running was always something I thought I couldn’t do. Now, it’s the full distance I think I “can’t do”…hmmmph.

  5. Rebecca @ Runner with an Appetite

    When people ask me what I’ve learned from running marathons and ultras, it’s that I have been able to do so much more than I ever thought I could. It took until I had a bigger PR last year in my marathon to realize that maybe a BQ as possible. Took a lot of work and strength, but what helped the most was letting go of the mentality that I couldn’t do it.

  6. Annie

    I love this post! I’m really trying to get myself back into a positive mindset, and this type of thinking really helps. Thanks.

  7. Darran Mansfield

    I never thought I’d be able to run…at all! When i first started I could barely go for 90 seconds, fast forward today and I can run on the treadmill for 30 minutes! NEVER did I think I could do that, I’m still skeptical about a marathon but fingers crossed I’ll be coming back to this quote of mine in due time and saying…”In your face, I’ve just finished my first”.

    I now know that, I can do anything I want and put my mind to. There’s a quote I love that captures this fantastically; “He who says he can and he who says he can’t are both usually right”. I think that says it all doesn’t it.


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