How Far Can You Go?
It was a dark, wet and windy day on a cliff-ridden coastline. I stood atop the infamous Seven Sisters in Sussex. My broken body felt like I had run a marathon up a mountain. After all, I had run a marathon up a mountain and I had ten more gruelling miles to go.
This was the scene at the marathon marker of my first ultra-marathon: 55 kilometres with 5,500 feet of ascent and 50 mile-per-hour headwinds. My constricted calves, quivering quads and the little voice in my head told me to stop. The challenge that lay ahead felt impossible or, at least, impossible for me.
I could not run ten more miles, but I could put one foot in front of the other. I could run to the brow of the next hill (and the next and the next and the next) until I, finally, fell across the finish line some six and a half hours later.
The reason I run ultra-marathons is to reframe my perception of what’s possible. As I run faster and I run further, as I push my perceived limits, I am repeatedly reminded that even the word ‘impossibility’ has ‘possibility’ within.
This lesson I learnt on long runs is equally true to every aspect of our lives (both personally and professionally). We will all hit what runners call a ‘wall’ and most of us will hit many throughout the course of our days and our lives, but we can (almost) always break through them. When we push ourselves beyond our physical and mental limits, we can all change our perception of what’s possible.
Today, I begin training for my next ultra-marathon: 90 kilometres with 15,000 feet of ascent in the Brecon Beacons. Today, I don’t think I can do it, but I somehow know that’s the very reason I will. As T.S. Eliot once wrote, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”.
Written by Michael McCourt, Planner at Now