One of the great joys of running for me has always been the way in which it stretches my limits and pushes me beyond what I thought was previously possible. I distinctly recall, as a new runner years ago, the joy and wonder I felt as I experienced steady improvement and gradual progress. Whether through personal-best times or losing a few pounds, running in those early years was all about getting better, faster, and stronger. And, as the years have worn on, while the times have slowed and a few of those pounds have come back on, the capacity for improvement and growth brought on by running has continued.
I was recently reminded of this toward the end of a hard workout. At the start, my plan was to ease into things to test my body and attitude. About halfway in, however, a spark of motivation hit me and I found myself pushing the pace a bit. My heart rate increased, sweat began to drip off my brow, and my breathing become more labored. Inexplicably and without really thinking about it, I began to go faster, dig deeper, and stride longer.
When that oh-so-familiar clenching in my gut and the bloody metallic taste in my mouth crept in, I knew I was on my edge, at least on my current-fitness edge, and I attempted to simply hang on. I became engrossed in the moment, eager to maintain my most strenuous effort in weeks, and so I put my head down and forged on. With about a minute left until I was finished, I became completely swept up in the experience, every piece of energy in my body and mind was singularly directed toward the movement. When I finished, exhilarated but not exhausted, I bent over panting, slowed down my breathing, and smiled. On this one, singular workout, I knew I had stretched my limits and it felt great!
We are surrounded by boundaries in many parts of our day-to-day lives. Sometimes these are external boundaries brought on by societal limits or temporal realities. Other times these are more internal restrictions on us that are the direct result of habits or patterns in our lives that serve to limit us. Either way, running gives us a tool to break through these boundaries, test the elasticity of those things that restrict us, and on our best days, break free.
Over the course of my brief but intense workout earlier this week, I found a little piece of liberation. While it was certainly not my intention when I began, I slowly and deliberately found myself in a place that was at once familiar and edgy. A place brought on only by intense physical exertion and the knowledge that, channeled in the right way and at the right time, that effort would bring with it its own reward. And those rewards would make me better, not only as an athlete but as a person.
AJW’s Beer of the Week
This week’s Beer of the Week comes from Smuttynose Brewing Company in Hampton, New Hampshire. Their delicious Scotch Style Ale is a deep, earthy spin on this classic variety. Not too bitter or sweet, this Scotch Ale strikes the perfect balance and texture. With a rich taste that transports me to the windswept bluffs of Aberdeen, Scotland, this ale is not to be missed and meant to be savored.
Call for Comments (from Meghan)
- How and how often do you stretch your limits? Can you describe the last time you did this and how it went?
- Do you like being on the edge of what you know you are capable of? Or, do you try to avoid it most of the time to live and run in your limits? What’s the right balance for you?