As is the case whenever I'm unable to run, I find myself doing more analyzing and thinking (and recording odd videos) about my relationship with running. Something that running has shown me is a clearer definition of my limits, both physical and mental. Not because I've broken through my barriers, but because I have a clearer idea of what they are. I haven't been a new runner in a very long time, but I remember the overwhelming urge to stop running when the slightest discomfort hit me back when I was first starting. After a certain amount of training, the effort becomes easier, but there is still discomfort (unless you're running at a very easy pace). The key to the improvement, I believe, is learning how to deal with and manage the discomfort. My oldest daughter is just starting to run, and I know she is able to go farther and faster than she believes she can (although I know better than to push her at this point), and that's because I have some understanding of what level of discomfort is acceptable. Now, compared to a world-class runner, I have no clue. Give me the same physical gifts that Steve Prefontaine had, put us on the starting line of a 5000 meter race, and he would still eat my lunch, get me to pay the bill and leave the tip.
But I have seen glimpses of "barrier breakthroughs" in my running. I'm sure you've had those runs and/or races when you're cruising along at a high, but sustainable, effort level. You glance at your watch and realize your pace is faster than you expected, then you push a little harder, into unknown territory. It hurts, but you tell yourself to relax and accept the pain. Like I eluded to, this doesn't happen very often for me, but when it does, it makes me wonder how much more I have in me.
There have been several instances during races when I've come to a decision point. I'm redlining and unsure if I can maintain my current pace much longer. Do I continue to try pushing and risk blowing up? Or do I back off so things feel a little more comfortable? I usually choose the latter. I wish that wasn't the case, but I know my mental strength is still lacking. Sure, maybe I would blow up at that greater effort level, but maybe I hit a breakthrough point and advance my running to a higher level, with new found confidence.
Not to get too philosophical, but there are life lessons I've taken from this, too. We all go through trials - work, family, relationship and health related - that test our limits. I think running has helped me to realize that a lot of the barriers we face are not only self-imposed, but they're movable. They can be pushed through, if one is willing to endure just a little more pain and discomfort than they believed they could. We can reach new levels that seemed unatainable before.
Now, if I can only put this into practice myself!
(not sure why I'm so "deep" today…)