Go beyond your limit

“Set some goals then demolish them” ( Nike) 

YMHave you ever been in a situation where you have felt so overwhelmed by the task ahead or where you have set a goal which seems so mammoth, that you go into panic mode and spend your energy being in a nervous state?

This has been me:  many times over the past 6 months since I made a commitment to run the Yorkshire Marathon.

At the start I thought, how difficult could it be? So many millions have done it before me. What’s a dodgy knee and hip compare to some of disabilities of those inspiring parathletes at the Paralympics and Commonwealth games? Where did they get that mindset, that inner strength, that resilience…I was about to find out!

Keeping the expectations real

I now know the true meaning of “it’s a marathon not a sprint”. For an impatient person who always wants to get there as quickly as possible, this was the hardest lesson of all. Slowly, gradually, one step at a time…it’s like learning all over again.

I thought I was pretty healthy and fit. I have done some running before. So why was I not progressing as fast as I should be? It turns out my expectations were unrealistic.

I decided to go for an assessment at our local gym. The ‘plodding’ that I had done before might have kept a certain level of fitness but not to the degree that I had expected. “If you want better results, you have to work harder and put in more effort “, said the instructor in his no nonsense voice. There nothing like honest feedback to get you motivated.

Little steps grow into miles

I am a great fan of Stephen Covey’s Begin with the end in mind. However the end of an actual 26.2 miles was far too unthinkable to comprehend. I just couldn’t visualise myself running that distance so I had to break it down into increments – 6 miles, 8 miles 10 miles, 15 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles…

When you find that 10 miles is such an effort and you are knackered and those nasty gremlins get into your head whispering, “I have done less than half of it and there is just no way that I could do that again, ever…I’m never going to do it”

And that’s when panic sets in and you lose belief. You wallow, mope about, blame everything else that is going on in your life….

But by now you are secretly addicted to the endorphins, of seeing if you could go that little bit further, so you put your kit on and continue. You have made a commitment, you have progressed, you have swatted those gremlins and bit by bit you eventually get to 15 miles and it’s like, “maybe I can do this…”

Setbacks are there to test you 

Sometimes work and life takes over and there is just no time to go for a 2-3 hour run so you have to think about strategies that will help.  Planning in intervals, fartlek, hill running… to build up speed during these shorter periods of running are helpful.

Shoulder, knee, hip problems, injuries and illness…all have to be accommodated. It helps to be flexible. Finishing at the desired time is now unrealistic. It was time to reassess and readjust to something more realistic.

Mindfulness and Mind games

Never in my 48 years, have I been so in tuned with my body. Knowing when to push, when to stop and when to rest.

At the start, my image was that of a Tin Man – all clunky, creaking and disjointed. A chat with colleague on using metaphors changed that. If you were ever on the moors at 6 am in the morning over the summer, you would have heard me humming, “here comes the well oiled machine” – it got me through the hills at the beginning!

I found long distance running pretty boring. After 2 hours I had run out of things to think about, problems to solve and had already put the world to right.

I tried counting to 8 and repeating, using landmarks as goal posts, singing and listening to audio books. In the end, music with beats  160-180 beats per minute kept me going.

Throughout all this, I became more attuned to my surroundings and the beauty of the landscape around me, observing as it emerges from spring, blossoming in summer and turning golden in the autumn – priceless. I stopped to take pictures on route and below are some from around Ilkley, Denton and Nesfield.

marathon collage


“If your dreams don’t scare you they are not big enough” (Nike) 

As the big day approaches, so did the nervousness. Not knowing what to expect can be stressful and that’s without considering the practicalities of getting to the venue, the weather, how many layers to wear…

And the what ifs: what if I don’t make it to the end? what if my knee does not hold up, what if something happens, what if…. Must breathe, stay focused, remind self that I have got this far.

Yorkshire marathon medalThe day is here and it’s all very surreal. Somehow I am at the start line and off I go along with the rest of 6999 runners. The halfway mark goes by and everything is fine. And then the knee gives in.

A couple of painkillers, some gel on the knee and off I go again, taking it very steady. The crowds are cheering, the finish line is in sight…and it’s over.

 The learning 

There is always learning – about myself, motivation,  resilience, coping mechanisms, being in harmony with my body and with nature and having Vaseline as my new best friend !

Is one attempt enough – perhaps I could do better? I am wiser, I have learnt, I could try again – until the next one!

Not sure if it’s for you?

 “How to run an ultramarathon ? Puff out your chest, put one foot in front of the other, and don’t stop till you cross the finish line.” Dean Karnazes

“Your only limit is you” (Nike)

Go on, dream big and make it happen 


About verawoodhead

I'm an executive coach, leadership facilitator and learning & development consultant working with managers and leaders to develop the skills and behaviours to inspire performance and drive results; achieve promotion ; make successful career changes, be resilient and thrive at work. Within organisations, I help to facilitate better conversations, design learning interventions which deliver practical and lasting solutions aligned to business strategy and goals. Connect with me on Twitter @verawoodhead
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