I’m still surprised, eight weeks into it, that I’m training for a triathlon. It will be a short one, but — nonetheless, a triathlon. I have never thought of myself as athletic, my least favourite place in the world is the gym, and I think running is only something that’s done to survive.

Well, the gym is still somewhere I only go under extreme duress (running tracks are now on that list too), but I’ve learned over the last two months that running is only as bad as you decide it is and that athleticism is a frame of mind. Am I ready for the Olympics? Absolutely not. I do, however, believe that my body will respond to what I ask of it and, for that, I am grateful.

Barriers are Man Made

I was recently reading an article in The Walrus, The Race Against Time, that looks at how runner’s perceptions of what they can and cannot accomplish dictate how they perform. Change their perception and change the outcome.

I was most interested in article author Alex Hutchinson’s anecdote of his own quest to break the 4 minute mile (or roughly 1500m in his case.) In his third year of university, he consistently hit the wall of 4:02 — ironically, also John Landy’s barrier (the man who tried six times to break 4 minutes, declared it impossible, and then broke it just seven weeks after Roger Bannister first accomplished it back in 1954.) It was at a meet in Quebec where a francophone timer was calling out splits in English for him. As it turns out, the timer took a few seconds to translate and then say the time, enough of a lag for Hutchinson to believe he was running faster than he really was without extra effort. Deciding that he was feeling good enough to really push the last few laps, Hutchinson finished his mile in 3:52, 10 seconds faster than his best time.

Once he’d broken 4 minutes, Hutchinson’s next two races were finished in 3:49 and 3:44, the latter actually qualifying him for a spot on the Olympic team. In just three runs, he had gone from consistently, repeatedly hitting a barrier to qualifying to compete with the world’s best athletes.

Barriers are Just Beliefs

I think the reason this anecdote rings so true for me is because I have been very committed to my belief that I was not athletic. The first week, while I lived on Advil and wondered why the heck I had agreed to this, I still held tight to it. It wasn’t until the third week when I realized with horror that I was antsy while finishing up my work for the day, waiting to get into the pool. I was excited to be out there pushing myself. I was already seeing my endurance improve, my reliance on pain relievers reduce to almost nil, and — blessedly — my clothes already fitting more loosely. I also loved telling people that I was “training.”

Today, I sit here looking forward to my bike training session this evening. My training partners and I did our first triathlon time trial last week and we all finished the distances. Four weeks away from the race, we already had the confidence that we could more than complete the triathlon. Suddenly, our goal changed from mere completion to getting decent times. We now train with performance in mind.

This post was originally published on the Pebble Road Marketing blog but now calls this home.

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