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Barrier

February 13, 2013

John Landy was an Australian runner, and the second man in the world to break the four minute mile. He was slated and expected to be the first man to break that barrier, yet several times came up short. In an interview he was quoted as saying something to the effect of ‘I don’t think it’s possible for a human to run a mile in less than four minutes‘ (paraphrased).

Soon after a British man named Roger Bannister ran a 3:59.4 mile and became the first man to break that four minute barrier.

The difference between these two men at the time…. was the space between their ears.

In 1952 Bannister broke a British world record in the 1500m at the Olympics yet didn’t earn the medal he expected to. His resolve became stronger than ever. His sights were set higher. He had an ax to grind.

While Landy drew the line in the sand, Bannister used that line to raise his own game. Soon after bannister broke the 4 minute mile…. Landy followed suit. Nothing changed in their physical training. It was the distance from ear to ear they each had to cross.

Jens Voigt was a German cyclist who has worn the yellow jersey in the Tour de France, yet has never won the Tour itself. He is best known for his positive frame of mind while competing. The number may have said that he was not strong enough or fast enough… but his mental game set him apart from what it said on paper. Famous for telling his legs to “shut up” it was known that he simply tolerated the pain better than anyone, or he would physically fail trying.

Pete Jacobs won the Ironman World Championships this past October and I got to watch him do it in person. In his victory speech he talked about the data. The data said he was going too hard. His coach said he was going too hard. But he felt good, and he was leading the race in the part of the race he was least likely to, THE BIKE! So he went with it. He won and he smiled the entire way.

If you look at all of these athletes you notice one thing: their head determined their outcome. While they are all spectacular athletes what gave them the extra edge, or held them back was their mind.

Do you do the same?

While we might not be winning the Hawaii Ironman….. have you ever walked up to the start of a 5K race feeling good, fit and confident. Only to spot a woman whose chest was puffed out and who was rattling off her training… and you took a step back? Nothing changes in that moment except for how you perceive yourself.

Have you ever written the end of the story before the story even began?

Have you ever allowed someone else to try to write the end of that story before it began?

What if Pete Jacobs had listened to the numbers? What if he listened to the power meter and the heart rate monitor…. instead of what he felt in his head and in his heart? What if those numbers had been wrong…. technology can do that every now and again….. what if at the pivotal time in his race he didn’t take the chance and didn’t go with his gut instinct?

This is not to say throw your plan out the window. At the same time when you come into a moment where you feel like it’s the time to take a chance…. why wouldn’t you?

If I had listened to every person who told me I couldn’t do something I would never have done a triathlon much less eight Ironmans.  I ignored doctors, well wishers…. and I followed my heart. I followed my gut instinct. I followed my dream. And I am still following it. On paper I shouldn’t be training as I am able to right now. Today I am healthy and happy and fulfilled. What if I had listened to them????? What if I listed to what was written down on paper?

Well f*ck paper. Paper doesn’t know jack sh*t about me. Don’t ever try to write the end of my story. Ever. And don’t let anyone grab the pen and try to author yours either. Those who do are merely projecting… afraid to reach…. afraid to dream and they find sanctuary in trying to hold you back from looking for your edge. Don’t let them. Just don’t let them.

Step up to the edge and do it with fear in your back pocket instead of in your visual field.  Push the edge. Ride it. Hell cross over it at times. You won’t know where it is if you are too afraid to cross over it.

It’s not easy. It’s not supposed to be easy. None of this sh*t is easy or everyone would do it. While I am talking sport, sport is a metaphor for life. Our true character is revealed in sport and at the same times the lessons we learn in sport are brought back to life as we know it. But it is not easy.

Your biggest opponent is not them. It’s the person in your own mirror. Your biggest challenge isn’t ignoring their voices, it’s ignoring the ones inside of your head. So don’t. Rise above. Ignore them. Tap into what you do know.

When you were five you had no qualms about running around the house in a superman cape or a tiara. None at all. You were a superhero and you were damn proud of it. Then someone…. your older brother perhaps…. said “You look dumb.”. The seed of doubt was dropped into your life of calm water. The ripples began and they spread far and wide. You got separated from that fearless little kid who dared to dream and you got sucked into a world of doubt and holding back.

Your cape sat silently in your drawer and while you sometimes took a  good look at it, you feared being called stupid. So you kept it in the drawer.

Well now is the time to get the cape out. Shake it out. Iron it if you must. But put the cape back on, stand at the top of the stairs and take a deep breath in. Find the edge of your world and stand right on it. Take that deep breath again and let the dreams fly.

Last I checked we got to do this thing called life once. So we might as well live it like we mean it.

Remember how powerful the space between your ears is. Remember what it did for Landy, Bannister, Voigt, and Jacobs and countless athletes who have shown us time and time again that you are capable of more than what the data says. You are capable of everything you dream of.

The only one who gets the end of the story is you. Now go out and live it.

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