Going to the Edge
When last did you test the limits of your capabilities? Do you know where the edge is?
We live in a time of comfort. We don’t have to hunt for our food or gather berries off the local Mulberry tree. We can go online and have everything we need delivered to our door.
My first boss told me, “A tea bag is useless until it lands in hot water.” The message was that your value is unknown until you are tested under pressure and show your metal. That statement has lived with me my whole life.
There is a difference between choosing to test your limits and life dealing you with a set of circumstances that force you to test your limits. I am talking about choosing to test your limits.
In a recent Modern Wisdom podcast (#438), Chris Williamson discussed with Michael Easter about learning to embrace discomfort. Easter talks about setting himself a physical task each year that he is highly likely to fail.
When I heard the podcast, I said to myself, “I’m going to do that.” At the time I had no idea what the task would be, but my radar was on, and I was looking out for “the event”.
A month ago, I entered the Delta Back Yard Ultra, a trail running event that has no finish line. It is over when you choose to quit.
There is a winner. It is the last person standing, in other words, the one person who doesn’t quit.
The event was originally designed so that a participant would complete 100 miles in 24 hours. That works out to be 4.16 Miles per hour or 6.7 km per hour.
While having an after run coffee with my running friend Matthew, he told me that he had also entered, and was aiming for 24 hours. “Come do 24 hours with me Justin, it will be great fun”. I had shivers of fear at the thought.
I pondered the idea over the next few days. It took me a while to resolve for myself that this would be “the event”. Running for 24 hours was something so big that I was highly likely to fail. I decided to set the goal.
Without doing any special training other than what I do daily, I wanted to discover where the edge of my capabilities was. I had one limiting criterion. However far I was going to run, I did not want to injure myself. I wanted to be able to run the next day.
I quit on lap 12. I found my limit, and I went right up to the edge. I discovered that the unevenness of trail running is far more taxing on the body than the smoothness of tar. I knew that, but now I really know that!
For now, I have put a peg in the ground. I’ve marked the spot. I will visit that edge again, and next time the edge might be in a different place.