As I watch a public television program on Albert Einstein I decide to do an internet search on him and quotes he is credited to have made. There are quite a few and some I have heard of before. But a number of them I was unfamiliar with and one in particular grabs my attention. Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. The more I read and consider this compact, seemingly simple sentence the more I realize it is packed with meaning and implication.
I’ve struggled with anxiety and depression for years. One of my biggest obstacles to managing my illness was simply accepting the fact that I could not conquer, squelch or obliterate it. To make it go away forever. That was always my foremost desire. As I repeatedly fought against my illness I would continually step backwards on the positive steps I had slowly made over time. When I finally accepted that this illness is very likely to be with me for the rest of my life it reframed my situation. Instead of looking at it as something to get over or to conquer it became something to accept and figure out how to live with it. By accepting this I stopped fighting it and knowing my limits with this illness allowed me to make better progress.
This same statement Einstein said can be applied to running. I like many other runners set goals for ourselves to achieve. Shoot for PR’s (personal records) and the more talented in our mist go for FKT’s (fastest known times). We compete with others during a race and compete with ourselves during our training runs and even with others through computer apps like STRAVA. Always pushing and striving in an effort to do better. But sometimes this narrow focus can lead to negative consequences. One can get hurt, become burned out or fall into a rut . When we don’t continue to make the progress we’d like we need to step back and reassess. As Einstein accurately stated we all have limits and once we recognize them then we can accept them for what they are. This doesn’t mean one has to give up and believe things can’t improve. However one can start to get a clearer picture on how to adapt and change to work with these limitations and in doing so we may in fact then get beyond them. For instance when I decided I was going to try my first 50k I realized I needed to get better at running hills. I ran my first trail marathon prior to this. It was grueling and it reminded me of the feelings I had when I ran my very first road marathon. I knew I’d be dealing with running more elevation and I did train for it. But the result wasn’t quite what I hoped for. I had the opportunity to ask runner extraordinare Max King ,who lives in my town and leads a weekly running group, how do I get better at running hills. His succinct response, “run more hills.” Sounds like stating the obvious. However to get better at something you have to do more of it. Up until then I had been increasing my hill work but not nearly enough. I also had a mental barrier to get over as I dreaded running hills. Once I came to terms with this and fully embraced the hills, then I began to make progress. Although I believe hills are still a weakness for me I am now running them with much better authority.
Learning to take a new perspective and try things differently can make a difference. Einstein would figure out new ways of looking at things to help solve his problems. Continuing to do what doesn’t work is futile. Have the courage to look elsewhere. By acknowledging my limits in running I am able to again continue with improving. One must realize one has limits and can’t just will themselves beyond them. One must first identify what their limits are and then take the time, effort and perseverance to work on improving them. This will allow us to start to move beyond them. Thanks Albert!