We had a new recruit that week. He was slower than some of the other guys, so I comfortably kept pace with him and found myself happily chatting as we ran through the 90 odd degree noon heat.
"I'm just a 10 minute mile guy," Mike said. I stared ahead of the disappearing figure of the other Mike in the group, Mike the Machine, whose 7 or 8 minute mile pace never slowed, rain or shine, hills or mud puddles. The two Mikes were about the same age. Equally fit. Similar build. The Mike I was chatting with had given me a full history of his running career and his training schedule was far more impressive than Mike the Wind Up Runningbot ahead.
"Why? You've got a great program. A great trainer, even if she's not ME." I still wince a little when I say that part, even these several years later.
"That's just my .... Time."
"It's all in your head."
3 months later Mike put in a 4:45 marathon. 3 months after that, he knocked out 13.1 in Sacramento averaging a 9:16 mile pace.
I've said it over and over through the years since then. Whatever you want to get out of yourself - fitness, a smaller dress size, a better mile time, a better job, a better education. It's all right there where you can easily find it: in your head. Your limitations are there, too. If you tell yourself you'll only ever do a 10 minute mile, you'll never get out of your bean counting desk job, you can't go back to school because you're too old... Whatever limitations you impose on yourself, those are the limitations you have.
I got a chance to see this myself, first hand. I qualified for Boston in that San Francisco race Mike and I ran together. And found myself running it a few months later. I didn't make my target time in Boston, and by mile 20 I knew it wasn't even going to be a personal best. I started to think the Boston thing had been a fluke. I wasn't a runner. I was in fact a former fat girl who should just go back to her couch. People were passing me. I was running out of steam. This whole running thing had been a big, over ambitious dream.
Just then a guy on old fashioned prosthetics blazed past me. Not the controversial running prosthetics, the old, heavy metal ones. He wasn't just running by. He was BLAZING past. And I thought. Here was a guy who had physical limitations. Infinitely worse than mine had ever been. But in his head, there were none. No limits.
His head was all possibilities.
Mike and I ran together for a while after that, but we had to part paths when my path went to crazy ultra distances and Mikes took him to triathlons. This year Mike is doing his first Iron Man in Arizona. Iron Man Mike.
As we were on our way to a recent half marathon together Mike was telling me about his ambitious triathlon training schedule. 15,000 work outs a week, swimming, cycling, running, strength training, underwater basket weaving.
"I'm amazed with what you've been able to do Mike."
"Ah well." He said. "Someone once told me my limitations were all in my head."
"Haha." I had to ask just to hear it. "Was I right?"