Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Limits are just so darned limiting!

The Four Minute Mile Barrier
© Copyright 1999, Jim Loy
At one time, nobody had ever run the mile in under 4 minutes. There was talk of a barrier, something like the sound barrier for airplanes. Then, on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister of England ran the first under 4 minute mile (3:59.4). Soon, several runners had broken the supposed 4 minute barrier. Was there a barrier?

Anyone who has tried to achieve, in sports, knows that there is great difficulty in breaking records, whether it is a world record, a school record, or your own personal best. There is great difficulty in achieving goals. You intentionally set goals which are difficult. And your opponents are trying to frustrate your efforts (depending on the sport). In the 1950s, the 4 minute mile was near the limit of human capabilities. But, was it a barrier?
Since that time, statistics (and there are adequate records of track and field events) have shown that, "No, there was no 4 minute barrier." The 4 minute mile was difficult, as any world record was. But, the world record eased up toward 4 minutes, as if there was nothing special about 4 minutes at all. And, once the record was under 4 minutes, the world record continued to ease on further, as if there was nothing special about 4 minutes at all. There was no true barrier.

My father was in his early teens when this event happened. I think he remembers it just as some of us remember where we were when Kennedy was assassinated, when the first man walked on the moon, when the Murrah bombing happened, or 9/11. Breaking the 4 minute mile was a VERY BIG DEAL! Now, I believe the record is around 3:43. Will it go lower? I am certain that it will. My point is this…are there limits to human performance? I suppose that realistically, there would be a limit to how fast the mile could conceivably be run. But what IS that limit? Who are we to place that limit?

Have you ever had something in your personal life that you have put a limit on, and then gone on to see that limit surpassed beyond your wildest imagination? I have seen this in fundraisers. I have seen this when asking for help with a project. In the last couple of years, I have seen it on a physical level. I remember about 18 months ago, I just wanted to break the 30 minute mark on a 5k run (3.1 miles.) Now my goal is to get under 26 minutes—and I am CLOSE—I would never have imagined that was possible! At 48, I never expected to do a handstand ever again in my life. Period! But now, I am not only doing handstands, but I am doing HANDSTAND PUSHUPS! Incredible! As I get older, I tend to put limits on myself. Why is that? I really think I’m a pretty optimistic person.

I am getting ready to do this CrossFit Games Qualifier in Fort Worth next weekend. I am nervous, I feel totally inadequate, and of course I have placed all kinds of self-imposed limits on my ability. I keep saying “I just want to finish, and not finish last”. But is that enough? Isn’t that placing a limit? I need to stop that. I actually told my poor trainer in an e-mail today that I was old and frail and couldn’t possibly keep up in the competition. He basically told me to shut up and stop making excuses—exactly what I needed to hear. This was one of two very encouraging notes that I received today. The other was from Julie Bunton. In addition to some very sweet words, she gave me this wonderful quote:

“I am competitive, I thought. I do want to win. Everyone’s competitive about something. At its core, competition is passion. It’s hope.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Competitiveness is hope. I like that. Hope has no limits, no barriers. What are the barriers and limitations you have put on yourself? Let’s break down those barriers and get rid of those limits. Let’s embrace HOPE, and we are sure to come out the better for it!


  1. Yeah for that! Here is to hoping!:) Thanks for pushing us to our limits and breaking down our barriers so that we can see the end - we can see clearly - the HOPE for us all!

  2. Thursday workout
    50 squats - 50 glute ham
    3 mile run 27:10
    @ 2 mile point 18:28
    @ 1 mile point 9:23

  3. Great thoughts, Laura and Julie! I know the limits/barriers I've imposed on myself are really in my head. I have already surpassed many physical limitations I assumed were out of my reach and I have no idea how much farther I can go. It's encouraging to think that I can "hope" for unknown possibilities!