REAL LIFE RUNNERS: EPISODE 257 – Are You Limiting Yourself? (Transcript)
ANGIE: Hey everybody, thank you so much for joining us today on episode #257 of the Real Life Runners podcast.
So many runners are limiting themselves without even realizing it. In races of nearly every distance, there are clusters of runners finishing around even numbers. Half marathoners often cluster around 2 (two) hours, but also around 1:50 and 2:10. Marathon runners often cluster around the Boston qualifying times and every other 10-minute mark. So, why is it that arbitrary numbers allow runners to group up? If the numbers are really arbitrary, are you putting a limit on yourself just because you are not close enough to the next even number?
This is the Real Life Runners Podcast, and we are your hosts, Kevin and Angie Brown. Thanks for spending some time with us today. Now let's get running.
Alright, cool, so this is a very, very interesting topic that we'll dive into today. Kev and I started talking about this idea the other day because he was talking to me about how many high school runners are breaking the four-minute mile. It's very interesting how shoes are kind of playing a role in putting kids down closer to that four-minute mark and how the closer you get to that even number, whatever that kind of milestone number is in your head. That can change how you look at your training and imagine what's possible for you and how hard you're willing to work to actually break through that barrier.
KEVIN: If you seem remarkably close to a barrier, you'll give it that last little surge of energy to try and get to the other side of the barrier, whatever it is.
ANGIE: Yeah, which is so interesting, right? So, I just kind of started thinking about it and what I realized is that so many runners are actually limiting themselves without even realizing that, because maybe they're not close to that round number?
KEVIN: Yeah, like if your PR, say in a 5K, is 30 minutes and 10 seconds, you're going to work pretty hard to break 30 minutes. But if you're running like 33 minutes, what number are you aiming for?
ANGIE: Yeah, and it still might be under 30. Right? But some people might perceive their distance from where they are to that next round number as too far.
KEVIN: It's too far, like the goal is too big, and we've talked about that in goal setting. If the goal gets so big, you're like, "I don't think that's an achievable gap for me to cover there," I'm doing it. The smaller that gap is, the more you're like, "Oh well, if I just give a little bit more, if I focus a little more on my training, if I cut back on this like whatever it is," you're almost willing to make a temporary sacrifice because you're so close to the thing.
ANGIE: Yeah, and I think that makes it just so interesting to actually look at the mental aspect of running here, right? And how what we decide is possible or might be possible for us plays such a huge role in what we're actually able to and what we decide to put into the training to try to break through those numbers, right?
KEVIN: Yeah, if you don't think something impossible, you're really not going to put the training forth into doing the thing because it's just not possible, so why would I try?
ANGIE: Yeah, and I think that what happens, you know, is that a lot of people limit themselves without even realizing it, which can lead to so much frustration. It can lead to a lack of progress. It can lead to decreased motivation, right? Because they just look at their number, whatever that number is, you know. You just mentioned a 5K, right? So, in their head, if they are running a 33-minute 5K, maybe that is too far away from 30 for them to work hard to try to break 30. But for other people, it might not be, right? Other people might see it as still a possibility, but again, it's what are you determining to be possible for you? And it's very interesting that the closer you get to those numbers; it seems more people tend to cluster around them. So, can you kind of talk about what a cluster is when we're talking about that throughout this episode?
KEVIN: So, I think this was written in a running book. I'm pretty confident that it was "Endure" by
KEVIN: Thank you. Alex Hutchinson. He said they had done research on marathons and half marathons, and there were a lot more runners that finished at every 10-minute interval. Whether it was like 3 hours or 3:10 or 3:20, there were a lot more runners that finished very, very close to 3 hours than those who finished very, very close to like 3:03. It was almost as if you stood at the finish line of marathon runners coming in a bigger wave every 10 minutes. And then there was like a lull and another big cluster of people. Because even within the race, as you are going along, and you are like, "Alright, well, my goal was 3, and I seem to be falling off of that, so maybe I'll try and hold on and hit 3:10.", "Oh, I'm falling off of that. Well, I guess maybe I'll hang on and hit 3:20." People would drop back a whole 10 minutes, and when they saw...
ANGIE: Because our brains like round numbers, right?
KEVIN: They saw smaller waves at the five-minute intervals because some people can cling to a 5, but most people can't cling to, "Well, my goal was, I don't know, let's say 3 hours, but I'm off goal, so maybe I'll try 3:02." People don't make that; they may drop 10 minutes.
ANGIE: It's so interesting, right? And do you remember if it matters, like the race distance matters? And how much like the race distance play a role in that?
KEVIN: The study was on marathons, so the big clusters seem to show up every 10 minutes. But I got to think that the expansion of that is that if you go down to like a 5K, you're probably kind of going off almost every minute.
ANGIE: I was going to say every minute, right?
KEVIN: So, if your PR in a 5K is 24 minutes and 59 seconds. It seems like a long way to get to the next magical number, but if you're at 25:01, you're like, "Man, I'm going to work my butt off and get 2 seconds faster." It seems like a bigger drop when your time starts with a different number.
ANGIE: Yeah, so it's such an interesting idea, right, in concept, and when I was really thinking about it, I was like, "What's the problem here?" right? Because I'm like, what does this have to do with us as real life runners? And how can we use this concept to our benefit? And kind of what I was thinking is that, essentially, we as runners draw conclusions, whether or not they're conscious or unconscious, about what we are truly capable of, and I think that the time on the clock, whether we like to admit it or not, makes us think a certain thing about our capability, right? Because I think that we, like, I don't even think that we always realize that we're doing it, but like you said, if you're really close to that next breakthrough, then you're going to be like, "Oh well, I really want to hit that" right? And so, you're going to maybe work harder, you're going to find another race that's sooner to try to do it again, or you're going to be willing to start training a little bit differently to try to actually break through whatever that next milestone is, in your head.
KEVIN: Next milestone in your head, which is probably a number on a clock. We started talking about 5Ks of this 30-minute barrier, but some people go for 5K and have already broken a 30-minute barrier. They've got a different, completely arbitrary number in their head.
ANGIE: Yeah, and I think that you're right, though. I think 5Ks are more like every minute, right? Because I know that for a while, I was kind of stuck. I remember running multiple races at exactly 27:17, and I'm like, really exactly, I couldn't even PR by a second. And so, when I decided to be a faster runner, I was like, "Okay, I just want to break 27 because I'm like 17 seconds. I feel like I can do that, right?" And just like that, I opened myself up to that possibility and basically said out loud that I had a desire to break 27 minutes, which prior to that, I don't think I ever had set a time goal in the 5K. I went out and ran the 5K and assumed that I was a slow runner and all the things we've already talked about.
KEVIN: You went out; you ran the 5K. It was super uncomfortable. You figured that was pretty hard, and I'm good.
ANGIE: I ran a 5K when I was pregnant; it was right before I found out I was pregnant, right? or right after I found out I was pregnant? I ran it and had to stop and throw up right before the finish line.
KEVIN: Yes, you did.
ANGIE: Then I crossed the finish line and got the same exact time as my previous 5K.
KEVIN: You were so upset you like, "I just didn't have to stop and throw up."
ANGIE: "That's not fair!" I think I did know that I was pregnant, but I was just a few weeks pregnant at that time, anyway. So, going back to this idea of like you know what's possible and like me saying, "Okay, I'm going to break 27." All of a sudden, I trained for a 5K, and I blew through it, and I was like, I hit like the low 25s, you know because just opening myself up to the possibility allowed me to train in a way that actually made me faster.
KEVIN: Right, you said let's get completely faster than this. Yes, under 27, but you open yourself to the possibility that you could be well under 27.
ANGIE: I never thought that though; I really just wanted to be 26 something.
KEVIN: Right, but by opening yourself to 26 something, you were fine to say the 20s, like you never really said your goal was like 26:59.
KEVIN: Only on the other end, say, super incredibly fast humans, Elliott Kipchoge, sub-two-hour project? What did all the shirts say? All the shirts said 1:59:59; that was the goal. The goal was 1:59:59. It was so focused on being just under. He broke two, but just a teeny bit, because that was the goal. The goal wasn't to be the fastest human ever and just blow the number out of it. All the shirts said 1:59:59. That was where the mental focus was.
ANGIE: Yeah, that's so interesting, right? So, it's again, it's where are we bringing our attention. And going back to how we decide ahead of time what we're going to be capable of? Whether or not we actually realize it, and I think there are some underlying reasons that we do this, and we want to kind of dive into a couple of those now because I think that it's really important for us to just start to bring some of the awareness to these beliefs that could be holding you back without even realizing it, right?
So, one of the things that I think ends up holding people back is the ideal that the time on the clock determines my level of belief in my capabilities, right? So, if there's a certain time on the clock? I'm going to believe that maybe I am more capable, which proves why people tend to cluster around a certain even number, right? So, if I'm close to that certain time, I might be capable of it, right? You start to open yourself up to that possibility of it, versus if you perceive that you're too far away, then you might think, "Oh, I'm not even capable of that."
KEVIN: Right? So, it's the idea of the closer I get to the thing, the easier it is for me to work really hard for that thing.
ANGIE: But I don't even think that's what we're thinking, right? Like it's not that it makes it easier to work really hard, which it does, right? But I think the underlying belief is, "Oh, maybe I could."
KEVIN: Yeah, it opens the possibility that this thing could happen.
ANGIE: It could happen that I might be capable of that, right? And so, the closer your time is to whatever that next number is, I think that that kind of opens you up to, "Oh well, maybe I could."
KEVIN: It's funny looking back, like having this discussion about the possibilities, and I wish I had done a whole heck of a lot more thought work when I was, I don't know, say, 16 and 17 years old.
ANGIE: Wouldn't that be cool?
KEVIN: Yeah, because all of my high school PRs are shy of breaking things. Like when I was a freshman, my PR for the mile was 5:01. My fastest half-mile ever is too flat. My fastest mile ever is 4:30 on the dot. Like I didn't ever get just under any of the runners. I hit all of the round numbers.
ANGIE: Did you ever want to? Did you ever think of doing that?
KEVIN: My fastest 800 was too flat. I led for about 700 meters of the race, and then the other track captain passed me, like slingshot off me, and kicked me out of the final straightaway to run 1:59. He's really great. He's awesome. He has cute kids now, but it was not cool, and I hated the half-mile; it was nothing but two minutes of just straight, excruciating pain. So no, I had no desire to go back and try and break 2 minutes. I was like, well.
ANGIE: Because you didn't like that race distance?
KEVIN: It was so painful. It's literally just two minutes of torture. It's like a sprint for a lap, and now do it again, but don't slow down. It's brutal, so I had no desire. Well, apparently, my PR in the half-mile is going to be 2 flat, the mile I wanted, but 4:30 was fast; they got like I kept working at it all season long; I just never quite got under.
ANGIE: Yeah, but I think that that's, you know, that plays a role too. The possibility is one side of the coin, and the other is the desire like, "I have no desire to do that again." Right? You've talked about that before, too, about how? I think it was last year that you were considering trying to PR in your mile.
KEVIN: Last year, I don't know. The last three years' time has gotten blurry, so I'm not sure when it was.
ANGIE: Yeah, I think it was last year, but whatever it was, you did a couple of workouts, and you're like, "Nope."
KEVIN: Nope, I know the workouts that I would need to do to prepare for this, and well, it may be physically possible, it might be entertaining to try and follow the journey of "Kevin tries to run as fast as he did when he was seventeen." Nope, that is a level of pain that I don't want to go for.
ANGIE: Yeah, and that's okay, right? Like you're allowed to make that choice, but I think that that's just very interesting that, like there does seem to be these clusters, and I think that the closer you are to that number and that time on the clock, will then open you up to a new belief of what you're capable of.
ANGIE: The next thing I think is one of the underlying beliefs that causes this problem of limiting ourselves without even realizing it is the idea that our past determines what is possible in the future, right? "Well, I've never done that before, so it's probably not possible."
KEVIN: Yeah, but you've never done a lot of things before. Like, that's the biggest problem with this belief: pretty much anything cool you've ever done in your life, you hadn't done it before.
ANGIE: Yeah, well, in the human race too. If you think about that like, if this were true, we would never have progressed as humans. We'd also be living in caves, right? Space travel would have never happened because we've never done it before.
KEVIN: That is a big jump from living in caves to space travel, but all of those steps along the way are things we haven't done before.
ANGIE: Absolutely! So, to bring it back to running, we all know that Roger Bannister was the first person that broke 4 minutes in the mile. And so, he obviously believed that this was possible, right? And was working for a long time to try to break through this point, and at that time, there were people that literally believed that if you, it was physically impossible for a human to do this, right? But he kept working for it, and then he ended up doing it, which changed how people looked at running. People started to look at it because, now, someone had done it. And, all of a sudden, that had opened it up to a new possibility.
KEVIN: Yeah, it opened the possibility. Then there were new races of like okay, well if this group of guys; because he had his whole training team with him over in Cambridge, and several of them came in very, very close to 4 also. And then you got a guy coming out of Australia, it's like, well, let's see if we can get this really fast guy out of Australia to run against the really fast guy in England, and they can both break 4 minutes now and it just, it made races more interesting because it was like, well, if that guy could do it, maybe let's see what people from around the world. Now, let's roll into the Olympics and see how many phenomenal runners we can put together. Now, you just have to break for 4 minutes to shoot. These days if you can't break 4, you don't qualify for NCAA championships, like you don't get out of your region because you didn't break 4 minutes in the mile.
ANGIE: Right, but at one time, that seemed to be impossible to do.
KEVIN: And for a while, the fastest mile was stuck at like 4:20, like, which again was an arbitrary number.
ANGIE: Right. But it's like it's crazy to me how, when one person does something, then everybody suddenly wants to do that, and I think that so much of that is because people are like, "Oh, it is possible." Right? This just takes us back to that original belief that we talked about. That's the overarching thing that we want to break down during this episode, which is that we limit ourselves consciously or unconsciously based on an arbitrary limit that we place on things just because maybe someone has never done that before, right? Maybe it's someone else, or maybe it's just that we haven't done that before
KEVIN: Yes, both of those things fall in nicely, you know, sometimes the number on the clock, if we're close to that next number, we can get a little extra drive to get there. Sometimes it's another person where it's like, oh, I wish I was as fast as that person, but the gap between my speed and that person's speed seems so far that it's difficult to imagine covering that gap.
ANGIE: Yeah, but it's like if you feel like you're close enough in the ability to that person, and that person has done it, I feel like it also makes you feel like, well, if that person has done it, then I should be able to do that, right?
KEVIN: Then, I should be able to do that like, I can clearly figure out. I can follow the path they did. I can follow a path similar to theirs that might work better for me, and then I can achieve those results.
ANGIE: Yeah, exactly. I think that it's also an interesting thing to kind of look at this idea and this belief that the number on the clock determines what kind of runner I am, right? Because I think that this is one of those underlying beliefs that hold us back without us even realizing it like we say that the number on the clock doesn't matter, but in reality, we, a lot of people, I shouldn't say we, but like there's a lot of people out there that are like, well, I'm you know, they take their number on the clock, and they attach a meaning to it, right? And they say, "Well, that number on the clock means that I'm a slow runner or a good runner, I'm a bad runner or whatever it is." They attached some sort of meaning to that number on the clock.
KEVIN: I've heard people just name themselves, and these are not usually the fastest runners. It's the best part like the faster runners get; they don't name themselves as, "Oh, I'm a 2:17 marathon runner!" or "I'm a 2:12." That's not how they like to go out and introduce themselves.
ANGIE: But you've heard other people?
KEVIN: As it slides back, "Oh, I'm at 3:30 marathoner. I'm a 3:25 marathoner.
ANGIE: You've heard people introduce themselves that way.
KEVIN: Like in just casual conversation, well, they'll be like, "Oh, I've got a race coming up," or "Oh, the last time I ran this race." and they're so quick to throw a PR out there, because that's how they've labeled themselves as in their mind, "Oh, a half marathon is coming up, I've run it before in this, not necessarily saying I am this, but I've got a half marathon coming up." or "Last time I did it in this." Even if you're just putting that out there, the time doesn't matter. I've been training for this one. I'm just going to go out and give my best. But if you keep bringing it up and saying it over and over again, it's like trying to push that thing away really hard. The harder you push away, it's not going to say the time doesn't matter, "No, no, the time really doesn't matter to me." It does. It seems like the more you train to insist that it doesn't matter, sometimes you cling even harder to it.
ANGIE: that can be true, and again, I think it's because we attach a meaning to it, right? So, like, especially when it's a number that we've worked hard to achieve, people take that number, and they make it mean that they're a good runner, or that means that they've worked hard and earned this thing, right? They've earned that number, and I think this can be dangerous because it can't be true that that number determines something about who you are as a runner, right? because that number is completely relative. It can change based on who you're actually surrounded with. Like when I first started running, I like, I've told you guys before, I always labeled myself as a slow runner because, in high school, I was kind of coming in towards the end of the pack. We had to do our one-mile run; God forbid we actually had to do a two-mile run during volleyball.
KEVIN: Heaven forbid.
ANGIE: Heaven forbid, you know, I was like, you know, near the end of the pack and squeaking in under the time limit that my coach wanted us to come in. But that's...
KEVIN: That she had arbitrarily made of.
ANGIE: That she had arbitrarily picked, right? And so, I always thought I was slower. But then I joined a group, like a running group, and I ended up being one of the faster runners in that group, and people were looking at me as one of the faster runners. But if I were in another group, I might be one of the slower runners. It just depends on who you surround yourself with. So you can't say, like, I am a fast runner, or I am a good runner, I'm a bad runner, like according to who? What determines whether or not you're fast or slow, good or bad? Like, how do you actually define that?
KEVIN: Depending on the competitiveness of the city that you live in. Like here in South Florida, and it's the middle of summer. If you go outside, you will see anybody running. They're insane because it's a bazillion degree outside, so there's just not that many people out running in the middle of the day. If we move to Flagstaff, AZ, do you see anybody out running? There's a chance there in Olympian, like where you are in the country might substantially affect how you look relative to the people running around you.
ANGIE: Yeah, for sure, and then also what that time means, right? And I think this is where we get so much of it wrong like we want to take that number and then attach some sort of meaning or label to it. Like that means that I'm a good runner. That means this about me. That means that about me, but is it more important for us to label ourselves and make that number mean something? Or is it just important? Is it more important for us to just kind of continue to progress forward based on where we are?
KEVIN: Yeah, I mean, you know, we always come down to that the idea that labels are rarely going to be a good thing.
ANGIE: I think they can be helpful sometimes, but it depends on what we do with them.
KEVIN: Yeah, but if you think that time on a clock makes you a good runner, then when you can't hit that time on the clock anymore, or an injury comes up, or just something gets in the way in life, and you get super busy, and that that number on the clock is much more difficult to reach, possibly out of reach because of the season of your life, you're like "Oh well, now I guess I'm a bad runner." That doesn't make any sense.
ANGIE: It doesn't make sense, right? Well, and that's it exactly, right? Like what does it mean to be a fast runner? What does it mean to be a good runner? Who gets to make that definition? And the answer is always "you," right? Like you get to make that definition.
KEVIN: I thought it was WADA.
KEVIN: The anti-doping worldwide, I thought they got to determine who the good and bad people are. They drug-test you for it.
ANGIE: Yeah, but I think that like it's so interesting because even if you're the one that chooses it and you realize that you're the one choosing it and kind of making this up, like exactly what you just said, but then if you don't hit that number, maybe you have a bad race and it's just, you don't hit the number that you wanted to hit
KEVIN: Because it was a bad race
ANGIE: And what?
KEVIN: You know you're a bad runner because you had a bad race?
ANGIE: Right, but it's again like, what is all this? Are all these meanings that you're attaching to all these numbers?
KEVIN: It's somehow, you're attaching morals to a number on a watch, which just doesn't make any sense, but people do it all the time, and so they say, "Oh no, the number doesn't mean much to me." But at the same time...
ANGIE: It does make sense, though.
KEVIN: There's a number in the back of their head. You can try to detach from it.
KEVIN: But you have to accept that it is still there, that you can't compete in the sport of running. It's hard to completely eliminate any attachment to a number.
ANGIE: Yeah, we're runners, like as runners, I think we’re very number focused people.
KEVIN: Even the runners, who were like, "No, I try and not be data-driven."," I run without a watch."," I just run for freedom." Okay, cool, but at some point, if you ever go into a race, there will be a giant clock at the finish line. Unless you plan on closing your eyes and just saying, "La la la," as you cross the finish line, there's going to be a number, so it's pretty hard to ignore every possible number when out running.
ANGIE: Right, and that's not what we're saying here. You know, that's not what we're telling you guys to do. We're not telling you that the number is completely irrelevant. We're telling you that the number is arbitrary, right?
KEVIN: Like, that you get to decide what numbers are important to you, you get to decide what those numbers mean, and it's just important like the whole, our whole goal here is really trying to just kind of bring your awareness to this, right? because whether you realize it or not, a lot of us put meaning on a number on a clock. Whether it's, you know, that we make it mean something about us as a runner, or does it actually mean that we're making that number or our proximity to the next number does that? Are we making that mean that we are capable or not capable, possible or impossible? I think that's really what we want to dive into here and help people become aware of. Is there some sort of hidden limit that you're placing on yourself that you might not even realize is there?
KEVIN: Yeah, I mean, that's the biggest thing. Are these numbers really arbitrary? And so, you get to decide what they mean to you and which numbers you put more importance on. Just because the number ends in a zero doesn't mean that that has to be the most important number to you.
ANGIE: Yeah, exactly. So, instead of allowing these hidden or allowing these numbers to either consciously or unconsciously drive off and determine what you think you're capable of, we would suggest that you instead decide what kind of runner that you want to be and what numbers are important to you, and then you kind of have to make your plan from that place, because that's really what running is all about. Running is a way that we can challenge ourselves. A lot of us, that's you know, one of the big things when I like to talk to people about, why they run or why they are a runner, is that they say like, "Oh, it makes me feel really good physically.", "It's a way to clear my head.", "It's a way for me to challenge myself.", "I like to see what I'm capable of.", and that's really what we're trying to break down here is like showing you that you might be capable of even more, but for some reason, you have your number, like your mindset on this arbitrary round number. So just because you're not close enough, quote on quote, close enough to that number, does that make you more or less capable of breaking through that number altogether?
KEVIN: Yeah, the problem is that people look at the number on a clock that they have hit in a race before and think that determines what they're capable of. They go backward. They're like, "Okay, well, I've done this, so that's what I can do." Instead of saying, "I'm going to do this; that's what I'm going to be capable of." or "That's what I am capable of." and then training from that. They look backward. They're like, "Well, I've done that, so apparently, that's my limit."
ANGIE: Right, and I can probably get a little bit better.
KEVIN: Maybe, a little bit.
ANGIE: Right? And I think that's the difference between some people and others who take those past results and say, "Well, I'd like to improve on that a little bit." And then other people are like, "Yeah, that was cool, but my goal is way over there." And they believe they're capable of way more than they've been able to accomplish so far.
KEVIN: Yeah, some people would like to make a small incremental improvement, and others are like, "Yes, I'd like to stack all these incremental improvements until my time is way down the road."
ANGIE: Which is fantastic, right? Because when people assume that their results determine what they're capable of, that often leads to a lack of progress because they aren't really willing to put in the work because they just think, "Well, this is the type of runner that I am, right? Like I'm a 30-minute, 5K runner.", "I'm a 31-minute, 5K runner." or "I'm a, you know, 2:30 half marathoner." Or whatever that is. And if you just assume that that result that you've already achieved determines what you're actually capable of, then how hard are you going to be willing to put in the work that is actually going to lead to improvement? So, when you say that you're the time on the clock or your results determine your capability, then you're not going to train in a way that's actually going to lead to improvement.
KEVIN: Yeah, and there's a difference between training at your current level and training above your level.
ANGIE: Yeah. Oh, I'm glad you brought this up.
KEVIN: Yeah, like this is a subtle distinction here is you don't want to be like, "Okay? Well, I currently run a 5K in 30 minutes.", "I'd like to run a 5K in 25 minutes, so I'm going to do all of my workouts as though I am currently a 25-minute, 5K runner."
ANGIE: Don't do that.
KEVIN: That is a good setup to quickly burn out and injure.
KEVIN: And, it'll just be miserable the whole time, probably also.
ANGIE: 100%. But there's a difference in the way that you train and that, and also in what you believe.
KEVIN: Yes! So, you, your thoughts, your mind, and your beliefs about this need to say, "I'm a 25-minute, 5K runner." Even though your current training, your efforts, and what you're putting into it are based on your current PR, maybe a little incremental improvement on that, on occasion, you get yourself a little spicier and down there a little faster but...
KEVIN: A little spicier. But you can't just blow things out of the water and say, "Alright, I'm just going to run everything like I am currently a 25-minute, 5K runner." Because, that's not going to go well.
ANGIE: Right. But like you said, you decide ahead of time, "I am a 25-minute, 5K runner." You choose that identity ahead of time-based on your goal, right? And this is, to me, like owning a dog, like being a good dog owner, right? For those of you who follow me on Instagram, I did a little reel about this the other day when I was out on a walk with our dog, which made me think about this. And it's like, I had to decide before I even got a dog that I wanted to be a good dog owner and take on that identity before I even got the dog. Like I had to research what kind of dog I wanted. I had to research what it was like to train a dog, and then I had to decide if I was willing to put in the time and effort to do that, right? Because I knew I didn't want to just have a dog, I wanted to have a well-behaved dog. I wanted to have a trained dog, and that, you know, the kind of dog I wanted to have, so I had to take on that identity and know exactly what I wanted it to look like in my head. Sometimes, we come up with these ideas in our heads, and reality doesn't always match up to that, and that's okay. But again, when. I was deciding ahead of time; I was then working from that place of like, I am a good dog owner, and I want to have a good dog, and so that made me more willing to put in the time and the effort to actually train the dog and actually get that result that I wanted, which is a well-trained dog.
KEVIN: Right. I did not put in the time and effort to train myself to be a good dog owner.
ANGIE: It's because you didn't really want a dog.
KEVIN: My goal was to be a parent of happy girls and a happy wife. I fought for a happy wife, so we have a dog now.
ANGIE: So, you said yes.
KEVIN: So, I said yes to a dog.
ANGIE: To a dog? Yeah, exactly. So, after you decide ahead of time what kind of runner you want to be, step 2 is to understand that that number is just a number. It's a data point, and it's good to have a goal, right? This is why I said earlier. Yes, the number is arbitrary, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant like the number can still be relevant, but it's all based on what you're making that mean because, as humans, we just naturally attach meanings to certain things, and as runners, that's often a number, right? Where like we talked about earlier.
KEVIN: I really like that line. The numbers are arbitrary but not irrelevant.
ANGIE: Yeah, and I think it's really important because the meanings we attach to these numbers are different for different people, right? And the problem is, when we attach a meaning to a number, it often makes us feel like we're not enough, right? Like we don't believe in our ability to improve, like we're stuck here, like there's a lot of people that have impostor syndrome around certain numbers, like, I don't believe that I'm not a sub-two-hour or a half-marathoner or I'm not a sub-4-hour marathoner like that's just not who I am right? And I think it's so interesting because we put these meanings on it, and then we allow that to determine what we're capable of when in reality that number is just a number, and it's all about what you decide that that number means. So, for some people, that number can mean a good thing. It could be a really motivating thing, right? I want to get under 2 hours for the half marathon, which could be super motivating, and for someone else, that might feel really stressful. And so, for them, that is not a good goal, right? Because there's just too much stress and strain surrounding that number.
KEVIN: Yeah, the number then becomes just super pressure, and then they can't reach it because it seems too painful to get there.
ANGIE: Yeah, and you look at it like the difference is that people attach to certain things like a sub two-hour half marathon for me, versus a sub two hour or half marathon for you, are completely different things. Like, that you are so far under 2 hours that you're like well, yeah, of course, my sub two-hour half marathon would be under 2 hours, like you're going to be so far under 2 hours whereas, I had to work to get under that mark, so that to break 2 hours in the half marathon meant a lot more to me than it did to you.
KEVIN: Right? But all these numbers mean different things to people, so, you know, I go, and I say, like, 1:30 for a half marathon, and you're like, "Well, that's a number that I'm not going to achieve."
KEVIN: Like you just put that, that's not something I achieved, whereas I then, I have numbers that would be, you know, oh under 1:10, well, that's not something that I could achieve like.
ANGIE: But you've run over 1:11.
KEVIN: Yeah, but I see finishing times coming out of just like 1:0 something seems crazy to me. And again, it's purely arbitrary because it's the next zero like it's the next thing, and I see people putting up like 1:07, and I'm like, wow, that's crazy pants. People are finishing under 60, and I'm like, well, that's just low progress, but there are plenty of people out there doing it, and there are people who are running like 61, that are chasing the people that are running 59, and they're like, alright, well I've got to work to get to that. Everybody's got a number and so, but what do 59 minutes for a half marathon means to somebody who's running 2:01, like, they don't even think about 59 minutes because it doesn't make any sense, but just for someone who's running 1:01, 59 minutes that's a number that you could, that's something you're going to try and wrap your head around.
ANGIE: Yeah, well, it's so interesting too, because they don't think about 2 hours either.
KEVIN: Right! Those people never even considered 2 hours for half marathons.
ANGIE: Right, because that's just a given, right? Like it's just a given that you're going to be that fast like that's for you. You would never even, like, the two-hour mark would never even cross your mind because you're just so much faster than that.
KEVIN: The two-hour mark totally crossed my mind. I just tried to run 100 miles from Key Largo to Key West.
KEVIN: That was the pace I was aiming for; essentially, I was trying to run roughly a little under 4 hours every time I hit a marathon.
KEVIN: So, and I kind of, I rounded for convenience sake, so I was trying to hit 25 miles roughly every four hours.
ANGIE: Right? But that was a totally different type of goal, though, right? Like your goal for that race was not to be fast.
ANGIE: Your goal for that race was to complete the distance, right? And I think that this is.
KEVIN: Relatively quickly.
ANGIE: Yeah, but you have no idea what that is even like, right? Especially the first time you've ever done anything like that.
KEVIN: Right. So, with a whole separate pocket, we had a whole podcast on that.
ANGIE: That's a whole other conversation, right? So, but going back to the meaning that we attached, what is the definition of fast essentially? You get to decide, right? You get to decide what numbers are relevant to you, so if there is a time on the clock that is relevant to you, then let it be there, right? We're not telling you that it's bad to have a goal. We're not telling you that all of these numbers are bad. Just be very aware of the meaning that you're attaching to it because if you achieve it and make it mean something really good about you, then if you don't achieve it, that just assumes something bad about you, and that's where it gets really messy.
KEVIN: Yeah, that's where it gets. Yes, messy is a good description of that. I like the definition of fast. Well, this is the glory of effort-based training. If you and I both go out and say we're going to do some strides, and we're going to do them fast, both of us are going to feel fast. You both get that cool sensation, wind in your hair, your legs are cranking, or you'll get slightly burned on your strides. You stop before you're like super in pain, but you just get that little burn, and your lungs get a little bit fast; we both have the same sensation. It is irrelevant how fast the two of us are doing.
ANGIE: The number on the clock is totally different.
KEVIN: Both of us feel like we're going fast, and that's fun.
ANGIE: And that's why, again, that's one of the powers of effort-based training, right? Is that like, you don't have to assign a number on the clock. You have to tap into more of how your body is feeling.
KEVIN: Yeah, And I mean, even we've got some workouts that I give to people in a team, and they do this part of the workout at a Level 7 and this part at a Level 8, and then do this part fast, and I don't even give a level to it.
KEVIN: So, do this part fast, rather than train like the confinement of what level 10 is, and then Angie and I get into a discussion about what level 10 even means. I just put the word "fast" on there, and everybody can interpret that on their own.
ANGIE: There you go, there you go. So, after you decide what numbers are important to you, if any, right because you don't have to have a number that's important to you.
KEVIN: Good call.
ANGIE: But you know, you can choose what number is important to you, understand that that number is just a number, it's just a data point, there doesn't have to be a meaning attached to that number. Then in step three, you essentially just get to choose what's possible for you, and you don't have to base it on what you've done in the past, and you don't have to base it on an arbitrary number that someone told you that you should run, and you don't have to base it on anything else other than what you decide you want to believe is possible.
KEVIN: Yeah, that's pretty good.
ANGIE: Yeah, what do you want to believe as possible. Like honestly, and let it be impossible to. Like, I think that's a really important thing that many people don't want to let themselves do. They're like, well, I don't want to choose a goal that's too big. Why not? Right?
KEVIN: It's like, if I don't get it, then I'm bad, and I'm a bad runner.
ANGIE: Again, the meaning you're attaching to it, right?
KEVIN: There's the issue.
ANGIE: Like it's the meaning that you attach. Let your goal be big, like let your goal feel a little impossible, like that's what you did with this hundred-mile race. In a way, that goal is relatively impossible, like you were not sure if that was actually possible for you to achieve and...
KEVIN: That's the only goal that I'm chasing anymore. Like PRs are cool, I ran a bunch of them. We just went through. Here's the funny part I don't remember my college PRs, because I wasn't training very well.
ANGIE: I thought your mile PR was in college.
KEVIN: My two-mile PR was in the middle of practice in college, which never raced the two-mile in college. We did a workout that started with two miles on the track, and then there was a lot more.
ANGIE: Oh, I thought it was your one mile.
KEVIN: And I happened to have PR-ed in the two-mile at the start of that workout and then threw up halfway through it. But I don't remember. I remember high school because I loved running in high school, so all those times meant something to me. I had them written on the back of my door in my room. So, they mattered more.
ANGIE: And that's so interesting, right? Because like in high school, you were one of the top guys on the team, and in college, you were one of the bottom guys on the team, you know? And when I say top and bottom, I specifically mean your time compared to the other runners on the team, right? So, your time meant something more to you in high school. Isn't that interesting, based on who you are surrounding yourself with because your times in college were probably in your head. I know you've talked about this before; is they were so far off with the top guys in the team we're running.
KEVIN: So, it didn't matter that they were impressive for me; they were impressive relative to what I'd run a couple years before. In high school, they were not good enough compared to the people directly in my orbit, so the numbers were bad.
ANGIE: And depressing, right?
KEVIN: Yes, they were depressing numbers.
ANGIE: So, why would I want to remember those numbers? Because they weren't even as good as, like, half, you know, the majority of the guys on the team.
KEVIN: Right, So, then I got out of that, and I started chasing PRs post-college of hitting like 10K road races, 5K road races, which is a totally different realm, and then you know, half-marathons, marathoners, chasing those things, and now I've moved into the sitting room, like chasing pairs seems cool, and there's a couple that I still might want to go for, but I just want to see what, like, other cool things out there that I can do. Like more interesting, that was the ultra of like, let's see if I can run 100 miles.
ANGIE: Yeah, and I think that when you start opening yourself up to new possibilities and understanding, you can choose what's possible for you. It can open up entirely new worlds of what running can be in your life, right? Because I think that so many people based their possibilities on some sort of external factor, right? Like even just like, what you said, like, well, this is the half marathon that's in my hometown or this is the 5K that's here, right? There's some sort of external factor that you believe is making it possible for you or is limiting what you're capable of.
KEVIN: But the race that's in your hometown? Like what about? My boss used to live in Pittsburgh, so his marathon PR is at the Pittsburgh Marathon.
ANGIE: Which is like one of the HILLIEST courses.
KEVIN: It's just nonstop up and down and up and down and up and down.
KEVIN: What if he, instead of living in Pittsburgh, had lived in Sacramento, and his local marathon was the California International Marathon? That's like one of the flattest courses in the country, so hundreds and hundreds of people aim for that race to try and qualify for the Olympics in Boston every year as they use that race.
ANGIE: Right, right?
KEVIN: I bet his PR would be different and the number that he thinks is possible. It would be different because the local race happens to be a pancake.
ANGIE: Yeah, and when he may be running that first one, if that time was faster, then maybe he would have been like, "Oh, I wonder how fast I can get," Right? It changes your realm of possibility, right? And I think that when we allow ourselves to determine our own capabilities based on these external factors, it can lead to so much dissatisfaction, leading to these arbitrary comparison traps, right? Based on what? Based on geography? Right? Based on where the heck you live? Right? And how many of us never actually going to reach our full potential because we're limiting what we believe is possible for us based on external things.
KEVIN: Almost always based on external things.
KEVIN: Like, you know, if this setup around you is not conducive to you being able to train very well. We have clients that train in New York, and because they train in the city, they're stopping every block or two because they keep hitting lights.
KEVIN: That changes the way that you train. Some people might be naturally prone to gaining the advantages of essentially stopping and going running. It's like nonstop fartlek training because you'd see constant go and stop and go and stop. For other people, maybe their bodies don't make the adaptation to that. They'd be better off with a steady-state, but that's the environment they have to train in. It's a totally crazy way of thinking about how the world around you puts some sort of, you know, minute, and then you can find yourself too, oh well, I'm trapped because this is what I've got. But you can put in whatever you like and train however you want. You could change things up. You decide, all right. I don't like the hills outside. I don't like training at the altitude I don't like. Training in the heat, I'm just always going to be on a treadmill. Control of the conditions. It changes what you're capable of doing.
ANGIE: Yeah, and like one of our friends, she loved running, and then a couple of years ago they moved to a new house, and I was like, oh, we were talking one day, and she's like, I'm like, how’s your running going? She's like, oh, I haven't run since we moved. And I'm like, well, why not? You're just busy with the house and moving and stuff? She's like, "My neighborhood doesn't have sidewalks, and it's not like a conducive place to run; it's kind of dangerous because the shoulder is not big enough." There are no sidewalks, and like shoot, there are all these excuses, and I'm like, okay, well can you drive to a local park or something and go around? And she's like, I mean, yeah, but like that's kind of a pain, and I'd rather just, you know, leave my front door and go out for a run, and I'm like, well, I mean, I agree like it's a lot easier to just run from home, but like think about us when we went on vacation in Georgia. It's a lot.
KEVIN: That's what I was going to say.
ANGIE: Yeah, like when we went to Georgia, we stayed in a cabin up in the mountains, which was beautiful, but trying to run from that cabin. I mean, the hills were the same thing, no sidewalks, the shoulders were very low, it was like mountainous roads, which is kind of dangerous, right? Like running on the side of those roads, cars are coming around. It can be a dangerous situation.
KEVIN: That was the problem. Is it twisted and turned a lot too much with narrow roads? So, getting from our cabin to a road that I felt safe on was like a mile and a half of dangerousness.
KEVIN: So, I was like, okay, that I see it, which reminded me of kids we used to have on the cross-country team, that would go to their families' cabin up in North Carolina over the summer.
KEVIN: We had kids for years upon years, a variety of kids, which was amusing to me with how many kids we had in the team that had a cabin in North Carolina, but they're like, oh, I can't run when I'm at the cabin like because running is banned in North Carolina.
ANGIE: Yeah, like we used to like joke around about it. You're like, you're not allowed to run in North Carolina, like why?
KEVIN: And then, I saw their cabin once, and I was like, oh yeah, no, you just actually get run over by a car within 5 minutes like there's no way you could run from where your cabin is.
ANGIE: Right. And that would mean, especially as a high school kid, they're not driving some of them yet, right? So, their parents would then have to drive them to a park or into town or a different location, making running a lot more inconvenient.
KEVIN: You made running substantially more inconvenient.
ANGIE: Right, so that external factor of just the location of the house placed a limitation on what they were able to do, like and it's again, it's one of those things that kind of tests you like, how bad do you want it? You know, how inconvenient are you willing, or how inconvenient are you willing to be to achieve this goal?
KEVIN: Yes, completely yeah. So, it’s kind of brings back a little bit to how you get to choose what you're actually capable of. You don't look at things in the past. Sometimes there's a little environmental inconvenience that you might have to overcome, but to go back to where we started, you know, the high school boys breaking 4 minutes. It seems to be happening like crazy, but every other week there's another high school boy that goes sub-four and a mile.
ANGIE: Well, I knew you told me what to like about the shoes.
KEVIN: So, many people were like, well, obviously it's the shoes. Nike came out with their RD racers, and then they took the same plate of their racing, road racing shoes and figured out how to put it into a track spike, and people like, oh well, the kids are just getting the shoes and doing it, and I was listening to a different podcast, and they speculated that it wasn't necessarily the shoes that were putting them under four, that. the shoes were taking all of these runners who used to be like 4:07, 4:08, kind of guys and getting them down to like 4:01-4:02
ANGIE: Yeah, now they are close to the next even number.
KEVIN: Yes, so if you're like a 4:08 guy, you've probably worked, like if you're a senior in high school at 4:08, you probably were like 4:12 as a junior, and you worked your butt off and knocked off another 4 seconds. So, the idea of going from 4:08 to sub-four seems ridiculous, but if the shoes could suddenly take you from 4:08 to 4:02, now you're like, "Oh man, given the right conditions, given the right environment, maybe I can just, I really grind it out." Now, the possibility is so much closer, so you feel like you can do it, as their speculation is. It's partly shoes, but it's not necessarily covering the whole gap; it's shoes that are getting more kids closer to the border.
ANGIE: Yeah, and that's again, like, when you are closer, all of a sudden you just start thinking differently, right? Like it wasn't their capabilities that changed. They just started thinking differently and training differently so that they could then achieve that next milestone.
KEVIN: Yeah, the gap between milestones was closer. It's hard to say I'm a sub-four-minute mile runner when you're sitting at 4:08. It's much easier to mentally tell yourself I'm a sub-four-minute mile runner when you're sitting at 4:01.
KEVIN: Now that you're going to magically be able to pull it off, because a lot of people get through high school at 4:01, and they're done.
ANGIE: Yeah, but there are a lot of people who will be much more willing to put in some more work to get under it.
KEVIN: And so, then you get a few more people, and it seems like probably because of the emails that I tend to get, it seems like it's happening every other week, but it's also probably not.
ANGIE: Yeah, it is happening more often than in the past.
KEVIN: This is very true.
ANGIE: So, you know, overall in this episode, what we really want you guys to take away is that the number doesn't really matter, but does it, right? Like going back to what I was saying before. Yes, the number is arbitrary, but are they relevant to you? And if it helps drive you, then it's useful, right? But if you take that number and use it against yourself, it's not useful. So, we want you to ask yourself, you know, what is your number like? Is there a distance that you're trying to hit? Is there a time on a clock that you're trying to hit? What is your number in your head, and what are your thoughts about it? You know, are those helpful thoughts? Are those thoughts going to help you expand what you're capable of and choose new possibilities for yourself? Or are your thoughts about that number more negative? Are they, you know, are your thoughts actually holding you back from breaking through and achieving new possibilities? Because you think you're not actually capable of.
KEVIN: Yeah, that's perfect. It's a great summary of everything. Take a number that means something to you. It doesn't have to end in a zero. You get to choose the number, but only choose it and focus on it if you can actually have it with some positive thoughts.
ANGIE: If you don't want a number, don't.
KEVIN: Excellent choice.
ANGIE: I think that's the other thing, too, like you don't have to have a number like you said before. If you're the kind of runner that just loves running and you love mental clarity, and you love the journey like you don't have to choose a number, you don't have to have a specific race goal if you don't want one, make running great for you, but if you do choose a number, make sure that that number is something that's going to help you actually improve and not hold you back.
ANGIE: Alright, guys, if you found this episode helpful, we would absolutely love it if you would share it with a friend. And also, if you haven't yet, leave us a review on iTunes. And actually, even if you have, you guys can leave us multiple reviews on iTunes, like on each episode. So, if there was like 1 takeaway from this episode and you went over to iTunes and left us a review, that would be absolutely awesome because those reviews actually do matter. They help people to find our podcast because if you leave a review or rating, then Spotify or iTunes or whatever podcast player actually is like, oh, people like this, so they suggest our podcasts to other people that might be searching for running podcasts or various other topics that we cover here on the show. So, we would really appreciate it if you guys could help us reach new people by leaving us a rating or review or sharing the episode with a friend or on social media. You can take a screenshot and share it on Instagram. Make sure you tag us if you do so, so we can thank you. And if you're not following us already. Follow us over on Instagram at Real Life Runners. And welcome to all of our new followers. We've got a bunch of new followers over the last few weeks, and we're so glad you guys are here. If you want to send me a DM, I would love to say hi to you, learn a little bit more about you and your running journey, and connect with you more over Instagram.
So as always, guys, thank you so much for spending this time with us today. This has been the Real Life Runners Podcast, episode #257. Get out there and run your life.