The Elephant and The PR

First…a story about elephants.

When elephants are bred in captivity, trainers condition the baby elephants so they have better control over them. An elephant is a huge creature and more importantly a very strong creature. Trainers tie young elephants up using rope that they cannot break free from. They struggle against the ropes but since they have yet to develop the strength they are destined to have they are unable to break free. Eventually they resign themselves to the fact that the rope is an unbreakable bond.

When the elephant becomes full grown the trainers can use the same ropes to control the elephants. By now the elephants have gained strength enough to break the ropes, but they have been conditioned to believe that the bond holds them back.

It doesn’t matter if this story about elephants is true or not. The metaphor works for us as runners.

I first started running after almost 15 years of being sedentary. Of course I had to ease into it and start slow to avoid injury, but I was too conservative about the approach.

Fast forward to my first half marathon.

I finished in a respectable time of 2:24 and some change. For me this was a huge achievement. I just ran the furthest I had ever run before and I finished just about right on pace of where I expected to finish. I rode that high for quite a while.

The next dozen half marathons all had the same range of times. Some were a little slower than my first and some a little faster. Some felt good and some felt bad.

In my mind, it was set. My physical ability was limited to a 2:20 half marathon and I was not going to get much better than that.

But then something happened.

I trained hard for a marathon. I ran a thirty minute personal best time in Philadelphia and according to pace calculators with that marathon time I should be able to run a 2:08 half marathon. I ran ten miles faster than I had ever run it before and according to my calculations I could hold that pace for another 5K and run a half marathon in less than two hours. I was running faster than I thought I could and realizing that my limits were not real.

164660_10201770244479916_2105595077_nThis past Sunday I ran my thirteenth half marathon. I finished in 1:57:50. My fastest half marathon time ever and first time breaking two hours. Not only did I break two hours after thinking I could never break two hours, but the run felt even better than the 2:24 I ran almost 5 years ago in my first half marathon. You can hear the race report for this half marathon on episode 019.

What limits have you been conditioned with?

There are measures of greatness sitting right in front of you that may seem impossible to achieve, when in reality they have been within your reach this entire time.

Do not accept false limits. Break the rope and trample your doubts and fears.

Do you want to break through your limits and conquer your run? Sign up for the MidPacker Mailing List now.

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2 Responses to The Elephant and The PR

  1. I love this post! This is exactly what I needed. I have a similar story, I’ve been so focused on completing the distance that I’ve gotten stuck at the 10-11 minute mile pace which I just told myself is “my pace”. I’ve just started working in formal speed work and I’m so excited to discover my actual potential! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Bill Dowis says:


      I am so glad that we could share this experience. Run strong in your training and you will be amazed at how much improvement is made over time. I was always amazed every time I hit a new milestone.

      Keep me posted on how you do!

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