There is no wall

Written by Stuart Haden on April 18, 2018

The London marathon takes place this Sunday and it always reminds me of a lesson I learnt a few years back. I was training for my first ultra marathon race and it was time to take my training to a new level. I had a couple of days free to run back to back marathons. 18 miles in and I reached my first option for an overnight camp, but I felt like my day had only just began. 8 miles of open beach running would take me to the marathon mark (26.2 m/42k) and I still hadn’t collapsed.

So I cracked on and began marathon number two. The next ten miles was an undulating roller coaster ride of coastal path running. Reaching the last opportunity for a decent camp spot I sat for a few minutes, but I was soon moving again. I am not sure if I really made any deals with myself but something inside me had set me on the trail of back to back marathons, just without any sleep!

Resigned to walking due to darkness and fatigue I returned home; ghost like at 11pm. The sausages that I had carried for an open fire sizzle would soon refuel me and then I pretended to sleep as my aching legs and wandering mind kept me awake until the small hours.

Prior to the 47 miles I was wondering when I would hit the infamous wall. A quick search on Google gave me the following definition; ‘after running about 20 miles, wracked with total body fatigue, unsteadiness and possible light-headedness, a marathon runner hits an invisible wall, an apparently insurmountable physiological barrier which stops them in their tracks.’

Who could blame me for expecting to hit the wall? But I didn’t. Instead after about ten miles I noticed pain and fatigue; it was like reaching the top of a plateau. It was all about how long I was prepared to put up with the discomfort. With adequate physical fitness, a strong mental approach and self management during the event anything is possible. The wall? Rubbish, probably created my early marathon runners to exclude others.

As coaches and leaders we have the opportunity to work with the perception of others. Our role is to present a different perception, illustrate the lack of ‘truth’, create new possibilities or set them free from their current way of thinking.

Einstein talked of delusion and how we are trapped in our own prisons. Describing how we might free ourselves by ‘widening our circle of compassion’. Surely the process and indeed purpose of coaching and being a leader is simply this? By encouraging individuals to commit to a physical action we immediately shift perception, thoughts and feelings.

One of the great ways to cut through someone’s perception is to ask – ‘how do you know what you know?‘ In this context – how do you know there is a wall at 20 miles? This in itself is often enough to create a shift.

Tips for challenging perception that can be applied on your next run or at work…

  • Remember there is no wall.
  • Don’t believe the hype. Those that create the hype probably want to keep you locked up.
  • Seek alternative possibilities, test these possibilities – personally.
  • Ask the question – how do you know what you know?
  • Enjoy creating this new landscape, boldly share it with others. They will appreciate your view.
  • Be patient – these changes don’t always happen at a flick of a switch.
  • Be ready for surprises and celebrate them.
  • Start before you are ready.
  • Don’t wait for your perception to be changed by someone else or from something you read.