How to Tell You are Off Limits

by have0limits

Sometimes when we do something extraordinary for a longer period of time it becomes normal for us, even if it is considered extreme or even unimaginable by others. Sometimes only by talking to others you realize how far off the norm your activities are.

And let me tell you this: If what you do brings just terror, fear and pain to the faces of the listeners, then you are definitely off limits.

Let me give you an example to epitomize this:

This story plays a couple of weeks ago in Vienna.

I was on a business trip there and naturally, I had to continue there with my training program. On sunday morning I went for a longer run before breakfast, since I wanted to finish it before the heat strikes in. After the training I was having a drink while lying on a sun-lounger in a small boot hire on the Danube. I was going to hire a boot, go to the middle of the Danube and have a refreshing, relaxing swim there before breakfast. There was a guy there from Greece working for them who spoke me up:

Him: “I noticed your shirt, are you from Greece?”

I was wearing a blue shirt from the Classic Athens Marathon sponsored by the Alpha Bank and also a matching cap from the same event.

Me: “No, I just went for a marathon to Athens.”

Him (with respect): “Really? Wow! I could tell it’s Greek, I know the Alpha Bank. When was it?”

Me: “It was 2010, the race went from the Marathon to Athens”

Him: “How long was the run?”

Me: “Well 42km. This is a standard marathon distance.”

Him (with discomfort in the face): “Really? I can’t imagine how one can run such a distance. I can’t even imagine running one kilometer, I would manage maybe 500 meters.”

Me: “I think you could do it when you prepare yourself accordingly.”

Him (still discomforted): “I think I would die before I reach the finish line. So when is your next marathon?”

Me: “I just had one. Today, before the breakfast. I have just finished it.”

Him (with disbelief and consternation): “You are kidding me. You don’t look tired at all. Is it really true?”

Me: “It is! I got up early and run without the breakfast to save time. I just wanted to avoid the rising heat.”

Him (terror coming to his face): “No! Don’t tell me this. How can you torture yourself like that? Why are you doing this?”

Me: “I am preparing for an ultra marathon”

Him: “What is this, never heard of that. Is it like swimming and biking and so?”

Me: “No, it is just running. A marathon is 42km, an ultra marathon is everything above it, 50km, 80km, 100km, there is no upper limits.”

Him (surprised and disbelieving): “No way! I thought the maximum is a marathon. I didn’t know you could possibly run more than that.”

Me: “Well, you actually can and I did it before. For example 80km in the mountains, last year.”

Him (wondering): “In the mountains? Are you crazy? No! How many days?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Him: “How many days do you have to complete that?”

Me: “You do it in one day, in one piece.”

Him (now pain coming to his face): “No! No breaks? No rests?”

Me: “You can take a rest if you want but the time is running and if you don’t make the cut-off-time you are out of the race.”

Him: “What about the ultra marathon you are preparing for now?”

Me: “It is called Sahara Ultra 111. It’s 111km non stop through the Sahara Desert.”

Him (it is apparently mentally painful for him): “What?!?!? 111km?!?!?!? Through Sahara?!?!?!? In one piece?!?!?! It is hot like hell there!!! Are you serious? No! How are you going to manage this?”

Me: “Well, I have run before in the Sahara and Namib Desert. I have run at 50 degree celsius, so I know how it feels. I prepare accordingly for the distance. I don’t know if I finish, nobody knows for sure in an ultra marathon. This is a difference between a marathon and an ultra. But I will never know if I don’t try.”

Him (his pain increases with every further question): “You are a crazy man! How long do you need for that?”

Me: “I don’t know since I haven’t tried this before. This is first edition of this event. It depends a lot on the topography, the soil, the weather conditions, on your daily form. It may take 12 hours, or 16 hours, but it may also take 20 hours.”

Him (with pain): “20 hours of running? You must be kidding! There used to be a good runner in Greece, what was his name….”

Me: “Yiannis Kouros, right? I know about him. He is actually still running. He is 56 now, I think.”

Him: “Right, Yiannis Kouros. Is he good?”

Me: “He is very good and still the best in his age group. He is much better than me.”

Him (seemingly proud): “Does he also run ultra marathons?”

Me: “He definitely does, and much longer distances than me. What distance do you think is possible to be run in 24 hours?”

Him: “I don’t know. 100km? No, wait. 150km?”

Me: “Well, Yiannis Kouros is the only man who managed to run over 300km in 24 hours. Can you imagine this?”

Now, the final state came. In his eyes you could see the plain fear, mixed with confusion and disbelief!

Him: “No! Don’t do it to me! Please! Let’s stop this conversation! No! 300km!?!?!?!? No! Don’t tell me this! This is even more than from Vienna to Budapest, in just one day! Running! Let’s talk about something else. I can’t! I can’t any more…”

Now you understand what I meant with horror, mental pain and fear…