Can’t Stop the Feeling…of Pushing My Limits
Jun 20, 2016
“I fly so high, no ceiling, when I’m in my zone…”
– Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”
Tom Brady has won four Super Bowls as quarterback of the New England Patriots. How he always answers the question of which championship is his favorite speaks volumes about his competitive drive.
“The next one,” Brady is known to say.
I adopted that mindset a quarter of the way through Centerline’s eight-week Fitness Challenge. I found myself chasing championships, too. They just weren’t measured in Lombardi trophies. My wins were measured in the number of times I set a new personal record (PR) for a 5k (3.1-mile) run.
Of course, it didn’t start out that way. My initial goal was to complete just one 5k in less than 27 minutes. It seemed doable if I really pushed myself. I’ve always loved the idea of running, but hated sticking with it. So I didn’t.
Needless to say, I stumbled in the front door after completing my first Fitness Challenge run on the morning of April 27.
I was out of breath.
I was out of shape.
I was out of my mind.
It took 30 minutes, 21 seconds to navigate my neighborhood course, a nice mix of hills and flat stretches. I was a long way from clocking a sub-27-minute time.
But in the coming days, I began to see that the first step is always the hardest to take. My second and third efforts — 29:48 and 28:34, respectively — provided the psychological boost I needed.
The “wins” started coming — fast. And I celebrated on social media, sharing each accomplishment and select lyrics from songs that helped me hit a higher gear.
27:48… (“Y’all gon’ make me lose my mind. Up in here, up in here…”)
27:24… (“B-I-G P-O-P-P-A…”)
Then, everything changed with my sixth run. I hit my goal:
Now what? I thought. With six weeks left in the company challenge, I had a choice to make:
- Call it quits having met my goal.
- Continue running, but at a more relaxing pace.
- Reset my #CLFitnessChallenge goal and test my limits.
The beauty of “the next one” mindset is it kept me from growing complacent. I took a Sharpie to my original goal displayed on the giant Fitness Challenge scoreboard in the Centerline stairwell. My new mission? Run a sub-25 5k.
“Oh, now you’re just showing off,” quipped Associate Strategy Director Greg Harbinson, who met his goal to complete a 100-mile bike ride.
It’s hard to pinpoint the last time I felt so determined. I celebrated five more PRs over the last three weeks of May — and started hearing from supporters in my native New England.
My former sports editor, himself an avid runner, tweeted:
And a good friend wrote to say I motivated her to start running again.
But, oddly, I found myself more consumed with the four runs that felt like failures.
26:46 and 26:37 — When my PR was 26:18…
26:12 — When my PR was 25:42…
25:21 — When my PR was 25:15…
Those close calls proved just as valuable as the wins — probably more. Frustration, if channeled correctly, is great fuel. On the last morning of May, I recorded a sub-25 time of 24:49. (“Dominating with RUN-D.M.C. this fine morning…” I declared on Instagram. “King of Rock” -> “Now we crash through walls, cut through floors / Bust through ceilings and knock down doors.”)
Kenny Rogers famously sang about knowing when to fold ’em. Quit while I was way ahead? Not a chance, I thought. I reset my goal for a second time, and took aim at a sub-24.
It was a gamble. I wasn’t positive I could crack 24 minutes. But I wasn’t going spend the better part of June wondering.
“You are such an over-achiever,” Mackenzie Ames, my neighbor in the Centerline writers’ room, said with a wry smile.
I’m also a man of my word — whether I give it to others or promise something to myself. If I was going for it, I was going to get it.
At times, it felt like an uphill climb.
But the follow-up run felt like I was flying downhill.
Lo and behold, I did it.
That caught the attention of a high school football coach whose team I used to cover:
Looking back on this experience, it’s safe to say I underestimated the power of positive encouragement. Erin Grohs, Brittany Kotary and Mary-Hanley Coleman of the Marketing team saying “You’re crushing it” was one hell of a performance-enhancer.
Similarly, praising others was just as rewarding. Kate Harvell of the project management department hit her goal to run a 5k in less than 30 minutes. She crushed it by 63 seconds.
Fellow writer Adam Zammiello said “I’m scared to clock my 5k run because of you. I typically come in around 27 minutes.”
“Don’t compare it to me,” I said. “Your only competition is you!”
As for me, I went all out for three reasons: Ryan, 6; Jack, 4; and Luke, 10 months. I want my three sons to grow up with the “Go for it” attitude. That starts by setting the example.
Interactive Developer Ocean Pittenger — the company’s undisputed queen of running — asked if I planned to continue lacing up my Nike kicks now that the Fitness Challenge is over. I do. Seeing results is awfully addictive.
At least three days a week, sometimes four, I’m up at 5:45 a.m. I’m out the door by 6. And I’m running toward the rising sun during my first mile.
Right now, my personal record is 23:55. I saved my best effort (so far) for my final run of the Fitness Challenge.
Each one of the 13 PRs I set during the last eight weeks is meaningful to me. But go ahead and ask which one is my favorite.
Something tells me you already know the answer.
Marc Thaler is a former journalist and broadcaster-turned-associate creative director. For 10+ years, he covered sports around New England—everything from Little League to the big leagues. Several years back, he joined a software company specializing in cloud-based IT security and management solutions, spent a few years creating content in its marketing department, and then made the switch to Centerline. Over the years, his writing has appeared on a range of recognizable dot-coms, including ESPN, SC Magazine and Marketing Profs.