Pushing the Envelope

By: Andee Scarantino

(5 min read)

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m a distance runner.

Out of all the identities I’ve had, this one I wear proudly.

I’m the sort of runner whose “rest day” is an easy five. Right now, I have what I’d consider “low mileage,” which lingers somewhere in the mid 40’s to low 50’s each week.

During the height of the pandemic, when I was recently unemployed but not yet self-employed, that number rested happily and effortlessly in the mid 60’s, and that was where I preferred it. However, life happens, and sometimes, and we don’t have the capacity to maintain it all.

Still, I like pushing the envelope in as many ways as I can.

I often do my long runs without fuel and love them in the peak of the most adversarial temperatures. I get off on it. This is something I absolutely, under no circumstances, recommend that you do without proper acclimatization. (*Heat acclimatization takes 5-10 runs of an hour or more. I’m a certified adult distance running coach through Road Runners Club of America.)

On a few occurrences, during my more novice years, I felt like I might die from the heat. So you could say I’ve had the benefit of surviving my own former stupidity.

As my fitness developed through my 30’s I realized things take actual years. Much like we don’t learn to read in a day, we don’t acquire a level of mastery at sport by only showing up to a gym once a week. Some systems take a long time to acclimatize.

For example, I had someone respond to one of my more recent Instagram stories, saying that she prefers cold weather running. She told me she “doesn’t sweat.” I told her that for me, sweating is a relatively new thing.

I didn’t sweat for about three solid summers when I was a new runner. I just watched as my face turned beat red, like a tomato. It took many intense summers of heat training before those pretty pores opened up. Now, I become a sexy salt stick.

Of course, I train myself to drain all my resources so I can race more efficiently with a resource surplus. There’s nothing like mile 14 of a hot, midday run in July, and taking my fingers, dragging them along my nick line, then licking the salt directly off of my hands. Recycling my own electrolytes, I love to call it.

I also love putting my face into water streaming from filthy New York City water fountains. It makes me feel like a real badass.

This sort of thing doesn’t motivate everyone. But this oppressive nature of summer that makes me feel like I’m something greater than human. I don’t love to live in comfort. I thrive in taking that away and seeing what I’m capable of.

Morning runs…allowing the earth to heat up to exactly the proper temperature, then heading out into the streets, I’m ready to pound pavement.

Last summer, when I was working at a wedding venue for extra cash, I’d rack up a 20 milers right before an eight-hour night shift on my feet. Sometimes, I’d clock 40,000-50,000 steps on those days. (I did six 20 milers in preparation for running the Chicago and New York City Marathons back-to-back).

This is what makes me feel like a superhuman.

Consistently people contact me wanting to work on mindset. They somehow think that they can build their minds and bodies by doing the bare minimum. I’m going to tell you something- I know it takes hard work and dedication to accomplish goals. Being a good runner took time and years of pushing the envelope. I follow athletes on Strava who run twice as much and twice as fast as I do. And they didn’t get to that level doing the bare minimum.

My main motivation is watching athletes who are better than I am and knowing that more is possible for me.

When we look to the world of social media, we make choices. We can choose to see inadequacy for where we are not or for possibilities for where we may go.

The difference between me as a runner now, and me as a runner five years ago, is that five years ago I compared myself to those I was “better than.” All of that was great until I realized it was pathetic to compare myself to non-athletes running 60-minute 5K’s. There’s nothing wrong with a 60-minute 5K; I celebrate all runners. I just wanted more for myself. I wanted to set the bar higher.

I then applied an attitude I had learned from Sabrina Stanley, an amazing human I used to work with.

Sabrina is a professional ultrarunner for Adidas Terrex, and as of the last time we had spoken, she had won 14 of the last 15 ultramarathons she entered, including two Hard Rock 100 victories. She is the only American (male or female) to win Grand Raid, revered as the toughest 100-miler in the world.

Sabrina taught me, when I was just dabbling in running, that “anything is possible for anyone.” She would say things like “If this person can do it, surely so can I.”

I began applying that concept not only to my own running, but my life.

Sure, there is a such thing as genetic athletic ability. Some people just naturally are born with a higher VO2 MAX than others. However, you must train your abilities, and bottom line, not everyone has the mental fitness to put themselves through uncomfortable ordeals because they want to improve.

My willingness to do this led me to a personal record last year in Chicago, when it was so hot, the event alert level was raised to high/red, meaning potentially dangerous conditions.

Forcing myself into discomfort, doesn’t just serve me in running.

It absolutely serves me in life.

Last year, I forced myself into the discomfort of learning to become a successful entrepreneur, by leaving my jobs. I no longer wanted to be an employee who needed to be told what to do. I forced myself to sit through perpetual discomfort to stop smoking, to stop drinking, and to neurologically rewire pathways I began cementing 20 years ago.

I’m a distance runner, but that’s just a symptom of something else.

I’m actually just an unstoppable human force.

Bare minimums are how others have programmed themselves to think. I didn’t think this way by default. It was learned.

So you’ll see me out there when it’s 90.

And then you’ll see me on race day.

That’s just how I roll.

                                                                   Andee Scarantino
                                                                 All Things Wellness, LLC

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