Over this past weekend, I ran a 50K or a 31 mile ultra marathon. As I woke up at 4am to head over to the start of the race, I had a lot of excuses going through my mind like these.
“ Sleep is more important than the race.”
“If I do this, my weekend is going to be shot.”
“I’m going to be miserable, it’s going to rain today, why bother?”
It is incredible what excuses your brain can come up with to bail out of something when it knows you’re going to go through some pain. I made a commitment to do this race as apart of my training for my 100 miler in October and I decided I’m going to stick to it. If I can’t do a 50K today, probably under trained, how am I going to be able to do my 100 miler in October? The 100 miler is going to be just as mental as physical and I need to do everything I can to sharpen my mind for it.
Quickly into this race, I was reminded about why I do these. These are some of the lessons that I was reminded by and each race that I do provides it’s own unique lesson.
You Can’t Run Around The Obstacles Of Life
I wasn’t prepared for this race. I brought proper electrolytes and amino acids but what I didn’t account for was the terrain conditions. This race was only 45 minutes from Chicago so I thought to myself, “how tactile can this be?”
I was wrong on this account. With there being a good amount of rain throughout the week before, the course got muddy. Some parts of it reminded me of a Spartan Race and I came to the race with flat road shoes that had zero tread on them.
At the beginning of the race, I tried to run around the mud. I didn’t want any bit of rocks or mud to get into my shoes because I wanted to keep them clean. About 3 miles in, the mud was inevitable. My shoes were going to get 100% mud logged. All the energy I spent running around the mud didn’t matter. I might as well have run through it.
Sometimes in life, there are obstacles that you can’t get around. It’s easier to face them head on instead of wasting your energy trying to engineer a way around it.
“It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.” — Buddha
Life Has Inevitable Suffering
One of the reasons I run ultras is to remind me about how well I can handle suffering. There’s no way to get around suffering in life.
Suffering doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
If life was pure bliss, what would we learn without struggle?
What drive would we have to make things better?
What would our goals be? Why would we have them?
There are different types of suffering though. You can take it on voluntarily or involutarily. I feel that the more voluntary suffering you take on the better equip mentally you will be when that involuntary suffering comes at you.
Running ultras is a training ground for me to sharpen my mind. When you run an ultra, your subconscious will start saying things that you never thought it would say. You make excuses like, “I’m going to mess up my knee.” or you start thinking of an excuse where you could bail out without bruising your ego.
“When your mind is telling you that you’re done, that you’re exhausted, that you cannot possibly go any further, you’re only actually 40% done.” — David Goggins
You Can Do A Lot More Than You Think
Ten years ago, I never would have considered the thought of doing a 50 mile or 100 mile ultra. I didn’t think it was possible for me. I thought it was something that only the mutant humans with some special gene could do. I don’t have a runners body. I was a football player from the age of 9–19 years old. Any run longer than 1 or 2 miles was considered a ‘long’ run for me up until about the age of 22 years old.
After doing a handful of marathons and ultras, I’ve begun to realize that there is no finish line in life. Finishing a race can be a life changing moment but it’s not ‘the’ life changing moment. It’s all apart of your personal growth. You’re not going to be ‘complete’ for the rest of your life and can coast from here on out. You have to constantly sharpen the mind. If not, your mind will begin to control you.
I don’t run ultra marathons because I’m sadistic. I do it because ever time I do it, I learn something about myself. It’s an avenue of putting myself through something where I want to quit and pushing past it. There will always be things in life that you don’t want to do but you should do it anyways. Running the 10 more miles after running 21 miles is definitely one of them. Do I want to do it? No. Do I want to finish and overcome my internal battle? Yes. It’s something that reminds me that I’m alive.
And I also don’t forget to have a little fun while doing it.