While running over 60 ultra distances in the past three years, I’ve accumulated a great deal of hands-on endurance training experience. Not only in regards to achieving rapid growth but also focusing on longevity and long term health. Recently I read a quote that said, “If a coach can’t do it, they cannot ‘teach’ it, only ‘talk’ about it.” Whether that’s true or not, I can confidently say that I write from experience. When spending so much time on long runs, you begin to notice patterns of what is beneficial, not just for your next run but for your long term strategy as well. Although I believe we must all do what works best for ourselves, I also believe there are 3 universal ingredients to a successful ultra runner. These ingredients, I believe, will keep our feet moving even in the darkest hours and our internal fire burning like hot coal when moving forward with momentum. The three ingredients that lead to a successful ultra runner are FOCUS, PASSION, and FAITH. So please enjoy the post as I explain each ingredient and please feel free to reach out at anytime with any comments or questions. Keep It Moving!
1) The Main Ingredient: Focus
Decisions, decisions, decisions. We must be 100 % certain and committed to the race of our choosing. When I sign up for a race to tackle a new distance, there is no other option but reaching the starting line because I do not give myself one. If you want to achieve it, then you must believe it. Believe that it’s possible, believe in your training, and believe in the outcome. Three words that sum it up are “GO ALL IN”. If you are excited by the new distance, great, let the possibilty of pleasure motivate you. If your afraid of failing, even better, let the thought of potential pain unleash that drive and determination built up within. Think about it, can you remember a time when you’ve given intense focus to an outcome? Maybe something that threatened your livelihood? When you are absolutely focused on an outcome haven’t you always found a way? When we give an intense level of focus that is required to achieve our goals the result is inevitable. By giving focus to our goals we are creating our future. When we focus on something intensely enough, our attention transmits energy and as we all know from ultra running, moving creates energy and in that sense our movement is near infinite.
Focus is the main ingredient to any dream, while doubt can be the death of it. Doubt can be triggered by the fear of failure. Examples could be thoughts of not training enough, not finishing a race, or putting yourself in danger. But what is failure, exactly? In my opinion, it’s whatever definition we give it. The official definition of failure is a “lack of success” and to be a success is “to achieve a desired aim.” Well, if we are the one aiming then we are the one who determines if we lack success from our actions. But what if we gave failure a new association? What if we looked at a potential “failure” as a learning opportunity? In my opinion, if we do not reach a desired outcome but we learn from the experience then it’s far from a failure and excuses are the kryptonite to our dreams. Here is my own personal experience on the topic…
A few years ago, I was traveling towards the beach for a summer vacation on the east coast of the United States. On the way, I was dropped off 37 miles from my destination. At the time, this was my longest attempted distance for a training run. Ultra running was still new to me and everything was going well until around the 28th mile. All of a sudden, I began to loose it! My eyes became glued to my watch and every minute seemed like an eternity until I eventually began to walk. It now reminds me of the time I rode 100 miles on a stationary bike or when I spent 6 hours on a Stair Master. A slave to the digital countdown of time. But since I stopped running, was this a failure? Far from it, because in that moment I did something that changed my running career forever. Enough was enough. I took off the GPS watch attached to my wrist and launched it as far as my arm could throw it. You see, I learned something about myself that day. That day I learned that monitoring my time, splits, and pace while running did not motivate me–actually, they did the exact opposite. For me personally, checking my pace over and over again added an extra weight on my shoulders. My thought process was this: all week I work on a clock , go to appointments at set times, and go to engagements with times listed on an invitation, along with many other time-set activities. With this in mind, why would I choose to be on a clock when I’m running? That is, why put a time on something I love? Running was my escape but the watch tamed my ambitions. This was the exact opposite of the reason I ran in the first place. When running I enjoy the freedom, the independence, and the solitude. Not the splits, the pace, and the time. Don’t get me wrong, this same demotivation motivates other runners; we all have our own associations and motivations, but we must learn what they are and use them to our advantage to progress as athletes in our sport.
2) The Secret Ingredient: Passion
Be obsessed with running, fall in love with running, do not shy away from running. If focus is the main ingredient, then Passion is the Secret Ingredient. When you do something that you love, have you ever noticed how fast time passes? When we take on a task with passion, time becomes a relevance lost in the stars while the drive to move becomes a natural occurrence. When we move with drive we feel alive. When I write and run, I loose my self in the moment, and time becomes infinite. I love running, I love writing, and I love to inspire. When I put up a new post and see such an incredible response, I’m motivated by the possibility that someone could be one step closer to achieving a personal goal very close to their hearts. If we can be passionate about running, we can give it the care and the level of energy it needs. Passion is an unbelievable force that can awaken us from even the greatest depths of our daily routines. By snapping us out of our state of lethargy, its gives us the boost that we need to move through a training program towards our next finish line. Stuck in a slump? Get passionate. Blocked by limiting beliefs? Get passionate. Questioning your abilities? Get passionate. If you run and are reading this post, chances are you are passionate about running whether you realize it or not. Passion gives us certainty in our capabilities and an immeasurable amount of drive. The results can become effortless, in a way. Think about the motivation you get when you want to do something versus when you have to do something. If YOU want to run those miles, then YOU will run those miles.
3) The Final Ingredient: Faith
Uncertain if the distance is possible? We will all experience some level of uncertainty in running no matter how focused we are. But understand this, understand that it is absolutely possible. In running, we will all be uncertain at times and forced to take risks. The level of risk is up to us. So if risk is bound to happen, if risk is unavoidable, if risk is inevitable, then shouldn’t we risk believing in our selves? When we contemplate taking a risk on ourselves, faith will help us move forward. Faith gives us that level of certainty to combat hesitation. Sure we do not know where it comes from, but just like all of the most significant figures throughout time, you must decide to have it anyway. Have faith in your abilities, in you strength, and in your courage. I write in my post 6 Valuable Lessons Learned from Running 100 Miles that standing at the starting line of my first 100-mile ultra marathon, I was completely uncertain if I could cover a distance of such magnitude. But this was true before every new distance. I had some level of uncertainty before my first 50M, my first 100K, my first 100M, and the first time I broke 100M. Sure, there was a level of uncertainty but I had faith in myself, and because of that I was able to stand at the starting line with my head up on every race day morning, ready to to tackle what I considered impossible at the time. These were all risks I decided to take with faith in my abilities to finish. Faith is needed in the ultra world and that’s why faith is the final ingredient.
When running ultra marathons we learn a lot about running and at the same time, we learn a lot about ourselves. We run many different ultra marathons in our lives both literally and metaphorically. I’ve ran diligently and methodically at times and at other times I’ve ran spontaneously and unprepared. Either way, we can always focus on goals, drive with passion, and put faith in the outcomes. I think it’s most important that we run the way we love to run. If beating a PR provides you with significance, then go for a new time. If the distance motivates you, then go after those longer miles. If it’s a sense of community that sparks your interests, then join a running club. We get so caught up in what we think we should do but we must listen to our own bodies, we must think for ourselves. When running and living as who we really are, focus, passion, and faith will come natural. It moves us to our next finish line and it will drive us to something more, more of who are meant to be: RUNNERS!
Thank you very much for reading this week! Remember, FOCUS on those goals, DRIVE to them with PASSION, put FAITH in the desired outcome, and most importantly, above all: KEEP IT MOVING!