What 7 Ultra marathons in my first 12 Months of Long Distance Running Taught me

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Running is a biological characteristic. Our ancestors ran to catch food, flee from danger and move to safer grounds; Running was part of the first ever Ancient Olympic Sports to determine the fastest most conditioned men on the planet. Put simply, we were born to run.

Now, that doesn’t mean we all have to take part in such events, but it most certainly stands to reason why running can solve so many of our modern day issues: obesity, lack of stimulation, disengagement, fitness level, healthy heart and the ability to embrace and persevere through discomfort and challenging moments.

Back in April 2018, I started my quest down the long distance running path. Prior to this date in time I was primarily a fast twitch oriented athlete, participating in sports like football and wrestling. I honestly had no interest in ever running long distances (5k-10km), let alone running ultra marathons (anything past 42 km), that was before my 365 day challenge.

This year long challenge forced me to embrace new, exciting, challenging feats of mental and physical discomfort; and apparently to Google, running lost distances was one of the most common forms of mental and physical suffering i.e. (I Googled “Worlds Toughest Challenges” to see what to sign up for) And from this, I became an “ultra runner”.

But instead of rambling on about why I got into running, I will quickly show you what I did and then get into what I learned.

  • May 2018 – 50 Mile Sulphur Springs Trail Ultra marathon – Finish Time 12:36:00
  • August 2018 – 70 Mile Canadian Death Race – Finish time 22:33:40
  • October 2018 – MOAB 240 Mile Race – DNF(Did not finish) – 80 Miles in (approx. 30 hours)
  • May 2019 – 50 Mile Sulphur Springs Trail Ultra marathon – Finish Time 10:04:00
  • June 2019 – 32 Miles – Ragnar 200 Mile Relay Cobourn to Niagara
  • August 2019 – Fatdog 120 Mile Race – DNF
  • September 2019 – 100 Mile Haliburton Forest Trail Run – Finish time 29:40:00

***Yes, this is over a course of more than 12 months, I understand, but in regards to months that I actually ran or trained, 12 months was all I took for these 7 ultras.

And with that, here are 6 of the most invaluable pieces of advice I picked up from…

What 7 ultra marathons in my first 12 months of Long Distance Running taught me”.

1. Put Your ego aside – “Focus on your race”

It’s incredibly easy to want to “keep up with the Joneses” in an ultra (and in real life), even though you know dialing it back or going faster is the more effective, intelligent approach for you. It all depends on YOUR skill level and experience, and sticking to your game plan is always the right move. However, it’s easy to navigate away from said game plan when no body else or very few are using your game plan. But that’s what the ego does, it makes us do things outside our rational thinking, the thinking that will inevitably get us where we want to go. Most people let ego, inside a race and outside a race, get in the way of the end result. Be true to your game plan; Stay consistent, focus on yourself, ignore the noise, and remember, success in life is usually an (ultra) marathon, not a sprint.

2. Redemption is a beautiful thing

We all fail. So what? It’s what we do after the failure that determines what response we get from ourselves and what response we get from the people we actually care about. Of course we always want to win and we always want to make the rational decision, but this just isn’t the case. Moments take place where shit just happens. It’s the people who learn from “the shit” and come back stronger and more efficiently after the fact, that feel most internally fulfilled. We all love a good redemption story in life, especially if it’s one of our own. Be the person to look at failure or a mishap as an opportunity to redeem yourself and become a better version of yourself for it. And remember, a failure is only a failure if you don’t come back stronger from it.

3. We are much tougher than we act

We live in an age where people are easily broken, not only physically but mentally and emotionally as well. It’s time we stop being little sensitive wimpy people and learn to handle pain, discomfort and a challenge like someone we would be proud of. From doing these ultra, I have been in some pain, and I mean real pain, even really injury and have kept moving on for miles at a time. It’s time we understand that we can deal with a lot more pain and discomfort than we give ourselves credit for. So rather than breaking down at the first sign of adversity, realize this is only a small portion of your actual pain threshold, and the more we embrace the pain and move forward, the grittier and more resilient we become. The mind and body is a muscle, it adapts to stress. Stop letting these stresses break you so quickly, you’re much stronger than you think; let yourself realize it first hand.

4. Programming is a real thing

Negative and positive programming is a real thing. Internal conversation has a massive effect on whether we move forward or whether we give in, and so does external noise. What we hear, listen to and tell ourselves is reality. So rather than let the programming warp your mind into easy rationalizations and excuses, harden your mind by telling it a positive story. Ask solution oriented questions, decipher who the advice is coming from (someone you admire, or a negative nancy) and create environments that allow you to overcome hardship.This type of programming is priceless and will pay off in all areas of your life.

5. Comfort is much sweeter when it’s earned

I can say this from experience and from the research i’ve done over the past 4 years, comfort is only really fulfilling when it’s earned. I understand comfort can be nice whenever, but it’s truly authentically enriching your life when you go out and earn it’s reward. Waking up and doing nothing all day but lie on the couch might not seem like it’s doing you much harm, but the mind is a tricky mechanism, and over time, this “comfort” becomes disappointment and regret. When you go out and accomplish something rewarding, enriching and fulfilling, comfort never felt so good afterwards. Earning my comfort is honestly one of my favourite things to do. Sleep is better, food tastes better, and most importantly, internally you just feel better, no bullshit needed.

6. Admiring Yourself is so much more fulfilling than searching for the admiration of others

Being your own superhero is amazing. Challenging yourself and completing experiences that you didn’t know you could complete is game changing, as it gives you all the leverage you need to move forward in a positive direction. When we constantly have to use the success or grit of someone else to motivate us, we lose control, and we lose the ability to look back on our own achievements and gain true strength from it. When we admire who we are, what we’ve done, and the person we are becoming, we approach life with a much different vigor; we attack life with confidence, assertiveness and own the person we are much more frequently, which is incredibly freeing. Admiration from others is a fleeting pursuit. When you admire yourself for the things you’ve done or just simply the person you are, life is far less exhausting.

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