5 Things Ultra Running Taught Me

By: Critt Lance

I can bail out now and just be done with all of this. No one is forcing me to finish… Why did I ever think this was a good idea?


“Woo! 13 miles down, you’ve only got 18 more to go! You got this!!” The voice is coming from the next aid station. I look up from the dusty red dirt trail, force a smile and keep moving; one foot in front of the other.


#1. Your “all” is not your all (The 40% Rule)

According to Navy SEAL and ultrarunner, David Goggins, “…when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40% done.”

I’ve experienced this several times during races, realizing that I’m only at mile 13 with 18 more miles to go; feeling like I’ve maxed out and have nothing left to give. The thoughts come creeping in: “What the hell were you thinking, signing up to run 50 kilometers through the mountains?!” “…there’s absolutely NO WAY you can finish, you’re not even halfway through!” But step by step, mile by mile, day by day, we make it through impossible feats.

I’m not saying we’re limitless or that we can get up and run 100 miles just by sheer force of will, but I truly do believe that we are SO MUCH more capable than the limits that we set for ourselves.


#2. Preparation is great, but adaptivity is just as important


Months of training, and hours of planning cannot prepare you for the uncertainties of life. It’s just as important to be flexible as it is to be motivated.

A mid-season cold, an extra-long day at work, or a family emergency; things don’t always go according to plan or training schedule, and that’s ok! It’s important not to harp on the things that can’t be and focus on the things that can.

Maybe you couldn’t get those mid-week hill repeats in, but you can add in some extra feet of vert on your weekend long run. Coming up with creative ways to problem solve and focusing on what we CAN control is always so much more productive than fixating on the things we can’t.


#3. Don’t fear the DNF

40 miles through the Elk Mountains definitely seems more fun with a solid four months of training and planning under your belt, but life doesn’t always work out that way.

So what happens when you fork out the cash for a race you have your sights set on and in the middle of training, major sh*t hits the fan? That fear of the big scary DNF monster starts to kick in. (for those not familiar, the term DNF stands for Did Not Finish, and is placed after a runner’s name when they aren’t able to complete a race)

That fear of not being prepared and failing can be more than enough to keep us from going for our goals, but the only thing that’s certain about not trying at all is that you’ve gone from having a CHANCE at reaching your goal, to your goal being completely IMPOSSIBLE.


#4. Positivity goes a long way (Like 42 miles long)

Positive self-talk, writing motivating things on your mirror, or focusing on a mantra; whatever it is you do to remind yourself that, “You got this”, do it! Because there will be a time when you’ll feel like telling yourself you can’t: “You can’t make it up that hill”, “You can’t pass that test”, “You can’t make it through another day”. When you’re at mile 18 with 24 miles still left to go and you feel like you’ve got nothing left, those words reminding you that “You got this” will give you just enough strength to make it up that hill, pass that test, or make it through another day.  Sometimes, that’s just the kick in the pants we need to make it to the finish line.


#5. Don’t forget why you’re doing this

It’s easy to get caught up in training plans and course records and lose sight of why you fell in love with the sport in the first place. Let’s be honest, no one runs that many miles unless they truly love it!

So don’t let schedules and plans snuff out your fire. Take some time to step back from the structure and let yourself remember why you love the things you love, and why you’re doing what you’re doing. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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