My progression into understanding myself and the sport of ultra marathons has brought me 3 fairly simple conclusions.
1. It’s Just Work. When I first got into the sport, I let myself daydream all everything from the fantastic to the frightful. After a few ultras I realized it’s work; it’s a hard days work. That’s it. There’s nothing there to be in awe of. Not that it’s not kool to finish a race or have your friends admire you but no need to pat yourself on the back.
2. It’s a window into your soul. It could occur at any point in the race, all the ugly stuff would surface. Messages about tiredness, pain, mentally not wanting it, why do I run these races, etc. You can either watch this crap objectively or you can actually listen to it.
At first, I listened. Yep it’s all negative all the time but there’s comfort in being the victim or the martyr. And, oh how the messages make it so easy to quit. The excuses were all being laid out for me.
After a few ultras I figured out that if I listening to those messages made a very long day even longer and certainly less enjoyable. I got to the point where I just saw the messages objectively as calls for food, water and caffeine. This worked really well if I stayed on top of my energy levels.
3. Choice… Beyond the window into your soul. Along the way I was not only able to see the negative thoughts as calls for energy but I made a biggest break though yet. This one would change everything.
I made one simple commitment to myself… never DNF another race. When stopping was no longer a choice my brain and ego took that message and completely shut off the negative talk. No exactly sure how it worked but it was amazing. Like being born again and freed from mental slavery.
Replacing the streaming negative message feed was presence. The only thoughts were those of facts, check-ins with my body and plans for the needed fixes. I’ve never had a moment since where my mind has told me to stop; not even for pain. Pain is just an circumstance of ultra marathons and fixes are applied to remedy that… period… not a reason to stop… ever!
So what goes on inside my head when I run ultras… not much. I may ask myself how I’m feeling and I develop a plan to correct for any issues. I run and I push myself at the appropriate pace to optimize my best time.
In the end, and I believe this to be true about life as well, there’s the choice to give up or to work. And work can be hard. That’s it, that’s all.