“Most people would be better off with more pain in their lives,” exclaimed one competitor in what is considered by some as the toughest 100 mile race the world, The Barkley Marathons.
(They made a brilliant documentary about it: The Barkley Marathons: The Race that Eats Its Young)
What a weird thing to say. But in perspective, when you really think about it, pain is the prerequisite for everything good. And my desire to invite more pain and discomfort into my life was what ultimately drew me to ultra-running (any distance longer than a marathon).
My first ever ultra was the WC-50 Ultra Trail Marathon at the National Whitewater Center outside of Charlotte, NC. It was pure class in every way. I highly recommend it. They have a 50 miler as well but I chose the ‘safe’ route and opted for the 50 K (approx. 31.1 Miles). It was a solid challenge where I finished in 6 hours and 20 minutes, but I was ready to push the limits more, setting my sights on the Bel Monte 50 Miler on this most recent March 10th. It 52.4 Miles, a marathon out and a marathon back, in the Blue Mountains of Virginia. I certainly did not anticipate the elevation change, a miscalculation that would kick my rear come race day. We were literally climbing mountains. Okay, so we weren’t in Colorado climbing 14,000-foot mountains, but these were mountains nonetheless.
52.4 miles is a lot of miles in a week, let alone one day. I was super excited and somewhat nervous heading into the race. I hadn’t properly trained like I should. What can I say, with 2 kids, a dog, a pregnant wife and a full time job that takes me on the road a lot, I found it hard to find the 3, 4, 5, or even 6 hours needed for a training run. But I did what I could, and I was confident that with the proper mindset and no severe injuries I’d finish.
Here was my mindset heading into the race:
It was going to hurt.
There would ABSOLUTELY be some uncomfortable and even downright painful moments during the race. But I was prepared for this. I was ready and willing to suffer and to do what it took to finish the race. “Bring it on mothasucka!” was exactly how I felt.
It would be a battle of the mind.
I knew, regardless of my training or rather lack thereof, that my body could push through. The discipline, focus and ability to endure suffering were traits that I’d developed along my journey to becoming a pro athlete. I knew they’d serve me well come race day. Ultimately, what I had to control was my mind. Our bodies can handle way more than our minds tell us it can. So, I focused during training and during the race on turning all my doubt and negative self-talk into positive, affirming beliefs. When pain or doubt crept in, I squashed it immediately! I replaced those unwelcome thoughts with simple mantras like, “I got this!”…I feel great!”…”I’m going to crush it!” over and over again. This is a Practice that I’ve recently picked up that I’m a huge fan of. Try it, it really works. That mind we got sho is a powerful thang y’all!
It would be fun.
I love being outside, in God’s glorious creation, for hours upon hours in my own head. No distractions, no worries. I love the challenge of doing something I’ve never done before, of doing something many thought I shouldn’t even attempt. It’s freeing and strengthening pushing your boundaries farther and farther out. This stuff, to me, is what you call FUN!
I finished the race in 11 hours and 7 minutes. It hurt, I endured great mental jiujitsu, but I had a blast. The Bel Monte 50, just like the WC-50, was pure class.
I’ll leave you with a challenge.
Do something that scares you. Get uncomfortable. Sign up for an ultra. Take that Martial Arts class you’ve been talking about for years. Have that talk. Make that commitment you’ve been putting off for way too long. Seek out discomfort. Dedicate yourself to do just one thing that will push your limits and test your “mettle.” Whatever comes to mind right now, do it. Make the commitment. And tell someone close to you who will hold you accountable. Do that one thing, and then do another, and another and another. I promise you’ll be thankful you did! And you’ll be a better person because of it.
Are you up for it?
This quote from the Ultramarathon Man, Dean Karnazes, should inspire you…
“Western culture has things a little backwards. We think that if we had every comfort available to us, we’d be happy. We equate comfort with happiness. And now we’re so comfortable we’re miserable. There’s no struggle in our lives. No sense of adventure. We get in a car, we get in an elevator, it all comes easy. What I’ve found is that I’m never more alive than when I’m pushing and I’m in pain, and I’m struggling for high achievement, and in that struggle I think there’s a magic.”
You got this!