The Journey #5: Life is an Ultrarunning race
It is not only a sprint nor a marathon. We level up!
This post takes ~ 6min to read
Welcome back my friend! 👋
Hope you are doing well. Today, let’s try to embark in a visual writing adventure, making you feel like you are out in the mountains, feeling happy knowing that being an ultrarunner is one of the best things you chose for your life.
On last week’s post, we started by saying that a trail running race (whatever the distance) can serve as a good metaphor for what life is all about. Also last week, in a conversation with a community member (Thanks Denis!), we talked about this topic and the famous quote from the television personality Dr. Phil, came in: “Life is a marathon, not a sprint”. From there, we started a visualization exercise that led us to write this week’s article.
So, first things first. Let’s all be fair and I know that those lucky ones who already did an ultrarunning race will agree with me:
Life is no longer a marathon, but an ultrarunning race
To best describe this sentence, again, let’s use the power of visualization (is this something you normally do? Visualize? You should try it. It’s life-changing).
A few years ago, marathon was seen as the super human event considered to be one of the biggest tests of strenght and endurance, where athletes push their bodies for over 26 miles (42km). Yes, a marathon is hard. Really hard. This was possibly the starting point for a sentence Dr. Phil claims to have invented, Drake sings this line and many companies, coaches, everyone uses it.
But, let’s now pick all the reasons that lead us to say: “Life is a marathon” and put them in a different context, mountains and an ultrarunning race (tipically over 31 miles/50km), and see how they differ and how it better matches to what life is all about (cuff…don’t want to be biased 😇).
Disclaimer: idea here is not to say that one is better than the other. They are different and both are incredible ways to test our limits.
#1 - It is not (only) about going forward, faster or finish first. It is not only about running.
The quote “Life is a marathon” means that great things take time to build. Patience. In fact, patience and consistency are clearly required to finish either a marathon or an ultrarunning. However, based on the journey of an ultra race, marathons can be consider a longer sprint. And sprints are more related to time, with scientists trying to find THE “solution” to, for example, create better performance running shoes that allow certain athletes to beat the 2-hour barrier. Pacers. Controlled environments. Best weather conditions possible.
On the other side, there is ultrarunning. Not about going straight forward, fast, finishing first and especially not about always running (since you may have places where hiking is all you can do). What we believe trail running and ultrarunning challenges brought to the sport is that running is more than just run, competition, measuring ourselves against others and against the clock for the “fastest” time. In ultrarunning, time is like a deadline at work. There is a job to be done, it will be hard and you have till X hour to give your best and finish. Yes, in most races the goal for many athletes (sometimes for more than 50% of the athletes) is to finish.
Moreover, ultrarunning is more about connecting with other humans, connecting with ourselves. Truly a process of self-discovery. The patience, consistency, courage and resilience levels required to finish are higher.
Training for these two races is difficult. Challenging. Both involving a giant endurance effort with great similarities: long runs, speed work, resting and hill trainings. However, remember that an ultra is not just running forward? On an urban environment? A road? We know that there is X altitude, the mountain profile and that’s it. So, yes, you need to level up your training and try to be the best you can, taking into account all other necessary running skills.
This reality implies that part of the basic training, it is strictly necessary to know how to climb, how to descend, how to react on more technical trails and some orienteering skills.
In the end, give your best in training, work on as much skills as possible, never knowing what to expect. Every training and every race is like a lesson, with the best teacher possible: nature. “What could I have done differently?”
Fences and Focus - The uncontrolled environment
During an ultrarunning race we are in a situation where unknown and uncontrolled are keywords. You show up at the starting line, carrying your “survival kit” on your back and then, “Go”. By your own (80%/90% of the time). Mountains and wilderness, various types of terrain, difficult weather conditions (sometimes, four seasons in a day). No side fences and most of the time with no one to show us the way, except a sacred ribbon (still, the probability of getting lost is...you know) or, in some races, the GPS. It is you, yourself and you with teacher nature.
In terms of people watching and cheering: aid stations. If you are lucky enough, there is the possibility of watching some cows, goats and other wild animals. Priceless!
But hey! Going up or down. Feeling high or feeling low, you-need-to stay-focused.
Highs and lows, ups and downs
Who doesn’t know the famous book from Ryan Holiday, “Obstacle is the way”? The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumph is the subtitle. For us, the ultrarunners, a race is a timeless journey of turning trails into triumphs. Just like Ryan said: turn every new obstacle into an opportunity to get better, stronger, tougher (…) what stands in the way, becomes the way.
Going out to the mountains, we are talking about climbing rocks, pass under the trees, going down on some technical trails and, sometimes, cross rivers. Obstacles. And just like the trails, also our emotions go high and low. A magical combination of internal and external obstacles. How many times you question yourself: “Why am I doing this? Spending 6…10…20 hours out here?” Yes. Why? Purpose. Because you know that is all about the journey of you becoming better, stronger, tougher. After finishing the race, you are just ready to implement all the lessons learned during the “mountain class” in life and the final score on the exam is: closer to be a better athlete, better person.
We tried to present some of the situations that lead us to believe that "Life is an ultramarathon". Have patience and go step by step in an environment that we do not know and do not control. Often alone. We are not only talking about "simple" turns, but going uphill and downhill, high and low moments, physically and emotionally. Energy? For the whole journey is purpose. For intervals of more than 6miles/10K, gels or bars of various flavors.
In the end, we know: everything is part of the journey. Suffering leads to progress. And the curiosity to test our limits and to get to know ourselves better, leads to action.
TELL US: Do you agree with us? Is Life an ultrarunning race? Wheter or not, we would love to know why do you show up for marathons or ultrarunning challenges?
On our side, we say: Go! Good luck! We got your back!
At The Journey Endurance Club, we have the mission to reframe how running is promoted. So, instead of searching for inspiration from professional athletes, why not get inspired by the stories of runners/athletes who, like you, seek to be the best version of themselves? For our first chapter, meet Dylan Scott, the Workout Jukebox.
📅 Ladies and Gentlemen, the “SpeedGoat”
For our next The Journey Talk, we will open the doors of our community to welcome the legendary ultrarunner, Karl Meltzer, the “SpeedGoat”. You can already get your digital sear here. Join us, next Friday (May 21st) at 7pm (GMT+1 - Other time zones).
We got your back!
If you feel like that you want to raise your hand ✋ and shout: I want to be part of this! Come, join this community of like-minded runners!
Here's a sneak peek of what you can expect by joining our community:
Accountability: When you get back home from work or practice, you will have a community of runners that holds each other accountable to keep momentum;
Grow and learn from the best: every month we will have the opportunity to meet professional trail runners and learn more about their journey, their training and best practices;
Share Stories and Learnings: You will have access to our digital safe space where we will share stories and learnings, victories and losses, help others to achieve their goals by just saying: "Count on me!;
Support and Training: Being a global community, with our "The Journey Experiences", we will organize digital and physical events all year around, for you to connect with the others members.
And more…this is just the beginning.
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