Long Runs – How To Develop A Strong Mindset For Ultra Distances

Long Runs – How To Develop A Strong Mindset For Ultra Distances

I have many memories from long runs; however, I’ll never forget the time when I forgot who I was while running. 

I was frightened. 

I felt alone. 

It was marathon race day and I pushed it too fast to the edge of my limitations. 

My identity completely slipped away. 

Eventually, I regained composure and crossed the finish line…

It was an intense experience. 

Sometimes when you push the limits, the limits push back. This is a hard lesson you learn in ultramarathon running. Yet, in tough times, if we detach from this descent into the darkness, there’s an opportunity to see the light. 

Remember…it takes a night sky to see the stars. 

After finishing the race, I slowed my training down. I had to. My brain insisted. Anytime I ran too fast or too often, it felt like my head would explode…

…seriously, it was bad

Call it stubbornness or determination or stupidity, but I didn’t let up on my training. In fact, I took it to a whole new level. 

Eventually, I found a unique balance between training and recovery

This new strategy of mine offered hope and guided me on the path of an ultramarathon runner

It was a trajectory. Hope is an unstoppable force. I was not motivated by what I could see, but instead, what I could be.

It took more than a simple movement of a pair of legs to get it done. 

Timing was everything. 

My new approach allowed me to scale my endurance to unimaginable heights. I ran 50 miles, 100k, 100 miles, and eventually 200 miles in a single race. It’s been quite amazing.

I discovered the greatest maximum results in the shortest period of time, and I offer the entire program in my book A Runners Secret.

Ultramarathon running wasn’t a sport to me. It was a practice. An inner journey into the unknown, and it still is.

How did I train my body to run frequent ultramarathon distances? The short answer is I learned how to transcend suffering. The long answer is the same. 

I’ll touch on transcendence later.

But first, understand that running has been liberating. I’ve discovered how to find joy in the journey through both the highs and lows. 

Can you imagine what this can do to a runner?

Finding peace and happiness while running helps you become more enduring. When you are enjoying your run, it doesn’t matter what mile you are on. Whether the first, tenth, or one-hundredth, if you’ve found peace in your pace, the mileage fades away.

Here’s the thing…

You discover that limitations are not a wall to breakdown with the body, but instead, a gate to let down in the mind. Don’t smash through a barrier to run longer, just let go of your grip. 

In other words, the only obstacle between you and the finish line is, well… you.

In this way, increasing your long runs is not a doing…

It’s an undoing

I say this because your highest potential is right on the other side of your most stubborn limitation.

But where do you start? 

How do you eliminate these limitations to run longer distances?

How does one transcend suffering to finish an ultramarathon in one piece? 

Continue reading as I explain how to let down those gates from the inside so you can run longer on the outside. 

Increasing your long runs to ultra-distances all starts with your thoughts…

Please note: I am not a certified health physician and do not claim to be one. I’m only sharing the methods that worked for me. Remember, sometimes when you push the limits, the limits push back. So proceed with caution and never forget that safety comes first.

RELATED: Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Train To Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort

1. Thoughts Influence Endurance. 

“There is nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so.” ~William Shakespeare

Thoughts of what is good or bad are our attempts to feel control in an uncontrollable world. 

We find order for the ego’s sake, but in actuality, there’s a natural order; that order is the flow of life. 

When running deep into your long runs, look at your thoughts objectively. This creates a detachment from the false self. That is, from the ego. When you are not busy expending energy to serve the ego, you can access an abundant stream.

Some call this a “flow state.” It’s not a gain from without, but rather, an alignment from within. 

When you are running and become tired, ask yourself…

“Who is it that’s tired right now?”

And FEEL the vastness of this awareness. 

“The key to growth is the introduction of higher dimensions of consciousness into our awareness” ~ Lao Tzu

After some practice, becoming consciously aware while running will become automatic. You feel like you woke up from a deep sleep. It’s an awakening—an aliveness where energy becomes everlasting.

When you find the flow, thought will seem like noise. A narration. An autonomous happening from unconscious doing. 

We have the power to be conscious of our thoughts, along with observing their cycles. For most, you’ll notice doubt arises every time a run becomes challenging. This is the survival mind at work.

Running 100 or 200 mile ultramarathons damages the body. Of course, survival instincts will trigger. Of course, the mind will SCREAM to stop if you’re new to the distance. Because of this, reframing the mileage will help ease the troubles of your mind over long runs.

When things get tough, remember, you don’t have miles to go…you have stress, and stress is your path to greater growth. 

Never forget these words: Fear is the internal weight in the gym of your mind. Run away from your fears and your mind becomes fragile. Run towards your fears and your mind becomes stronger. 

And it takes a mightier mind to run longer distances…

2. The Mind Is A Powerful Tool For Long Runs

What’s a belief?

The answer: A repetitive thought that eventually becomes believable.

When you think about it, beliefs are illusionary. That is, a mental construct that becomes a false perception of the truth. 

I say this because if beliefs are true, then everything is true, and if everything is true, then nothing is true. 

As a runner, if we are not consciously aware of our beliefs, we run into a real issue.  

The problem is that all beliefs are limited. They construct the mental blueprint of our lives. A new paradigm that sets you free today will hold a limiting belief that imprisons you tomorrow. 

When I say “paradigm,” I’m referring to whatever mental map you’re operating from. And just like every map has edges, every paradigm has limits

I’m not a runner…BELIEF

I can’t run a marathon…BELIEF

Ultrarunners have a natural ability to run longer…BELIEF

If not viewed objectively, limiting beliefs dictate your decisions, and it’s your decisions that shape your running experience. 

I say this because the way we act or the opinions we have are reactions based on our deep-seated beliefs. 

Your decisions reflect these beliefs. 

Have you ever heard of someone who achieved something great? So amazing that it was hard to believe, so you began making excuses for their success?

Maybe you heard they ran an ultramarathon and you made excuses to meet your perception of what’s rational. Perhaps you thought things like…

They took too many breaks…

Overloaded on performance supplements… 

Multiple days to complete…

Good genetics…

That’s because you are trying to fit your impossible into your possible. That is, within the walls of your limiting beliefs. 

Or maybe you believe those who get ahead in life must cheat to do so. 

Consider how this could unconsciously self-sabotage your own growth because, on a subconscious level, you have given progress a negative association

And if progress is what makes us happy, you are thus creating suffering in your life and don’t even know it. 

This is only one example, but you get the point.

To help, look for new positive affirmations to replace negative ones. 

For example, if you believe people must cheat to get ahead, replace it with: 

“People are rewarded in public for what they practice for years in private.” ~Tony Robbins

Here’s the point: when you limit others, you are only limiting yourself. We think life happens on the outside, but everything we see, feel, hear, smell, and touch is experienced internally. 

Instead of limiting the other person in your mind, allow it to transcend your beliefs. 

This will give you space to run longer or faster than you could have ever imagined. 

Consider that most of the time, our beliefs are not even our own. They’ve been handed down to us from parents, friends, teachers, and society. 

These are some of the ways the egoic mind is shaped. That is, by the past, made up of a never-ending flow of content and habitual cycling. 

The key is to detach from these beliefs by becoming consciously aware of them.

From here, you can use the mind for your running success rather than fall victim to it.

Remember, the most powerful tool you have to run long distance is your mind, and when you master it, the boundaries of your endurance disintegrate.

RELATED: What Is Mindful Ultramarathon Running

3. Pain Is Part of Growth

In The Book of Awakening, author Mark Nepo writes….

“An aging Hindu master grew tired of his apprentice complaining, and so, one morning, sent him for some salt. 

When the apprentice returned, the master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water, and then to drink it.

“How does it taste?” the master asked.

“Bitter,” spit the apprentice.

The master chuckled and then asked the young man to take the same handful of salt and put it in the lake. 

The two walked in silence to the nearby lake, and once the apprentice swirled his handful of salt in the water, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.”

As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the master asked, “How does it taste?”

“Fresh,” remarked the apprentice.

“Do you taste the salt?” asked the master.

“No,” said the young man.

At this, the master sat beside this serious young man who so reminded him of himself and took his hands, offering…

“The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount of bitterness we taste depends on the container we put the pain in. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things… 

Stop being a glass. Become a lake.”

No growth comes without pain. You don’t have to like it, but you will have to experience it as you progress as an ultrarunner. 

Quad crushing mileage, leg-burning PRs, anxiety from a new race, chafing, sleep deprivation…

These are all necessary pains one must endure on their path to farther long runs. 

And although you can’t avoid the pain, you can run quietly and observe it. 

Sometimes the pain comes in the body, sometimes in the mind, and sometimes in the spiritual heart. 

Regardless of how you experience pain, if you avoid it, it will remain present either on the surface or suppressed into the subconscious. It’s here where negativity is unconsciously projected on your ultra running journey. This can turn a training program ugly in a hurry.

Instead, we have to deal with the pain, learn from it, grow from it, and let that energy go. 

Consider if you go for a run in the attempt to feel better after a bad day. You decide to attempt a personal best and miss your time. 

If you were running to distract yourself from the pain, this shortcoming becomes self-defeating.

This is compared to dealing with the pain upfront and allowing your run to be about training instead.

If you come up short now, you simply come up short, and use it as motivation to put in more effort on your next run.

Now running isn’t just a layer over your original pain. Meaning, energy is no longer tied up in insecurities and avoidance. 

Remember, pain comes and goes. If you fear it, you are trapped. If you see it as temporary, you are free. This is a minor change in your thinking that produces a MASSIVE shift from within, opening up a space to increase your endurance.

We can use our pain to run farther and we can also run farther to ease our pain. 

The more pain you store, the more painful the release. In other words, you experience it going in and out. 

After a few good long runs with the intention of self-emptying, running longer ultra distances will require less effort. 

I discuss this topic in my book Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Train To Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort.

For example, this stored pain can be transcended through the long and grueling steps of an ultramarathon. 

In this way, going through extreme bouts of human endurance does not only have to be an achievement…

It can be a healing. 

Sometimes it takes being cold, tired, and weak to find our true strength. Because it’s in our emptiness where we find fullness.

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:9-12:10)

RELATED: The Ultramarathon Pattern: 3 Stages Every New Ultramarathon Runner Needs To Know

4. Let Go To Run Longer

The internal resistance will reveal itself during long runs.

Remember this: It requires energy to resist. 

As Carl Jung once said, “What you resist persists.”

In this way, you are creating more resistance from both the hills on the course and the hills in your mind.  

To help, practice the act of forgiveness

Forgive yourself and others. This is the ultimate act of letting go. 

From the surface, we see forgiving as a doing. Perhaps to be a better person based on a limited perspective. But that’s hardly its point. 

“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” ~Gautama Buddha 

Forgiveness is spacious. It breaks self-damaging habitual cycles that consume enormous amounts of energy—that is, energy for your run and energy for your life. 

It also neutralizes societal belief systems created by old sayings and phrases like “an eye for an eye.” 

“An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” ~Gandhi

Forgiveness stops the cycle of external conflict, and at the same time, solves internal conflict. For example, desiring to quit every time something becomes difficult.

When negative energy releases, you have more room for positive practices like running to better your life. And that powerful purpose fuels your ultra running journey to incredible heights. 

Mastering one aspect of your life helps you do the same in others. 

Running an ultramarathon is about setting an enormous goal and having the persistence, diligence, and patience to see it through. 

Once you finish an ultramarathon, what can’t you accomplish? 

This mindset will transfer to your finances, relationships, health, career…you name it. 

So run like your life depends on it….because…well, it does. 

RELATED: Ultra Running: 5 Ways To Run Longer Mindfully

5. Togetherness Increases Energy Exponentially

I ran a 100-mile ultramarathon through the five boroughs of New York City. As you can imagine, it was quite an experience. 

And although there were many memories of that day, one, in particular, stands out now as I write. 

After running through Queens and the surrounding area for nearly 5 hours in the pouring rain, I found myself inside a public restroom at a local park. 

I was cold, wet, and tired. Fortunately, the rain finally stopped. Since I had more than 12 hours of running ahead of me, I decided it was a good time to change my clothes. 

I didn’t have an extra pair of compression shorts at the time. Therefore, I spent a few minutes holding the wet pair I was wearing under a hand dryer. 

As I looked next to me, a man who appeared “homeless” was doing the same. Meaning, he was washing his underwear in the sink, drying them with a hand dryer also. 

We looked at each other and nodded. 

Although the two of us spent our days two worlds apart, that night was different. That night our realities collided. I entered his world, experiencing the absolute simplicity of a life on the margins. 

As I like to say: Ultrarunning strips you down bare, past the PRs, race shirts, and finisher medals. Struggle, growth, pain, and pleasure… it’s the human experience in its rawest form. 

The point is we are all human

Although we have different beliefs, we can all relate on the level of the human experience. 

Separation surely reduces energy, while togetherness increases it exponentially. 

Like the rim of a bike, as the outer spokes separate, so does our likeness. This is where we find our different styles and personalities. The farther from the center, the more separate we become. However, as we come back towards the center, the spokes join in oneness. It’s here where each spoke supports the other to make the wheel go round. 

It was saint Mother Teresa who said, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” And it was spiritual teacher Ram Dass who said, “We’re all just walking each other home”. 

Simply put, separation is homelessness. Love is what binds us together. 

If the distance becomes unbearable, instead of focusing on the race, focus on your heart. When you run with love, everything once exclusive becomes inclusive. It’s in oneness where distance and time dissolve away, and you move from a place of boundless possibilities.

6. Freedom Boosts Stamina Through Gratitude

It’s not a distance, but a deepening. I don’t force my legs forward to run longer, I expand my awareness. For me, running an ultramarathon is not about achievement. It’s about transcendence. In other words, it’s not a race, but a meditation.  

It is about shifting from the glass of water to the lake. 

Here’s another way to say it…

It’s not about how much force you can exert to push forward. Instead, it’s about how much courage you have to express your innermost being.

Running 200 miles wasn’t satisfying. It was liberating

As your endurance grows, so does your feeling of freedom. That’s the secret gift hidden in every new distance. 

I used to have dreams of flying, now I have an awareness that I can run forever. Both provide the same feeling of unlimitedness.

Yet still, static thoughts could never satisfy this dynamic reality.

Center yourself in this uncertainty with faith. The power of faith reduces fear and keeps you focused on your long runs when training for an ultramarathon. 

We go through seasons as runners. If you hold faith through the lows, then you will reach new highs. Soon, nothing can stand in your way. Not even the 100 miles of dirt between you and the finish line!

To help, through your running journey, try to remain humble. This will keep you balanced through the highs and the lows. Expressing gratitude for each foot strike will help you run steady. You will become proactive rather than reactive. 

Remember the saying: A marathon is about how you perform when everything goes right. An ultramarathon is how you perform when everything goes wrong.  

During an ultramarathon of a new distance, there’s one thing you can bet on—that is, things will not go according to plan. 

So be thankful. Here’s why…

When you’re grateful, it’s impossible to feel bad, and in a sport where discomfort is a guarantee, gratitude will help you along the way.

When running on what feels like an empty tank, give thanks. When you are grateful, you no longer feel lack because you appreciate what you already have. In other words, you feel WHOLE. Now, suddenly, and without warning, your empty tank is FULL. You’ll run those last few miles with a level of energy that can only be felt through a sincere appreciation for life.

Humbling yourself will help you run ultra distances. This puts the focus off yourself. And when you are not focused on you, there is no stress from the mileage. You become energized from a universal connection with others, with the universe, with the Divine. 

The finish line of an ultramarathon is not the destination. It’s the vehicle. The destination is the realization of the Divine.

So stay patient…stay humble…and you will stay running.

RELATED: 50 Ultra Marathon Quotes To Inspire Your Ultra Running Journey

7. Raise Your State To Always Finish

One foot in and one foot out will not get you there. You need to put both running shoes through the door. You need to fully commit to your running goals.

This holds true on race day also. You must go on in. 

In an article published with Ultrarunning Magazine I wrote…

“Things were going well again, and I began finding my groove for the first time in a long time. But here is when the next obstacle arrived. At one point to cool down, I stuck my head into a cooler filled with ice water. It felt refreshing, but the instant I rose up, blood began pouring from my nose! Nosebleeds became a constant problem for the remainder of the night.

I couldn’t touch my nose without causing it to bleed nor could I blow it. Even when gnats flew inside of it, they had to stay there as it was that or risk another enormous nosebleed.

As I ran with my shirt rolled up and pressed against my nose, I spit misty clouds of blood into the air illuminated by the bright light of my headlamp. But I kept moving forward regardless of the blood, regardless of the blisters, and regardless of the heat.

As I like to say: the moment when your legs give up is the exact moment when your heart gives more.

It was one foot in front of the other, and one way or another, I crossed the finish line!”

The more I think about how I ran over 100 ultra distances in a handful of years…

Or ran distances of 200 miles and longer…

Or running without food or water for over 30 miles straight…

I believe it’s because I’ve learned how to remain in a beautiful state while running. 

What’s a beautiful state?

Well, there are many…

Hope is a beautiful state. 

Joy is a beautiful state. 

Determination is a beautiful state. 

Courageousness is a beautiful state. 

Appreciative, blissful, adventurous

These are all BEAUTIFUL STATES. 

But you can’t hope to get there passively. It requires setting an intention on race day. At some point, you have to draw a line in the sand and make the decision that you will feel great no matter what obstacles you face. 

We can’t control what happens to us…but we can control what we experience. 

Yes, running 100 miles is painful, but as long as my state remains beautiful, there is no suffering. Pain is inevitable. Suffering is a choice. 

It’s your choice….

What will you choose on race day?

Final Thoughts…

So, I unpacked a lot in this one. 

As you can see, increasing long runs and finishing longer ultramarathon distances is much more of an inside job than outside.

I hope you have discovered a new perspective that offers some new space for your endurance to grow.

You must become aware of your limiting beliefs before you can let them go.

And don’t forget to stay in that beautiful state.

If you appreciate, enjoy, learn, grow, love, give, be grateful, and keep running forward, then I’ll see you at the finish line!

Therefore, if you align with this mindful approach to running an ultramarathon, then check out my new book. It’s called Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Training To Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort. Programs included: 50k, 50-mile, 100k, 100-mile, and 200-mile distances!

Grab a copy below and start your mindful ultramarathon journey today!

Click here for the eBook version on Amazon.

Click here for the Paperback version on Amazon.

Click here for the Audiobook version on Audible.

Click here for the Audiobook version on iTunes.

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