Welcome to part one of the ultra running inspiration series. Let’s begin with a poem…
“If you’re going to try, go all the way.
Otherwise, don’t even start.
If you’re going to try, go all the way.
This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs, and maybe even your mind.
It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench.
It could mean jail. It could mean derision, mockery, isolation.
Isolation is the gift.
All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it.
And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds.
And it will be better than anything else you can imagine.
If you’re going to try, go all the way.
There is no other feeling like that.
You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire.
DO IT. DO IT. DO IT. All the way.
You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”
Go All the Way, a poem by the late Charles Bukowski, opens up my book Mindful Ultramarathon Running.
I also read it minutes before my first 200-mile ultramarathon.
That’s the mentality I developed for the race. There was no option but to finish.
Call it dedication…obsession…passion…
Regardless of its expression, I took it there.
I took it to the place of no return.
And I crossed the finish line.
Over the past two years, I cut back my distance. I didn’t stop running ultras, but I wasn’t running nearly the same mileage.
After reaching my goal of finishing a 200-mile race and then a 72-hour race, life guided me into a new season.
I earned a graduate degree and started a new job. We also moved into a new house.
Plus, my three children are getting older, and the demands in their lives take up considerably more time.
This past year I spent morning and night reading and writing for my degree. Working on the new house. Moving my kids to and from practice and games. Working 10-11 hours every day at my day job and hitting the gym afterward. Not to mention trying my best to spend quality time with my wife.
And then you have all the problems life likes to throw at you.
I don’t always have the strength. But for when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:10)…so I let go, knowing God is always there to lift us up and guide us forward.
Use The Pain To Grow
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.
When you’ve been running for 70 miles straight and find yourself suffering greatly, let each uncomfortable step be a prayer of gratitude. The pain reminds us we are alive.
And that’s how I’ve always been able to run far while balancing work, family, school, and passions.
Running and life has become spiritual practice.
Think about it. Every situation is a chance to grow.
Trouble at work or in your business? Do you avoid conflict and encourage passivity? Or do you approach the problem head-on, deal with being uncomfortable, and grow because of it?
Trouble in your marriage? Do you stay quiet and continue pointless fights from suppressed emotions? Or do you talk it out, have a constructive disagreement, and allow your love to grow deeper?
And most importantly, who are we serving in the process?
For me, ultra running started as an achievement, but then it became about transcendence.
Life became more vibrant with longer mileage.
Even so, progress helps create happiness. Having a clear target, and developing a compelling reason to reach that target makes us unstoppable.
Everything is growing around us.
So should we.
It’s a natural flow and aligning with that flow makes us feel alive.
We need to listen to what’s pulling us…to what’s inspiring us…to what’s ALIVE in is.
Speak life into your strides. Never leave it to chance.
Negative self-talk constructs negative self-beliefs, creating disillusionment.
Your past is a memory, it’s not who you are.
The future is a vision, it’s not who you are.
Life is here and now. Find the present moment in your running shoes, and the distance becomes very possible.
Growth, progress, transcendence… these are themes to consider as your search for inspiration in your ultra running journey.
This is part one of a series on ultra running inspiration. Check back soon for part two. Thank you for reading and enjoy the journey!
By the way, if you align with this mindful approach to running an ultramarathon, then check out my 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.