Are you an ultramarathon runner who wants to run longer?
Do you want to start running ultramarathon distances but don’t know if you’re up to the challenge?
The following mindful ultramarathon running tips will show you how it’s possible!
To survive the great suffering of an ultramarathon, one must find even greater meaning in the miles.
Running an extraordinarily long distance will test everything in you. It’s tough. It’s challenging. It can be downright brutal.
And if you can be certain of anything on race day, it’s this: you’ll want to give up.
Yet despite the struggle, running an ultramarathon is not all bad. In fact, the experience as a whole can be transformational.
I know it has been for me.
The finish line may be an achievement for some, but for others, it’s transcendent.
There are many adversities you’ll face on race day—especially when running through the night, usually between the hours of 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm.
Sleep deprivation, torturous chafing, and extreme nausea are only a few of the possible race-ending circumstances one might experience when running an ultramarathon.
But it’s the agonizing pain of the night that brings the magnificent joy of the morning. During a long ultramarathon… don’t worry… you’ll experience both.
Here’s the thing, ultrarunner’s go through something unbearably unique. Something only a few people on the planet endure. Cross the finish line of an ultramarathon, and your life will never be the same.
You’ll experience both pain and pleasure, joy and suffering, hope and despair.
And although you have both good and bad days, you may ask yourself if there’s a way to limit suffering and increase joy? To make the miles far less painful and much more desirable? To avoid heavy doses of despair and enhance the hope in your heart?
The answer: I think so.
I’ve run over 100 ultra distances in a handful of years, and I’ll now offer some beneficial guidance. This advice will help you enter a place where suffering relieves itself allowing you to run longer with less effort.
And it’s found beyond the mind…
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.
Beyond The Mind
Some say you run the first half of an ultramarathon with your body and the second half with your mind. But from experience, I say there’s more…
You see, it’s through the excessive mileage that I learned even the mind has its limitations. Well, that is, limitations in the short-term.
What do I mean exactly?
You see, what we believe to be true today is a limitation we must overcome tomorrow.
For example, as a beginner runner, I never thought I’d have enough energy to run a marathon. A few miles were stressful enough on the body. How could I ever run longer?
Then I learned about fueling with gels and carbo-loading. This approach worked. But little did I know this same helpful strategy would someday be one of my biggest challenges.
Eventually, I began increasing my endurance to ultramarathons distances. And although my strength and stamina progressed smoothly, my fueling strategy did not. In fact, I realized carbo-loading and consuming gels at ultra distances caused extreme nausea.
As you can see, if I believed a high-carb approach to fueling was the only option to run longer, I’d have a very big problem. And a very tough decision to make…
I would have to A-run with extreme discomfort or B-give up on ultra running entirely.
This was a decision I was unwilling to make.
Instead, I approached this dilemma with an open mind. Fortunately enough, after some trial and error, I found a new and more reliable approach to fueling. However, to make the transition, I had to tap into a beginner mindset.
Develop A Beginner Mindset
As you become a more experienced runner, take caution. It’s easy to allow your current beliefs to get in the way of your future liberation. Sometimes it takes a beginner mindset to become an expert.
Never forget these words: to know nothing is to know everything and to let go is to fly. When we think we know everything, we limit ourselves, stunting our growth indefinitely.
Regarding my fueling transition, over time, I became fat adapted. For runners, this simply means relying heavily on internal fuel (body fat) rather than external fuel (sugary gels).
Fat adapted running was the answer to my ultra running prayers. However, it didn’t happen overnight. It took two steps backward to move three steps forward. In other words, I had to accept a slow and bogged down pace before my body began efficiently burning fat as fuel.
So, was it worth the extra work?
As I like to say: When every step of your run begins to feel like the first step of your run, you have mastered fat adapted running.
If you want a step-by-step guide to becoming a fat-adapted runner, I can help. Read or listen to my book, The Fat Adapted Running Formula, below and get started TODAY!
Not only did I morph into a fat-adapted runner, but I no longer become nauseated due to a significant sugar-intake decrease. Plus, I can now run as far as 50k (31 miles) with no food or water.
And here’s the best part: becoming a fat-adapted runner simplified my training—no more pre-run fueling preparation. I wake up, get dressed, and go run. Can you feel the freedom in that?
Here’s the point: we can overcome our mental limitations, but some take longer than others. And sometimes, these concrete beliefs get the best of us. Our limited thoughts can become too overwhelming to surpass in the moment.
Chafing between the legs may seem manageable with 10 miles remaining in a race. But what happens when there are 110 miles left? And what happens when you’re suffering from heat exhaustion, extreme sunburn, and sleep deprivation on top of it? Suddenly that small schoolyard hill to walk just became an enormous mountain to climb.
So how do you overcome these vast limitations in the moment?
The answer: you don’t.
Here’s the thing. If you create limiting-beliefs in the mind, then you can leave them in the mind. Keep reading to learn why.
Run Longer From The Mind
Why can limitations arise so profoundly and so rapidly while running?
Because you’re attempting to run longer from the mind-space.
Trying to overcome a physical limitation through the body is a difficult road to travel. However, we can overcome most physical limitations through the mind.
As I like to say: Your body doesn’t give up on race day, it’s your mind that has the final say!
As a runner, we learn of this power on day one. Think about it. Most beginners believe they are not a runner only to overcome this identity barrier by lacing up a pair of running shoes for the first time.
There are two times I tied my shoes, which I’ll never forget. The first time, ever, as a boy preparing for school and the last time, ever, as a marathon runner, preparing for ultramarathon race day.
Yet overall, one of the most challenging mental limitations was the marathon distance. At the time, 26.2 miles was no easy feat. I thought, “I’m no marathon runner, who am I kidding?”
And If you asked me years ago, I would have never even hinted at the idea of running an ultramarathon. “Me? Run an ultramarathon? That’s impossible!”
Like most runners, I never even heard of an ultramarathon until introduced by another endurance athlete. Yet seeing or hearing someone do something unimaginable makes it manageable.
So yes, we can overcome physical limitations by running in the mind. And depending on our experiences, some limitations take longer to surmount than others.
But what happens when the limitation is too big?
What happens when you’re running a 100-mile race, and at the halfway point, you convince yourself it’s impossible?
What happens when no matter how you frame the situation, you want to give up?
Fortunately, there’s another place aside from the mind. A space without walls, self-doubt, and obstacles; without limitations, judgment, or opinions. It’s a place beyond pain, exhaustion, and deprivation.
It’s an infinite space that is not born and can not die. A place you can not create nor destroy. A place you can not move or claim. It’s a place from the stillness where all movement takes place—a place of inclusivity rather than exclusivity.
As I like to say: Separation surely reduces energy, while togetherness increases it exponentially.
And although we can’t fully describe it because of the limitation of language, for lack of a better term, let’s call it your heart-space.
Running From The Heart
It’s because of great suffering that I’ve found great love. For this, I am forever grateful for the pain. It was in the darkness where I found the light. When I let go of pride, my humility grew. It took enormous suffering to align with an infinite joy.
Great suffering breaks down the ego, great love lets it go.
Here’s where you enter into limitless space. This place is the heart-space. This place is love.
Love is immeasurable. When you enter into the invisible realm of love, limitations are non-existent.
In this unity there are no uniforms. Within this space there is no race. From this state there are no states. There are no boundaries, walls, or separation. When you run with love, there’s nothing to measure. And when the distance can’t be measured, what limitations do you have?
When you run from the heart, nothing is telling you what you can or can’t do. It’s a place of limitlessness and where running any distance is entirely possible.
So when 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.
To put this into practice, give my new book a read titled, Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Train To Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort. (Training programs for 50k, 50-mile, 100k, 100-mile, and 200-mile distances included).
How do you enter into the heart-space? There are many ways. But first, a contradiction to understand…
The Mind-Heart Contradiction
Trying to understand the heart-space conceptually is a contradiction in itself. Our mind wants to turn concepts into mind-stuff, compartmentalize it, and attempt to provide a rational explanation.
The outer edge of anything we consider possible is the starting point of our limiting beliefs. In other words, you can’t put infinity into a box. You can’t stick the heart-space into the mind-space. That’s the contradiction.
Trying to run from the heart through the mind is the stumbling block of a mindful ultramarathon runner.
That’s where running from the heart takes you. A place where no limitations are present. A place beyond rational thinking.
Yet because of the great suffering that may surface on ultramarathon race day, we tend to get caught up in the mind-space. And unless we step back, observe our thoughts, and use them for good, they tend to use us instead.
“I can’t run 100 miles! I only raced 50-miles in the past. That’s double the distance!”
“I’m not ready to run my first ultramarathon. I’ve only run a few marathons. Maybe in a few years.”
“I can’t finish this race. I still have halfway to go, and I’m on empty!”
Sure, you need to keep your body safe while running longer, but who feels 100% ready to run a new distance?
The answer: I don’t think anyone.
It takes faith.
Faith isn’t a blind descent into the unknown. It’s following a deep knowing from within.
I didn’t DECIDE to run a 200-mile ultramarathon. I felt guided; a feeling that emerged from within; a free-falling to greater depths of deep knowing. It took a leap of faith….
When I enter the heart-space, it’s not a matter of having the stamina to finish. My feet keep moving and don’t stop until the finish line arrives. Problems only ascend when I descend from love.
It may be time to begin your practice with Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Train To Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort.
So how do you enter the heart-space? How do you run with love? I list five tips below to help you along your journey.
The Heart-Space: 5 Tips For Running Without Limits
Now that you know about running from the heart, let’s discuss how to enter this space. Keep reading for five tips as we transfer from the body and mind, and into limitlessness.
As I ascended into ultramarathon running, I became much more sensitive to energy. That is, what helps me become more enduring, and what blocks its natural flow.
As I write in A Runner’s Secret: One Run Will Get It Done (where I teach you to run any distance by running only ONE day per week), I ran 10 ultramarathons for training as I prepared for my first 100-mile race.
I’m a husband, father, and someone who supports their family full-time. Therefore, I can’t allow excess resistance to affect things negatively. My life is not only about me, it’s about we.
So I train between the lines. Many nights I’ve only slept a few hours walking out the door as early as 12:00 am for long runs. My training runs can be 20, 30, 40, 50, and even over 60 miles in length.
But over the mileage, I’ve learned a highly valuable lesson. I discovered that by eliminating limitations and resistance on the inside, you can run longer distances on the outside. It’s an inside-out approach.
Here’s the concept explained differently…
Let’s say you face 20 units of resistance on the outside, like mileage, and 20 units of resistance on the inside, like stress. In this way, your training run requires 40 units of resistance.
Now, let’s say you reduce 20 units of stress down to 10 units. The resistance of your run decreases by 25%. The numbers are arbitrary, but the point is valid.
And one of the more noticeable forms of resistance will be the burdens weighing you down.
Any stress going into race day can magnify as the mileage grows longer. This holds especially true when running those absurdly longer distances like 200 miles.
Now I say to release all burdens before entering race day. Whether that’s handling a problem with your spouse, righting a wrong, or forgiving someone that’s long overdue…
It’s time to forgive yourself.
As I like to say: running long distances doesn’t necessarily get rid of your demons as much as it provides the courage to face them. Because on the other side of your darkest fears lies the light of your infinite power. That power is love.
Usually, it’s about taking responsibility. It requires developing the mindset that you are responsible for everything that occurs in your life. No exceptions.
Remember this: responsibility is not about taking action. It’s simply how you respond to a situation. Not taking action is still a response, and there is an effect to that cause.
As you run longer, and break down, you’ll become more vulnerable. You’ll be wide open. By letting go of the chains of the past, there’s nothing left weighing you down.
Each act of forgiveness lifts one more weight off your shoulders. It’s here where judgment transforms into acceptance, self-doubt into self-love, and running into flying.
As I like to say: I’ve run worried and stressed about life, where 10 miles seems like 100. Yet, I’ve also run peacefully and joyfully, where 100 miles seems like 10. And the difference was never from the hills on the course, but always from the mountains in the mind.
I give a lot of credit to becoming fat-adapted from “fasted-running.” This wasn’t an idea from research, but a method which naturally evolved. I write about this concept in my book “The Fat Adapted Running Formula.”
When I say “fasted-running,” what I’m referring to is running on empty. That is, waking up and running without any fuel.
Sure, there was a threshold when running on empty went from energy-consuming to energy-producing, which means, when you transform from a sugar dependent runner to one who primarily burns fat as fuel.
Yet over the years…and the miles… I’ve learned there’s so much power in coupling fasting and running together.
No longer do you push forward, but instead…you let go. When fasting with the right intentions, you align with something so natural….
Any brief period of suffering transcends into joy. That’s because when you let go…you lose control, and you learn to be okay with that. It’s here where you run with faith, love, and hope as opposed to control, pride, and fear.
This is the exact opposite of suffering. This is how you transcend pain deep into an ultramarathon.
The farther you run on empty, the deeper one must enter into the heart-space. Otherwise, you find yourself back into the world of dualism, where limitations of either-or thinking can slam a dam smack down into our endless river of infinite potential.
When running from the heart, there are no limits. There are no barriers, walls, or self-doubt.
From the heart-space, you find the present moment. No longer does distance or time hold any relevance.
It’s a place where you align with a knowing that love is the eternal fuel of the soul.
The resistance from the distance will empty you out, while running with love makes you whole again. This is a natural way to refuel.
Running from the heart initiates a life-changing paradigm shift.
You discover that emptiness is a wonderful kind of wholeness, and you let go, falling upward with every step. This is the paradox of mindful ultramarathon running.
If you’re ready to begin your mindful ultramarathon running journey, grab a copy of my new book below. It’s called Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Train to Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort.
“My forward motion is diligent because your love is forever, in this way, how could I ever give up?” ~Michael D’Aulerio, Author
We need to have the diligence to run again and again, on the path to longer distances with faith even when we feel lost in our tracks.
You are more enduring than you could ever imagine. But it takes a diligent effort. Only believing today won’t cut it. You need to have faith through the storm.
What is diligence exactly and how will it help you run longer?
We could call it a combination of carefulness, persistence, and determination. These are three wonderful ingredients for running longer.
First, we need to be careful.
Ultra runners know better than most that achieving a significant goal takes patience. If you rush your training, it will likely cost you, and more times than not, the currency is injury.
Run from the mind, run from the heart, but always check in with your body. Simply put, be careful.
Carefulness will build a healthy and stable foundation as you move to the next ingredient.
Next, we need to be persistent.
It takes persistence to lace up your shoes and walk outside with each new training run.
Many obstacles arise from the first step of a new training program to the last step on race day. In other words, life happens.
When ultramarathon training, try to take action despite obstacles or opposition. Developing this kind of mindset requires running through excuses, what if’s, and lack of motivation. You need to keep moving forward. You need to be persistent…
Be persistent in your training.
Be persistent in your diet.
Be persistent in your sleep.
Be persistent in getting to the truth of the matter. The truth that anyone can run longer. Period.
Lastly, we need to be determined.
Determination is when you find a big enough purpose to continue doing something even when it’s very difficult.
So what’s your purpose?
Here’s what I can tell you from experience: The longer the distance you run, the larger the purpose you need to have. Because when you anchor into something much larger than running, and allow running to become a tool towards that purpose, NOTHING can stand in your way.
Here’s the secret: If running becomes unbearable, the reason why is likely less about the resistance and more about a lack of purpose.
Why are you running an ultramarathon? Why do you want to run longer?
Maybe it’s because you want to achieve something extraordinary. Or to show your children that anything’s possible.
Or maybe you want to build enough self-confidence to accomplish more in your life. Or to focus greatly on your health and fitness.
Or maybe it’s a spiritual purpose. Maybe the self-emptying and renewal cycle is helping guide you down a more righteous path.
Whatever your purpose, hold it tight. Now instead of pushing yourself to run, you’ll be pulled, and this trade can make all the difference in the world.
So be careful, stay persistent, and move forward with determination. Have diligence on the path to your dreams, and your dreams will have diligence in their path to you.
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.
Gratitude will eliminate the internal resistance, so you have more energy for the external resistance.
Placements, best times, and shiny finisher medals are not my focus on race day. For me, it’s about letting go and finding joy in the moment.
I’ve learned that 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.
But we are human, so the ego is always present in some capacity, I suppose. That’s why if I ever find myself distracted by placements or unnecessary suffering, I look for reasons to be grateful. I find appreciation while running, which allows me to enter back into the heart-space. Simply put, I give thanks to receive love.
When you find appreciation for what you already have, you stop focusing on what you want. Your mind then leaves a forward way of thinking as you enter back into the present moment.
In the present moment, common forms of measurement like time and distance become an abstract illusion, and you can run extraordinary distances.
By running in the NOW, you stop focusing on your next training run, because you find appreciation for the one you are in. In this way, race day gets here when it gets here, and you are even more grateful when it does.
What can you be grateful for today?
I can’t help but feel grateful for a new morning. The gift of living another day is a blessing. And I can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to run.
When I’m in the middle of a race, I constantly remind myself of how fortunate I am to be there. Running with strong legs, in the present moment, with a healthy pair of lungs, finding freedom on the course, and connecting with the trails… what’s not to be grateful for?
Remember…If you practice gratitude on a daily basis, then your motivation to run will last a lifetime.
The more gratitude you express towards life, the more life directs you towards gratifying experiences.
And here’s a great gift that gratitude can offer you while running…
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.
Give effort, give thanks, and never give up!
I can’t really put the following experience into words from the mind, but a little while ago, I experienced a very sudden and strong knowing from the heart.
It was an understanding of temptation in its totality.
Binge eating, drugs, gossip, gambling, whatever it may be, appeared as ONE for a very brief moment.
Like all the same fuel for the ego but with different names. Like a very empty-kind-of-wholeness.
Consider this definition of addiction…
“An ever-increasing desire for something that has an ever-decreasing ability to satisfy.” (*)
That’s why one must be careful what’s fueling their running. Because eventually, if it’s an external motivator, the fuel can dilute or run out entirely. Without an internal drive, there’s an excellent chance that your running journey will come to an end.
Metals, finishing line photos, identifying ourselves as runners…
…these are all well and good for the short-term; however, their meaning decreases significantly over time. They fade away as you run longer.
That’s why it’s essential to look inside yourself. What’s really driving you to run longer distances?
I remember when I first began ultramarathon running. Every time I reached a new distance, I thought to myself, “welcome to mars!” I felt like an explorer on the other side of the possible in the outer realm of impossibility.
I kept running farther. Eventually, I ran 200 miles, where the mileage became much more of a spiritual journey than a physical endeavor.
Instead of pushing forward, I learned to let go. It was through weakness, where I found my true strength. It was in complete silence where I heard the song of my soul.
It was through the contemplation of temptation where I learned of an empty-kind-of-fullness, and it was through the suffering of ultramarathon running where I learned of a full-kind-of-emptiness.
I surrendered to the mileage as I aligned with infinite love. By running from the heart, I made it through the final night of a 200-mile race.
…And I am forever grateful for the journey.
The Gift of Suffering
Both great suffering and great love have been the predominant teachers of my running experience….and my life.
When I look back through the years, what I appreciate most is the great suffering that led to great love.
Weights, critics, hills, self-doubt…they are all resistance in different forms. It’s inside of our problems where opportunity awaits. It’s the adversity that strengthens us most.
Although, in the moment, those tough times can seem like the end of the world. But afterward, with a different frame, when we look back at our struggles, they are indeed something to appreciate.
Because if we don’t let our problems become part of the narrative of a self-limiting story, we’ll grow from them. Each painful step then leads us to new opportunities of personal development.
Love is what we long for, love is who we are, and most of the time, suffering is our opening to this eternal space.
It’s not the metals from the finish that I appreciate most. It’s the scars from the struggle. Our deepest wounds provide the greatest growth.
So welcome fear, accept the tears, and let your scars shine like stars!
“The wound is the place where the light enters you” ~Rumi.
200 Miles Of Suffering
The final lap of my first 200-mile race was unforgettable. I had painful blisters, tortuous chafing, and absurd sleep deprivation.
Not to mention an enormous nose bleed. I ran while spitting mists of blood illuminated by the bright lights of my headlamp.
Eventually, the long path came to an end…
I crossed the finish line…
I then got on my hands and knees and…
…kissed the ground.
Nothing else in my life led me to instinctively drop on all fours and kiss the earth’s surface. That’s because I never suffered so much physically in my life.
I went through the darkness to find the light.
And in the same way the light and darkness transforms the day, start and finish lines tend to transform our lives.
But you can’t simply read about it. You have to go into the depths of great love and suffering yourself.
The mind alone will do mind things. However, you can’t comprehend the incomprehensible. How could you ever compartmentalize something so vast, so great, so eternal as infinite love?
I don’t think our sensory body could ever allow it.
It’s experiential, and for me, running longer has been worth every stride.
“It is easier to measure the entire sea with a tiny cup than to grasp the ineffable greatness of God with the human mind.” ~Saint Basil The Great
An Important Word of Advice
I was approaching the last aid station in a 50-mile race. My legs were feeling as good as they could after 40+ miles of non-stop running. Yet, although my legs were in a bad place, my thoughts were in a good one. And my spirits were high.
As I reached the aid station to refill my handheld, I took off my headphones. The music was still playing, and everyone could now hear the song I was listening to.
The volunteer directly ahead gave me a strange look. That’s because he never heard anyone run-up to an aid station playing Alvin and The Chipmunks.
You see, the night prior, I was watching an Alvin and The Chipmunks movie with my sons. I love spending time with my kids. So to take a piece of them with me on race day, I added a song from the movie to my playlist.
The volunteer could have never known this. He smiled and asked, “Are you listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks?”
I answered, “Yes, I listen to a lot of different music while running. Whatever speaks to my soul.”
…and ran off.
After about 30 seconds, I started laughing. I thought to myself…
“Wait…did I just tell that guy I worship a talking chipmunk?”
This made me laugh as it brought a little life back into my sore and tired legs.
Here’s the point: it’s rather difficult to explain spiritual experiences in the physical world. That’s the limitation of language. There’s a restriction in the body and mind. That’s why at times, I speak paradoxically. Paradoxes tend to spark an inner knowing.
In ordinary everyday conversation, spiritual experiences typically don’t come out as poetic as they feel. When you enter into the heart-space, it is more of a knowing. An experiential happening. A being-ness.
To help enter the heart-space, consider this…
When you speak of the mind, body, and soul, it’s
“My mind, my body, my soul.”
Or you say “I have a body, I have a mind, I have a soul”
Now look at those sentences and think…
Who is “I”?
Run longer from that place, and your footsteps will be everlasting. Get in touch with your innermost being and run from that flow.
And if you are new to ultra running….
Regarding running an ultramarathon, I’m not saying you should, I’m just saying you could. Human beings are built to endure great suffering on their path to find an even greater love–and we are all in this together.
Yes, the distance may seem extraordinary, but remember, you have an extraordinary heart.
Run with love and you’ll enter the heart-space.
Run with love and you’ll find grace in your pace.
Run with love and there are no limitations.
Run with love and you will run longer.
I leave you with these final words…
When running an ultramarathon, the first 50-miles I rely on my body and run on the trail. The next 40-miles I rely on my head and run in the mind. The last 10-miles I rely on my heart and run in the sky.
May your heart expand as your mileage progresses.
And if you are looking to start your new mindful ultramarathon practice then grab a copy of ‘Mindful Ultramarathon Running: Train to Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster With Less Effort‘ below…
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