Monday, October 11, 2010

Focus on Goals, not obstacles

I was speaking with Ray Zahab today and he told me of a time on his 111 day Sahara crossing that they had a sandstorm that lasted 21 days straight. He and the team could have packed down for 3 weeks and wait for it to pass, but that wasn’t considered as an option. It was out of their control and they just had to adapt to it and keep running.

We’ve all been in races be them a 5km, 10km, Marathon or Ultramarathon where it seem s that the Gods are conspiring against you to make it seemingly impossible to run effectively. We finish the race and have used the final few miles justifying our poor performance to ourselves and drawing up a string of excuses.  

It’s not something you hear from the winners of the races, and these guys and girls go out there week on week taking out the titles. There are no excuses for poor performance they take full accountability for their results.

They make no excuses for those things over which they have no control. There is a lesson to be learnt here.

No matter how hard you train there is always going to be the unexpected to deal with and how you deal with this can be the difference between finishing or a dreaded DNF. The trick is to try and train for the unexpected, and for your training to be specific for the planned race to minimise the factors that can catch you off guard.  

So if you’re training on loose rocky terrain, find a similar surface to train on.  The same applies for hills, running in the heat or the cold, in humidity or in the rain. Now it isn’t always going to be possible to mimic the heat of Badwater, or the altitude of Leadville, so you may have to get creative to simulate the expected conditions. So perhaps you could try running with an extra couple of layers of clothing to simulate the heat. Perhaps you could try breathing through a straw to simulate the breathing difficulties you can get at altitude!

Even when you have trained well and have prepared yourself for the expected conditions there are still a huge number of things that can happen that knock you off balance. These are issues such as breaking a shoe lace, suffering unexpected blister or even a Heart Rate Monitor failure when you’re used to training by your heart rate. 

Whatever it is that happens, how you respond to it can make or break your day. So take control of what you can control, and don’t sweat what you can’t. Wipe the spider’s web off you face, get the leeches off your legs and try and see the positives in what other people would see as obstacles. After all obstacles are what you see when you take your eyes off the goal.

Happy Running


“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing” – Abraham Lincoln


  1. This is so true. How you handle unexpected conditions or obstacles determines your result. I was just reading an article about Ryan Sandes training in an ice chamber to prepare for the Antarctica desert run. You can read the article here:

  2. Thank you for posting at my blog. Interesting blog you have.


  3. A great post, thanks! I've been so blah with a heel injury and just can get down but there are goals out there still to achieve and I gotta focus on that!!

  4. Thanks guys, there's no doubt the unexpected is always out their trying to trip you up, often literally.

    Jill, keep your spirits high, and perhaps one goal could be to maintain fitness whilst recovering from injury. I've alway had active rest prescribed to me with any injury to keep the blood flowing, which helps the body heal (excuse the pun) itself.

    All the best

  5. You...are...awesome! This blog is so great. I really hope more people read this and get what you're saying, because let me tell you, its important stuff.