Saturday, February 26, 2011

Find yourself whilst running an ultra

It’s funny that since my last post when I covered getting back on track with my training and the need to get out of my comfort zone, I have found myself in a period of disruption which made that incredibly difficult. I haven’t posted for a while as I have just moved house, and have also been through the unnecessarily challenging task of getting a reliable internet connection. This period of change has made it near impossible to maintain the normal training routine.

The major training plus of the move has been that it was an incredibly intense cross training session for a couple of days. To be honest after 2 days of hauling boxes, and furniture I felt a lot worse than after running 100miles! The only difference is that in a 100 I would stop to eat regularly and make sure I was on top of my hydration, I just didn’t have the time or inclination whilst moving.

So now it is time to get back into the habit, and that is exactly how effective training should be. A routine or habit, with structure to make sure that you are progressing your performance. Fortunately for me, I shall shortly be performing the first baseline study that I am doing with the University of the Sunshine Coast as part of my preparation for my 33 marathons run later this year.  For me, this formal external monitoring is a great motivator, as is being committed to the charities and those who are sponsoring me. 

People tend to be internally or externally motivated, and typically in a sport such as ultramarathon running, participants are internally motivated. This is apparent by the strong drive needed to put in the many hours of training to even get to the start line. This is why some people can stick to a diet independently and others need someone else checking on their progress.

So to be successful in this sport it can help to know which way you are mentally wired. When you consider this in association with your “why” of ultrarunning it can become crucial in managing your expectations for your goals. For example, if you are externally motivated and you have a goal to run a sub 24 hour 100 miler then it would be wise to have a personal trainer, or at least a friend to be accountable to for each mini goal in your training, as you may spend more time justifying excuses rather than getting the job done. Conversely, if you are internally driven, then you will need to be careful that you are not too rigid in your preparations, and choose not to listen to your body.

This principle applies during your event too. The internally motivated will push through with little input from others, while the externally driven could need a kick in the backside from their support crew!
Support crews will happily do it for free!

Without doubt running ultras is more mental than physical, and you only learn the mental side by putting on your shorts and going out to “find yourself” for a few hours!

Run Happy!

"If you think you can or think you can't, you're probably right" -  Henry Ford


  1. Agreed Andy. I too am intrigued about the mental aspects and the "why" of ultras, and enjoy reading others perspectives. I'm internally driven and at peace w/ my own company out there which is just as well : )

    All the best w/ the "33".

    Andrew H.

  2. Haha! Andy, I don't know, for me it would be more than a few hours. Very inspirational. I can't imagine running that long.

  3. I'm definitely driven by the inner me and seem to do better on my own out there.

  4. Agreed with the others ... I am definitely internally motivated, and take full responsibility for my highs and lows when it comes to achievement. With an external locus of control you give away your power and responsibility to others .. might as well be a puppet. Agreed, we would all love a personal trainer to be kicking our butts all the way and sculpting us to perfection. As well, a dietitian to design and create the perfect balance of nutritional intake. But, at the end of the day, when we cross that line .. be it after 5km or 150km .. we know that WE did it, and we can do it all again, and WE know where we can improve and where we're doing ok. Nothing can beat that sense of achievement :)

  5. Thanks for the comments. I think that while in this sport we all have to have a degree of internal drive, it is important to also be open minded to the viewpoints of "outsiders" as we don't always think straight when we've been running all day and night! Of course just because you listen to their comments, there is only one person who decides what we do and that's you - just ask the partner of any ultrarunner :)

  6. So true, the mental side of ultrarunning can't be overstated. I can feeling incredibly good physically but if my mind's not fully into it, my day will end early.
    Excellent point on knowing yourself and what motivates you.

  7. I'm ready for the mental test. Just can't get myself fit enough for the physical test. I will, but I'm finding it really hard with a lot of travel. Though I have moved a few times, so maybe I'm closer physically than I think ;)

  8. I'm definitely internally motivated. Everything I do related to running is all done on my own part. I've never had a trainer, a mentor, or partner. Though a partner might be nice. haha

    That's one of my favorite quotes there by the way :)