Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The importance of your mindset in Ultramarathon Success


2011 was a big year for me in terms of my running, and it had some great highs and pitiful lows.  Only now, a few months on have I managed to detach myself from the emotional involvement to get a rational view on what I did right and what didn’t go so well.

The highs for the year were my 11:41 at TNF, and starting my 1400km multiday run across the Nullarbor.  The lows for the year were the DNF at GNW and having to pull up half way across the Nullarbor. 


So what was the difference between these highs and lows, and what can I do in future to get more highs and eliminate the lows.

Looking back at TNF100, it was a hugely enjoyable event from arriving in Sydney, and hitching a lift with my running buddy Andre Blumberg (of the Hong Kong 4 in 4 challenge) all the way through to the presentation where I was awarded a first aid kit because of my 3 falls along the way.  I met up with a great many friends new and old, and a lot of supporters of my 33 Marathons run.  I was surrounded with positivity and encouragement, and made to feel that what I was attempting was something special.  I carried this wave of emotion with me throughout the weekend, and it kept pushing me along through the inevitable tough times you get during a 100km.

The start of my 33 Marathons was similar. Meeting up with the great guys at the Kalgoorlie visitor’s centre and being treated like a Rock star, being cheered on by the kids at the local primary school, and having the Channel 9 TV cameras following me for the first few kms.  All this was hugely empowering, and everyone around me was unified in their support of the challenge. Then to see the supportive comments online, and to have guys like Grant Wholey drive out into the middle of nowhere to run with me was just the best feeling ever.

6 days later and I’m suffering physically, but more so mentally.  I had plenty of time to think about what was going to happen after the event, and for me that wasn’t a positive experience.  I won’t go into details, but after having devoted the previous 18 months to the event, the financial situation at home was very bad, and I knew that on my return I was have to switch my focus away from running. Not only that, all those comments from  people close to me who (with the intention of caring for me and having my welfare at heart) had expressed their concerns about the whole venture, with a general negative viewpoint, were starting to fill my mind.  So on the morning after having covered 640kms, and felling pretty sore, the decision to stop was taken when I wasn’t in a balanced emotional state. The euphoria of the days earlier had been swept under the carpet, and all I could think of was why I shouldn’t be there.

A similar situation happened at GNW, while I was pretty badly dehydrated, those same thoughts were streaming through my mind, and the decision was made with a general negative mindset.

So the lesson I have taken from this and it is something I’ve noticed in short training runs too, is that you have to be congruently focused on your goals with a positive mindset to hit the target. Any negative thoughts can lurk in the background waiting to trip you up, and all you have to do is take your eyes of the prize for a brief moment for those demons to take hold. 

While physical preparation is obviously essential, a positive mindset and supportive environment is equally important. 

So if you’re planning a race keep clear of those negative people who drain your energy, and seek out those who encourage and motivate you.  


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Run Happy 
Andy 

“Keep Away from people who belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you too can become great” – Mark Twain