Since the onset of the pandemic, I have often joked about ultra runners being more prepared than the normal American. The funny thing about jokes is that there is always a morsel of truth hidden in them. Now seems like a good time to elaborate.
- Ultra runners have been holding dress rehearsal for social distancing and lock downs our entire ultra careers. Most of us prefer to run alone, as far away from people as we can get. Those of us that enjoy running with others are still OK going solo. You’ll find us on a trail as deep into nature as we can get. Some of us have complained about not having races to run. Most of us have found other ways to stay active and motivated in the mean time. All of us are sad that we can’t race, because races are the ONE place we enjoy being around other people!
- In order to be successful in ultra marathons, we must become comfortable being uncomfortable. A good part of a successful ultra marathoner’s training is spent on developing mental toughness – training our minds to will ourselves to continue when we otherwise feel that we can’t. We have experienced the highs and lows of the ultra marathon and understand that pain now doesn’t mean pain forever. The flip side of that coin is that we know that things can be going great and go South VERY quickly. The mental training we have done and our experience in racing ultras has prepared us to deal with the discomfort that a pandemic causes with it’s complete disruption of our lives.
- Ultra marathoners understand that anything worthwhile takes time and effort. Ultra marathons DO NOT fit in with our society of instant gratification. We don’t wake up one day and say, “I think I’ll run a 100 miler this weekend.” We train for months – many of us working toward longer distances for years – knowing that spending time and effort in preparation will get us to the finish line. We understand that this pandemic is like a 100 miler. It’s going to get worse before it gets better. It’s going to hurt like hell. We will ride a roller coaster of highs and lows, but with every low there will be another high. We won’t give up. We can’t give up. We will keep working toward the goal of things being back to “normal” again.
- We accept things as they are, not as we want them to be – the ultra marathon gives you no other choice. When you find yourself at mile 80 on top of a mountain with shredded quads – NO ONE IS COMING TO RESCUE YOU. We know that we have to get ourselves down the mountain on our own two feet, and no amount of whining and throwing tantrums will change that fact. Personally, I accepted in March that this would be at least an 18 month – 2 year ordeal (HOPEFULLY!!). Accepting that reality has helped me deal with ongoing anxiety about what may or may not happen. We just have to hang in there, put our heads down and grind this out….like a long mountain climb.
- (Edited after original post) Thanks to Edie for pointing this one out: Ultra runners are masters at pivoting when things aren’t going to plan. Nothing goes as planned in an ultra….ever. If you can’t adjust on the fly without total emotional upheaval, then you won’t finish. Even worse, you could be setting yourself up for serious trouble.