Running your first Ultra is a big deal. Most people spend months in preparation once they finally decide to run an ultra-marathon. Then there are those who start running ultras without deliberation. Read on to learn how Alex inadvertently ran his first ultra.
5am. The crisp cold had a weight to it, and I definitely had more weight from the Christmas feast I had eaten 2 days ago. I was off to run the Winter Cross Ultra 50k.
On 2 weeks notice… why? I was in a bit of a rut.
Six months prior I had attended a Potential Royal Marines Course. This was with hopes of starting training with the legendary Commando’s. Unfortunately, I had come away with a bad result and spent the next few months in a fog of self-doubt.
After some introspection, I came to the conclusion that I needed to prove to myself that I had the mentality to endure hard physical challenges. My decision was that a 50km run would show me just what I am capable of. Let the Spartan assault on self-doubt begin!
- Tip: Harness times of difficulty. When you find yourself going through mental difficulties, look at it as an opportunity for growth. Chances are that you are underestimating yourself and the only way to find out is to embrace challenge.
Find Your Own “Why” for Running an Ultra
The race directors – keen to throw us to the slaughter – had 190 of us crammed in like cattle at the start line. The sunshine taking a peek from behind the hills. The air with its menacing crisp kept me alert. What a morning for running!
There is a simplicity to Ultra Marathons that is appealing. Any runner will tell you this. There’s a start, there’s a finish and only thing that will get you between those points are your own two feet, and more importantly, your mind.
Completing an Ultra is simple: Just don’t quit. There are no excuses. No grey areas. You either make it or you don’t. In fact, it is a great test in humility. It allows you to get to know your own capabilities.
My breaking point was an unwritten answer that I was keen to put into words, an answer that maybe only runners get the strange motivation to know. But I was curious, and It founded my fiery why of fuel in my motivation tank. What are the depths of my determination and where do they end?
- Tip: Have a potent why that is driving you. This could be for a loved one, for charity, or for even more personal reasons. We all have hidden demons that need to be answered at times!
Find Mental Toughness during Defining Moments
During an Ultra, just as in life, defining moments will come as difficult questions – Will you answer?
There are defining moments in life. Moments when you decide how you’d like to remember yourself. We float through our time on Earth missing these snapshots to treasure. I couldn’t give up an answer to my questions in favour of a safe passage to the finish…
I was bouncing along at a steady pace. 22km in, and I saw what looked like a daunting steep section. I’d say it was roughly 3km of steep, slippery incline. Like any other runner there: My heart sank a little. But this grotesque Giant was testing me with questions that I could not leave unanswered. Could I run it? Could I still complete the rest of the race on tired legs? Could I avoid following the crowd and walking it?
You will find moments where you can open your mind to the questions or shut the door.
- Tip: Find those times when you can decide to listen to comfort or growth! This is a huge advantage that carries over into regular life. You know you’ll go when others won’t. Lead from the front.
Should You Run an Ultra-Marathon?
You now have some insight into running an Ultra. Hopefully, you will also feel more informed on how these races can improve your mindset for everyday life!
Here are some bonus tips that you could consider for your race:
- Have a buddy to help you at the checkpoints of the race – My Dad was great, he waited at each checkpoint with fuel and much-needed liquids.
- Pace yourself – If you are starting with 50km, then that is roughly 6 hours of running to come the middle of the pack.
- These races aren’t all about winning(unless you’ve specifically trained to win), so take the wins
from different areas: Development of your character, a new experience, gorgeous sightseeing, and looks great on the CV!
- Try not to use music to get you through the race! This is a tough one. But if you give yourself the time to hear the chatter in your head, you will definitely gain more insight into who you are. Thanks for reading! My name is Alex, and I like to use both the mind and the body to seek out our potential as Humans.