I recently ran the White River 50 Mile Ultra Marathon. That race is one of the ultimate tests of mental, emotional and physical endurance.
Set in the shadows of Mt. Rainier, this race goes up and down two mountains with a total elevation gain of 8,700 feet and loss of 8,700 feet.
It was not only the longest race I had ever done, but also the steepest and most challenging, in all aspects. After doing 5 Ironman Triathlons in just over 25 months, I thought I might be ready for something different.
Here are 5 lessons I learned from running 50 miles:
Lesson 1 – Commit First
Don’t figure out all the details before you decide to do something. Doing that is the surest way to make sure you never take action.
I’ve seen it happen to so many people. They get analysis paralysis. I can tell you from personal and professional experience: nothing is more crippling to your overall well being than staying stuck in a state of indecision. Getting through the other side of a decision always feels amazing, even if you made the wrong decision.
When Jeff Latham told me he was going to sign up for this 50 mile race, I didn’t try and come up with an exact plan or worry about how I would train for west coast mountain running while living in the east coast flatlands. I decided to commit and figure the rest out later.
Lesson 2 – Get Help from People Who Have Done What You Want to Do
Look, you gotta put in the work to do anything great – but that does not mean you should go through the same trial and error process that everyone else has gone through.
Get advice or coaching from the best people that have done it before. As soon as I decided to do the race I contacted Charlie Engle who I met earlier in the year. He is one of the most accomplished ultra-marathon runners in the world. He told me different ways to prepare and train for the race. One of the key points he made was to practice downhill running. He said he used to train running hard downhill as that puts more force on your body and that was how he used to get ahead in races.
He gave me a ton of other useful advice as well, but I think the most important takeaway is:
No matter what you are trying to accomplish, study the most successful people who have done it.
Lesson 3 – Show Up Every Day
The coolest thing about success is that it really is not that hard and anyone can do it. Most people just quit.
The biggest thing you can do to ensure your success in anything is show up every day with a great attitude and work hard. You can’t fake ultra marathon preparation. It’s not something you can do once or twice a week, or even a few times a week. You have to put in the work each day.
Are you going to be the type of person that commits to something, but then does not take action?
Or the type of person that gives up too easily?
One of the things I love about ultra endurance events is they crystallize this point: the rewards go to those who have the discipline and grit to keep showing up and putting in the work.
Ten people signed up to do this race in our group. Six actually followed through with the training to make it to the starting line. Five finished.
The reality of most things in life is that if you are willing to do the work consistently for long enough, you can accomplish anything you want to do. Most people just are not willing to put in the work.
Lesson 4 – Focus on the Present
Ultra marathons are tough. So is life some times. You know what makes them tougher?
Thinking about the future instead of dealing with the issue of the moment.
You can’t worry about mile 50 when you are on mile 12. You gotta worry about the mile you are running now. Part of what got me through the race was staying focused on the moment instead of worrying about how much of the race was ahead.
The same goes for life.
You simply operate at a much higher level when you are narrowly focused on the moment.
Lesson 5 – Realize That Pain is Temporary
Pain is temporary. It is so true.
I felt terrible on the second half of the race going up the second mountain for 8 miles. The end of the race was very painful as well. What made it bearable was realizing that in a day I would barely remember the pain, but the pride of accomplishment would live with me forever.
I could barely move after crossing the finish line. I was sore for a day or two after, but soon after I was completely back to normal.
Pain does not last. Neither do setbacks. The only way they last is if you let them infect your mindset.
What’s Your Next Challenge?
I learned a ton from doing this race. It was a challenge – perhaps even more difficult than the Ironman races I have done.
You learn a lot when you do something like this. The benefits go far beyond being able to complete a race. When you complete challenges like this, it helps you develop discipline and grit. It helps you develop the ability to do new things and conquer difficult challenges, so it spills over into other areas of life. If you can complete the challenges of an ultra endurance event, you can conquer challenges in business and personal areas too.
So if you have the opportunity to take on a new challenge that will require you to consistently prepare physically, mentally and emotionally, jump on it. I know for certain that doing Ironman races, and most recently this 50-mile race, has made me a better real estate agent, coach, businessman, father and husband.
Seek out challenges that scare you a little, then jump in and do them. You will be surprised at how they change you.