Life is an ultra trail marathon
We have all heard, ‘Patience is a Virtue’ and ‘Life is not a sprint’, and nor generally, will your meaningful goals be achieved overnight either. Your personal success, in whatever terms you hold yourself accountable, goes well beyond a sprint or even a marathon.
Life is an Ultra Trail Marathon – it competes across varied terrain, constantly changing gradients, punishing altitude changes and erratic environmental factors aplenty. As humans we have the most magnificent combination of awesome and complex physique complimented with the most intelligent brain of any creature. Achievement at any level you desire IS within reach of all of us, yet so few ever set out to test themselves to see if their aspiring goals are attainable. The critical word in the last sentence is Desire.
The risk is of never starting, rather than of failing. Fail, get up, move forward, try again. The magnificent words of Dean Karnazes spring to mind ‘Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never ever give up’. I would add one solitary piece of further advice to this – continuous re-valuation along your route with clarity of purpose towards your Vision will ensure your plan remains on course.
Our success lies well beyond a marathon rather than at the end of a sprint. Life is an Ultra Trail Run and they only start after a marathon! I know what it takes to run many Ultra Trail Marathons – having run 107 miles non stop over 25 long and freezing hours and also the extreme of running across the Sahara in the Marathon Des Sables.
Whilst qualifying me for little, it allows me to draw upon my own experiences at first hand, and has given me the privilege to understand where ‘the bottom of my reserve tank’ truly is, with gratitude, and how you must anticipate and ride the bumps and pain along the way to achieve the pinnacle of your goal.
The pain? Oh yes there will be pain, you can be assured of that. It is your right of passage to access the places that others haven’t or won’t, don’t fear it, relish it, as few will experience the searing anguish of the journey coupled with the electrifying exultation of the defining moments of success along the way.
Two types of pain exist in my humble opinion
Firstly, the one which is frankly mildly inconvenient, such as toenails falling off (I lost 8 in the Sahara!), muscle cramps, bruises, scratches, chaffing in the most sensitive places (the worst of the worst!!) and blisters, and,
Secondly the type that will really screw you up such as dehydration, heat stroke, hypothermia etc for which every ounce of respect and caution is worthy of its dues.
Your role is to condition your mindset to recognise which is which and prepare religiously to minimise whilst accepting the inevitability of one and being acutely aware of the early warning signs of the other.
Plan every step of your life goals as you would an ultra-endurance event:
Preparation and becoming habitual.
Determination, focus & desire for self-improvement.
Fuel – mental & physical.
Support crew (nobody is self-made, everyone needs a team).
Equipment including torch to illuminate the path when darkness falls mentally and physically (and it will from time to time, of that you can be certain).
Map and compass to navigate your route.
Visualisation of your end goal – what actually is your finish goal – picture it, cherish it and don’t be afraid to evolve it along the way.
Set yourself mini-goals along the way – so in a 100 mile ultra-trail run:
Mile 1-10 calm the nerves, concentrate on the basics of pace and form then settle in for the long haul,
Mile 10-30 settle into a rhythm,
Mile 30-50 keep hydrated and balance food intake with supplements,
Mile 50-80 focus on the next mile at a time and navigation,
Mile 80-90 to break distance down into the next few hundred meters at a time – aim for the next fence line and/or contour on the map,
Mile 90+ hold your physical form together and keep a sense of rhythm
Mile 95+ try not to be sick on your own trainers!!!
Mile 98+ there mysteriously appears a new force that grows wings on your feet, lifts the soul and creates a liberation from all discomfort – the visualised goal of so many training sessions emerges oh so gradually, out of the shrouded mist and pitiless darkness into glorious technicolor.
Each step takes you closer to your Desires, no apologies necessary for graphic description because, hey, guess what, life is hard, that is the truth of it, if you want to convert your fantastic dreams into wonderful vivid reality, and you have to keep on going, grit teeth, suck it up, know your course, commit fully in the knowledge of your confidence and ability to rise, soar even, and smile – its better than being in an office!!
And what of the finish line of your ultra-marathon goal – it is not on The Mall, no 1000’s or 10,000’s cheering, no banners or fireworks, no glossy magazine photos or interviews from the media, but instead those glorious two flags in a nondescript but so beautiful field in the early hours of a dank morning, a welcome cup of tea awaiting after 10’s of hours/days/months or years on the move, and yet, the sound of silence fills the mind and soul, nothing penetrates the stillness of the quiet reflection and inner satisfaction of a personal target successfully achieved, the silence of the night air soothing your body and soul, muscles twitching in the calf’s and quads, thick mud caked on your legs, feet throbbing, stiffness defended, for now, and yet in that peaceful state, the quiet contemplation begins of the next target starting to raise its head delightfully in quivering anticipation of what we are supremely capable of. You define your celebration.
It was the peerless scholar of mastery, Michael Jordan who said ‘I demand from myself more than anyone else can humanly expect. I am competing with what I am capable of’. Amen brother.
If your mindset is positioned correctly and your every fibre is focused on the end game of your goal, then in the words of Viktor Frankl “Those who have a Why to live for, can bear almost any How’.
Adversity is life – you cannot influence everything, externalities will inevitable try to alter your course, however everything you encounter can be put into context with your vision and soon enough that realisation that there are no problems ‘in the way’, merely, ‘on the way’. Face your fears, Relish your Failures, Live your Dreams.