Let’s get a couple things straight. I am not superhuman athlete, just a regular girl who grew up playing golf in Texas. I ran occasionally but never was serious about it. Back in November 2016, I agreed to run my very first ultramarathon. An ultramarathon is defined by any distance over a marathon, so more than 26.2 miles. I agreed to do this knowing that I had never run more than 6 miles in any one time. I agreed to do this from my mentor who, himself was already a super accomplished athlete. Did I mention this ultra is in Nepal, in the foothills of the Himalayas?
Here I am 9 months later, stronger & wiser. I thought I would jot down some thoughts I had during this journey. You may be thinking, that you have no desire to run a race like this and you may be right, but it’s not because your body can’t do it, given enough time to train, it can. It’s interesting what happens to our minds and bodies in these types of situations when they are pushed to the limit. Once you have committed to something and there is no possible way to back out of it (I can’t because I am taking 5 other people with me to Nepal to run this ultra, so quitting isn’t an option), it’s amazing how everything rises to the challenge.
Sounds harder than it is
Don’t get me wrong, an ultra is going to hard. But after 9 months of mentally & physically training, I am not stressed by how hard it is. The mental anguish of saying I am going to run 30 miles is manageable. Given enough time for something like this to sink it, you stop fighting it and embrace it.
Your body is stronger than you think
When I started, running more than 3 miles was a challenge. But guess what? It got easier. I have never been a fast runner nor do I want to break the land speed record, I just want to finish. That is all most people want when training for a run like this, is to finish. Once I started training and estimating how long 30 miles would take me, I was able to start stressing my body just enough each week to grow a little stronger. Soon, 5 miles became easy to do and doing a 10 mile train run became do-able, not easy, but manageable.
You will get hurt, so what?
I have fallen at least 20 times during trail runs, sometimes drawing blood. I have gotten plantar fasciitis and have banged up my feet so much after a run I could barely walk afterwards. So what? I got up and kept going. As long as your spirit stays strong, what you do to your body doesn’t matter (within reason). Also, it pays to see a good massage therapist.
If you get tired, walk
This is my favorite lesson. Ultras aren’t about speed but endurance. I don’t have to run a 9 minute mile (gasp!) for 3 hours, I just have to finish. So, while I have built up to a 3 hour run, I still walk. I walk up hills, I walk down hills, I walk when it’s flat and I walk when I am calorie loading i.e.eating. But I also run.
You can eat whatever you want (almost)
Another great lesson. Training has become like a part-time job for me. I work my traditional job in the morning and take a couple hours in the afternoon for my ultra training. Because I have committed 8-12 hours a week for this, I am a calorie burning machine. I realized, I can eat a lot more than I can when I am not training. I just learn to be smart about my meals (most of the time) and moderate my wine intake.
The mind wants to say no
Just consider the possibility of doing something just barely outside your current fitness level. It could be a 5k or a marathon. If you have not mentally prepared for it, naturally, your mind will say NO!!!! But give your mind a couple weeks to warm up to the idea. Start thinking about how you could exercise to reach this goal. Think about how your diet could change to accommodate the training. Consider how you will fit these changes into your schedule. Do you have friends or family who might want to do this with you? After you let this new (and initially scary) idea marinate for a week, is it still as scary? Once you formulate a plan and have support, the mind wants to say yes.
So, I still have a couple months to go and a lot of running to do before October 28 but give the support, the plan, the diet, the willpower and mental strength I can do it.
If you would love to train for and run a race in another country, you should check out my upcoming run or trekking trips. They are open to the novice and experienced. Plus, we see a lot of the local country and get an insider view of the culture. —-> Click here for more info.2