In this article:
- lessons learned from my first ultra-marathon, the Children of the Cane 100 mile Race by W. Higgins Adventure and Events
- attitudes that helped me finish
- how this applies to life in general
1. I don’t have to do this, I get to do this.
I took this attitude going into the start and returned to it any time I felt self-pity creeping into my psyche. Between mile 72 and 85 was kind of like a dark night of the soul. The desire to quit came strongly. I returned to this mantra.
This worked for me, but it also happens to be a true statement. These challenges we choose to pursue are all optional. I’m privileged to live in a place where all my survival needs are met. I have a healthy body and a sound mind.
(Ok, sound mind is questionable for anyone who chooses to run 100 mile for recreational purposes.)
The point is that I have these capabilities and many people don’t. And many of the aspects of a good life, such as optimal health, are things that I didn’t necessarily earn. I’ve been given good health. I’m just responsible for maintaining it.
2. Just do the next right thing.
I first heard this advice when I was going through a low spot in life. I was struggling to recover from an illness and trying to find a way to live “life on life’s terms”. This advice simplified life for me. I still use it when life seems overwhelming.
“What’s the next right thing?”, I would ask myself. “Just keep moving forward,” was the answer. During the race, I told myself many times, “Okay, just run this next minute. Then see how you feel.”
3. It’s all good mental practice.
I got this idea from Travis Macy’s book, The Ultra Mindset. It means that when things don’t go the way that I want them to, it is an opportunity to develop mental toughness by pushing ahead anyway.
I had two times in this race where this mindset was extremely helpful.
Within the first 5 miles, I took a wrong turn because I failed to see the flags marking the course. This ended up adding about an extra mile or so to my race. Oh well, it’s all good mental practice.
Later at about mile 55, I took a wrong turn onto a dead end trail and had to back track. This added nearly a mile to my race. It’s all good mental practice.
4. Rely on others who have more experience for guidance.
“Self reliance was good, as far as it went. But it didn’t go far enough.”
No one reaches their full potential without learning from others. In the ultra-marathon race experience, I relied on my friend Patrick Doring for guidance. He joined me at mile 60 and paced me through until the end.
He helped me find ways to keep moving forward at a decent pace when I felt it was too painful to continue. His alertness and clarity of mind at mile 80 kept me from being sprayed by a skunk on top of the Mississippi River levee.
And while my legs were too tired and uncoordinated to follow his advice of trying to keep moving forward while pissing off the side of the levee, I would not have finished the race without his guidance.
5. Every action I take has more consequences than I can begin to comprehend.
As I was leaving the 62 mile aid station, my better half Brooke said something I couldn’t forget. “You’re my hero.”
That statement rang in my head over and over when I wanted to quit. I wanted to live up to that role she had given me. She didn’t know how much that meant.
It also taught me that just having the audacity to try something great can inspire people. Win, lose, or draw, when we face our own fears, it’s like we give other people the inspiration and the impetus to face theirs.
Here is the video as I crossed the finish line. It’s not slow motion, that’s just how slow I was running at the end.
Nick Ortego is a health coach specializing in biohacking for runners. He integrates modern methods with the ancient wisdom of yoga to help runners get the most out of every aspect of life. He is the owner of N 2 Action, a wellness studio in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, offering personal training, health coaching, yoga, and fascial stretch therapy.
Also find more on the Nick Ortego Fitness YouTube Channel
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