On The Run

Life Lessons From Running An Ultra | Part 2

Running is one of the greatest metaphors for life. As I’ve been reflecting on my Ultra-Trail journey, I’ve found so many parallels and critical lessons. In my last blog, I shared some of them including the importance of dreaming big, remembering that pain is temporary but regret is forever, that you get what you put in but also that it is critical to focus on what’s in your control when challenges arise. Also, that you’re more prepared for the unknown than you realise. But there are so many more lessons so today I’d like to continue where I left off. Enjoy!

“I dare you to train for a marathon, and not have it change your life.” – Susan Sidoriak

Break Up The Journey. 44km is long and in training every time I thought about the distance, I panicked. I knew the only way I could do it was to break it up into chunks. There are four 11km runs in 44km. Or even better – there are eight 5.5km in that distance. How many times do I run an easy 5.5 around the neighbourhood? When we studied the race material, I found another way to look at it – there are five aid stations in total. During the race, I celebrated each time we finished a 5.5km chunk and each arrival at an aid station. Breaking up the journey makes it so much more manageable. In life, set smaller goals as you work towards those big ones and celebrate each step – completing a module of a course or your first month at the gym.

Its Not Always Fun. Long-distance training is hard – there are many terrible runs and on top of that painful chafing, blisters, GI issues, parched skin and hair, muscle soreness and that prevalent feeling of fatigue. Although I loved my race, there were elements that were just not fun – I didn’t enjoy the long climb at 12km, the rocky and uneven sections, the grit on my face and I really hated the hill at the end! We went camping for my daughter’s tenth birthday this past weekend. Goodness, did I hate packing for that trip, driving there in torrential rain and setting up the tent in the dark! But what a beautiful adventure we had out in the Kgalagadi Desert. The not-so-fun bits in life are are only a small part of the bigger picture.

You Always Have One More Step In You. When I was faced with that first mammoth hill, there were moments I thought, I just can’t do this. But I worked my way up that hill, sometimes pushing down on my thighs with determination, other times holding my hips in despair or leaning over in protest. After this 4km climb, I never imagined I’d have the energy to run again. But I did. In fact, the next section was my strongest. Towards the end of the race, when I felt I had nothing left in me, again… I was able to keep putting one tired foot in front of the other. When you feel stuck in any life situation, know you always have more in you than you realise. Just focus on your next small step. No matter how small it is, it’s a step closer to your goal.

Take Time To Smell The Roses. There was a time in my training where everything felt difficult. I wasn’t enjoying myself at all. At that point, I had to change my attitude and start focusing on all the wonderful things I was missing out on as I was pouting on the trail – the fresh air, the flowers, the birds, the butterflies. During the race, it was exciting to see the pops of beauty in the bush and even as I struggled, I continued to be struck by the beauty of the mountains, the diverse flora including the gorgeous protea and the vast expanse of orange and pink heather. 9+ hours is a long time to be out on a trail. Had I focused on how hard it was, I would have missed all the beauty around me. In life, if you focus on the misery, you’ll miss all its beautiful moments.

Visualise the Victory. During my toughest moments in training, I visualised crossing the Finish Line, the feelings I’d have, the amazing celebrations, the photos, the #MedalMonday, the gluten-free cake from the Woolworths Café, the holiday we had booked after the race. And during the race, I visualised the same especially when things were getting tough. Again, this visualisation doesn’t just apply to a race but to life goals too. When you’re having those low moments and even questioning whether it’s worth all the work, it really helps to think about the end. How will you feel when you accomplish your goal? What will it mean for you? What joy will it bring?

Celebrate Yourself! I’ve been so humbled by all the amazing comments I’ve received from friends and strangers alike. But there have been the odd comments questioning the legitimacy of my ultra – indeed, whether 44km can even be considered an ultra! There will always be people who try to pull you down or make your victory seem “less than”. That’s why it’s so important that we learn to celebrate ourselves. To celebrate my ultra, I carried a big Botswana flag across the finish line. Carrying a flag shouldn’t just be reserved for those who finish first – if that’s how you want to celebrate, do it! After that, I celebrated with several cappuccinos, good food, a couple of cocktails as well as an amazing holiday in Port Elizabeth. Very often, only you know the work that went into achieving a goal. This is YOUR victory. Own it. Celebrate YOU.

That’s it my friends – some of my key life lessons from running an Ultra-Trail! I’ve started running again this week and although it has been tough to get back into it, I’m channelling these lessons – taking it one step at a time, focusing on enjoying this new chapter and celebrating the small wins. But before I go, let me ask – do you break up your journey? Do you visualise the victory when tackling tough challenges? Do you take time to celebrate yourself?

Excited to be linking up with My First 5K and MoreRunning With AttitudeRun Laugh Eat PieRuns with Pugs, and Zenaida for FIT FIVE FRIDAY! 

23 thoughts on “Life Lessons From Running An Ultra | Part 2

  1. Ha ha. I’m still celebrated from a marathon in Nov 2019. Can’t believe I actually did it!

    Yours is even more amazing.

    Kudos to you. Your hard work paid off.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I actually love that you said sometimes it’s not fun. It’s so true! There are runners who say every run is a good one, and I know what they mean, but the truth is, there are absolutely runs that suck. It’s good to be honest!

    Wow, I’m really stunned at people who question your accomplishment. That’s always sad, when someone has to make themselves feel good by tearing other people down.

    Yes, I often do visualize finish lines when training! I think it’s empowering.

    Congrats again — not only on your race, but the life lessons you’ve learned from it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Some runs are just plain awful!! I definitely think they help to build us, but still not fun!

      There are some people who love bringing others down and very often it’s because of some insecurities they have. I’m so glad I’m not one of them and I actually feel sorry for those who are like that.

      Thank you Judy as always!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. You are right it is not always fun. One of the reasons why I have never run a full is bc I don’t want to stop loving running or have it feel like a chore. I agree that you get out of it what you put into it! Congrats again-you should celebrate yourself

    Liked by 1 person

  4. These are all great life lessons- it’s really amazing what running can teach us. I’m sure your life is changed forever from running that race! I’m imagining you putting up the tent in the dark on that camping trip and thinking “If I ran an ultramarathon, i can definitely do this!”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I didn’t just run an ultra, but all your lessons rang true after my most recent challenging trail race! There are so many rewards for pushing ourselves to do something difficult. I am sure you’ve been carrying all that goodness forward in your everyday life! What a wonderful experience and thank you for sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Just having run an ultra myself, I can relate to every single one of your points, both in this post and your part 1 post.
    I especially liked the one “pain is temporary, regret is forever” in your first post. I used last Sunday!
    When the pain hits hard, we really need to remind ourselves that it will pass. As soon as we have crossed the finish line, all the pain will be forgotten (well, at least after the soreness is gone, too!).

    And I broke my ultra up in chunks, too. For me, they were 4 x 14km. So much more manageable!

    Looking forward to your new endeavours, Shathiso. I’m sure you have something up your sleeve already.

    Liked by 1 person

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