As I am set to embark on my longest run ever: 340 or so miles from the Santa Monica Pier to the “Welcome to Las Vegas Sign” as a member of the Solo edition of The Speed Project, you must be curious how I arrived at this point. You must be curious what motivates me to go longer than ever before and seek out challenges that are not the standard 100 miler. Here are some of my thoughts of what has been my secret of sorts.
The first part of this is I love adventure.
Running for me is an excuse, a mode of exploration in a controlled and acceptable activity. It allows me to be active, exercise and stoke my curiosity. I can remember playing in the woods as a kid growing-up and those days of running around just letting your imagination run wild are still feelings and experiences I strive for. So as I developed more in competitive, organized running with cross-country and track and field, the process of going out for a run was “my time” set-aside to just take a break out of the day and just experience the world through my own means of human-powered movement. It also allowed me to connect with others. All of us that do run share this common-bond, something almost unspoken. If you run, you just know. I think what it is has to do with the “Why”.
So when I am out running really long distances, I love the challenges it brings, but also the sense of adventure doing an activity I have grown to love over the years. Part of my success is embracing the experience in its entirety. Yes, running really, really, really far is not always rainbows and butterflies. There are moments of struggle and pain. But through the tough times, great times are just another step away. That learning of optimism is something that running really stinking far teaches you. It teaches the patience of acceptance and the belief in optimism. It takes time to learn this but once you do, there is no turning back.
My Second secret is connection vs disassociation.
What I mean by this is I have trained myself over time throughout the years to be strong mentally. The balance in my life has been that running has been a pillar of importance but not the singular focal point. This balancing act of training with the rest of the demands on my time and schedule means often, I train when I do not feel my best. That has taught me to focus on the task at hand, of running while blocking-out the fatigue etc. I am not trying to say, run yourself into the ground, but rather listen to your body, listen to your mind. That is where the connection comes into play. The disassociation comes into the little voices telling you no or making excuses. This mental approach has allowed me to look at distance as just a number, and something I can reach if I just approach it methodically and systematically. How do you break down 340 miles? In bite sizes pieces of course. Remember, connection–staying in the moment, focusing on the next check-point, the next 15 minutes, the next lamp post or tree, is a way to break down the sheer magnitude of what you are trying to accomplish. I disassociate from worrying about the sheet magnitude of the distance of 340 miles and know that if I keep plugging away, eventually that number of miles left will reach 0. We focus so much on the physical-side that truly having a sharp mind, can in turn elevate your physical abilities, especially when going for really long distances.
The Third “secret” is there is no secret.
Yes, you heard it here. How to do this is already out there. It is all the cliche things that you think of . Consistent training. Focus on taking care of your body and mind. Strength-train. Eat Healthy, prepare, research, learn from others, and have fun both in the process and in the race experience. The truth is, running really far should be re-phrased to moving really far. Much of what we do is run/walk on repeat to accomplish those distance goals. It takes hard work in preparation but also an acceptance and confidence that you “CAN” do it. It is scary because the longer you go, the more that can go wrong and will go wrong. But if you learn anything from the journey, it is that as humans, we are much more capable than you ever imagined. Resiliency and resourcefulness are key terms here.
Let’s see what happens. Bring on TSP!