I hadn’t really noticed any major change in my personality since I started running ultramarathons, but as with most gradual things you don’t really notice the changes while you’re living through them. His comments were running through my head as I was running through the bush the other day and I reflected on the changes in my life since I started running long. It was then that I realised that my family and I have been, and to some degree are still, going through a really stressful patch. I shan’t bore you with the details, but if you look at a list of the top 10 most stressful things to do, we’ve ticked a lot of boxes!
Personally my approach to these has been very much one of acceptance, and moving on, rather than too much dwelling on the past and regrets. I believe that going out running for 2-3 hours has given me a perspective on things without an emotional fog to get in the way. Don’t get me wrong I’m no saint and not everything rolls off my back, but the small stuff is just that and the big stuff is there to be dealt with. Without the regular endorphin hit and the mental release of my training I could easily see myself suffering with a dose of depression. It’s well known that exercise is a prescribed treatment for depression and something you can get for free and it’s legal! The beauty is that it is as effective, if not more so, than prescribed drugs as a treatment.
I then thought about all the well known ultra runners, and interviews I have seen of them to see if there were any common personality traits. There isn’t a single one I could think of that you would describe as depressive or at the other end of the scale being hyperactive – simply put from an emotional perspective they are all (and excuse the pun) middle of the road with a positive outlook. I’m not saying they weren’t like this before they started running, but there certainly seems to be a pattern.
Middle of the road!
Maybe it is this balanced viewpoint that makes an ultrarunner understand that we are not running against each other, but instead against ourselves. We are trying to find our own boundaries so that we can then to stretch them a little further. And because ultras are such a personal challenge with no fixed performance rules from one person to the next, that as ultrarunners we are almost unique in the competitive sporting world that we gladly share all our knowledge, experience and tips. In fact we are usually eager to tell anyone who’ll listen anything that we find helps improve our performance so that we can stretch those boundaries a little further. The thing is these ideas may not work for everyone, but that doesn’t matter because we are all on the same team trying to beat our (often self imposed) limits.
At the end of the day we are all winners in our own ways, even if you DNF, just toeing the start line to an ultra is one heck of an achievement.
Congratulations to all of you who have!
Run Happy (endorphins included!)
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“You only ever grow as a human being if you are outside your comfort zone” – Percy Ceruttywww.ultrarunning.com.au