I’ve noticed in every 100 mile or longer race that I’ve done that there is a definite period of mental negativity during the race. What I mean is that there is a point where your brain tells you that you should stop because of X. Then Y. Then every other excuse it can come up with. To me this is the hardest part of a longer ultramarathon. It used to show up towards mile 80 or so of the race when I was physically in pain. Lately though it’s been showing itself sooner. Both seem like logical times. You are tired and hurt by 80 miles. You still have a long ass way to go at 30 miles of a 100 mile race. I basically just call these times, my pity party.
I don’t really know how I get over these negative times other that to just keep going. I know some people have a mantra they recite but I’ve never done that. I guess the best thing for me is to KNOW that things will get better. I’ve been through this before and got through it and I WILL this time too. At my first 100 mile race I just listened to the advice I got from others which was basically the same thing. Don’t dwell on any pain you have because something else will take it’s place in 5 miles. Just accept that it hurts and then move on and ignore it. Sure enough they were right.
Your body can handle the effort! Seriously, even if you think it can’t, it surely can. Your mind is what will stop you. This has been proven by research. A person will say they are completely drained to the point of collapse and if enticed properly, they can go longer still. Even without research you should know this as common sense. Go run some long distance to the point you can barely shuffle along. Then add a pit bull chasing you. You will be sprinting, I guarantee you. You’re body can handle it. Ready your mind.
Something will surely go wrong during an ultramarathon. You’re out there for a day or more so there’s plenty of time for things to fall apart. The point is to plan for as many contingencies as you can so that you’re mind is already in what I call McGyver mode. Even if you don’t have what you need, there is likely another racer who will help out. That’s one thing our sport has going for it more than most. Volunteers are awesome at aid stations as well and willing to help.
Everyone can find the will to finish the race if they want to. And you should want to. Really, why the hell else are you signing up for a 100 mile race. If you just want to see the course, save yourself the $250 entry fee and go hike or run it yourself. Quitting unless truly injured I think cheats yourself. By the way, I’ve seen very few DNF’s from true injuries. Most people who have DNF’d will admit this, at least to themselves, if being honest.
One of the best things about ultramarathons is seeing how much more capable you are than you thought. I still to this day am amazed that I can run 100 miles in a day. It just blows my mind the human body can do that. Nothing about my body is special. Nothing. If you’ve been to an ultramarathon, you’ve seen that any body type can finish one. Not all are fast, but all can finish. Of course you need training but it isn’t as much as you think. If you can finish a marathon, you can finish an ultramarathon.
I guess the whole point of this is to say it’s worth the effort. It really is. Yes you get a belt buckle to remind you of the race. But, it’s reminding you of how awesome you felt. Not necessarily just when you crossed the finish line, but the memory of when you KNEW you were going to conquer the distance and the course. That might be mile 99 or 39 of the race, but there will be a moment of clarity that you just absolutely know nothing will stop you from finishing. And that moment is amazing. If you quit, I don’t see how you could get that feeling of accomplishment.
I love the feeling the whole week after a long ultra. Not the physical feeling, cause that kind of hurts. It’s the emotional wonderment of the feat you accomplished. “How the hell did I do that?” “Yes, I trained and planned, but still how did I do it?” “100 freaking miles!” “And the winner did it in like 18 hours, humans are amazing!” Those are the usual things I say to myself.
My new favorite song relates to this all somewhat.