Sunday, February 28, 2010

What Produces Greatness Anyway?

Running tip: When taking a long run, don’t plan a route that goes by your house mid-run. That’s just asking to cut your run short. Plan your long runs so you’re very far away from your car and your home. That way, all you can do is run back (unless you want to humiliate yourself by calling someone for a ride home).

I was watching that documentary, “Running on the Sun” the other night about the Badwater 135 mile Ultra marathon. You know that race: the one where crazy people run in 120+ degree heat through the valley of death and up mountains. The one where there is a lot of puking and weaving from exhaustion. The one where you are DQ’d if you need to take an IV due to dehydration. The one where they run on the white line so their shoes don’t melt. The one where people get all their toenails removed beforehand so they don’t have to deal with the nuisance of black toenails that fall off in their beds at night and getting stuck in their sheets to be eaten later by the dog.

The one where you find yourself wondering how it is possible for human beings to go this distance, in this heat.

If it’s not enough that a healthy, 30 year old can do it, there is always the token 67 year old grandpa, or the guy with the prosthetic leg who crosses the finish line. It’s not necessarily the elite athlete who runs this race. It’s the teacher, the writer, the bagel delivery guy.

In light of the Olympics, this has gotten me thinking: what makes an endurance athlete? What are the common traits that these seemingly invincible souls possess? 'Cause I want them for myself. Can I get them at Walmart? I actually like Target better – can I get them there?

First off, we know it can’t be all about being in good physical shape. Certainly that’s a component, but it takes extreme brain power to reach these heights. Any of us who have run races know that in the hard times it’s the mind that tells the body what to do not the other way around. Without mental and spiritual strength, you can become dogshit really fast.

There are tons of lists out there about what characteristics these athletes have, but this is my blog and I know you’d rather hear what I think. So, in my humble opinion, these are some of the traits needed for greatness, Shut up and Run style:

  • Commitment: This means venturing out for a training run when it’s not convenient – when you have a runny nose, when the weather is windy, snowy or rainy, when you have work to do, when you just plain don’t feel like it. You have made a promise to yourself to achieve your goals. Don’t go letting yourself down.

  • Strategy: There has to be a plan in place. A goal, a training schedule. This will motivate you to keep your commitment to yourself. Make it manageable, yet challenging. Tailor it to you and your needs by mixing up various plans if need be.

  • Giving up your Fear of Failure: To do great things, you have to be willing to fail. It happens to all of us. “Failing” is different for everyone. To some it is DNF’ing or DNS’ing, to others it is not meeting a time goal. Whatever it is for you – don’t let that hold you back. We all have sucky training runs and disappointing races. If you run long enough, you will probably get injured at some point. Roll with it. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off. Move on. Strategize for your next race and commit to it.

  • The Willingness to Run Your Own Race: You’ve heard it and it’s true. There will always be someone stronger, faster, better. Don’t get caught up in what Suzy blogger or Jim runner is doing. Set your goals for yourself. Compete with yourself to exceed them.

  • The Ability to Sacrifice: We all know nothing great was ever achieved without great sacrifice. Understand from the get go that it will not be easy. That you will be in pain. That you will be tired. That you will feel burn out. That you will have self doubt. That doing long runs on Saturday means missing Friday night happy hours. That a run might replace a lunch date. Know that you will feel these things and that you will continue on regardless. Because that is the sacrifice you are willing to make. You committed to it and you are willing to sacrifice for it.

  • Being Hard On Yourself. I don’t mean this in a masochistic way, but I bet you that any Olympic or endurance athlete will tell you that in order to be great, in order to meet goals, you can’t let yourself off the hook. Naturally, there is a time and a place to back off, but as a general rule, when you are tired, you keep running. When you are in mile 20 of a race and you hate life a lot, you keep running. You do this because you made a promise to yourself and because sometimes you need make your ass do things it doesn’t want to do. Life is not meant to be a ride void of challenge.

Yeah, yeah we all can’t be at the level of athletism that these folks are, but we can give it our best effort. This is a list from one who is not too experienced, but from one who has had to push through distance and pain. I would venture to say that most of us have inklings of these traits. What would happen if they were in full force and guided us each day?

I wonder, what do you think it takes to go the distance? We can learn a lot from each other.

PS: Don't forget to see if you won the Yurbud giveaway!


Drinking: H20

39 comments:

  1. What gets me to go the distance is the feeling I get after wards. The feeling of that I can take on what ever comes my way in life. Be it good or bad, I can handle it. I enjoy 4 great things as workouts. Kettlebells, biking, swimming and running. That's not really in any particular order...but with each one, just knowing I will be able to experience "that" feeling again gets me to finish whatever my workout is.
    Knowing how I will feel gets me to run just that extra mile more than my last, bike another mile or two, swim just a few more laps or swing the kettlebell a few hundred more times!
    I am completely hooked on working out. I went from over 300lbs to doing the stuff I now do. That is enjoying life 120lbs lighter!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Funny, today I was wondering the same thing. And, how does it feel when you are actually there - representing your country with other world-class athletes.

    There are times that I vainly imagine that I am an Olympian. I think they need a new form of Olympics for us moms!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think you have a great list. That documentary looks awesome....just added it to my list at Netflix...thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  4. That's a good list, a very true list! It certainly takes commitment to achieve goals and with commitment come all the sacrifices ... athough having said that I've always been Queen of Juggling and manage to fit most things in :)

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks for a great post! Along with the ones already mentioned on your list I would add perseverance, determination, and confidence that you CAN do it!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Great post. Can't they make a vitamin with all that shit in it?

    ReplyDelete
  7. wow i love these. totally reasons i "go the distance". i think the biggest thing is the satisfaction i get knowing that i'm doing something for myself and pushing myself in ways that most people don't.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I love this!!
    I am starting training for my 2nd Half Marathon tomorrow and am going to print this out and hang it next to my training plan on my 'running board'...

    xoxo

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love knowing that it takes different focus for each individual athelete.
    Motivation, besting a time, private-time, recovery, reaching a goal, etc.
    So personal.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Great list; it's going on my wall of inspiration! Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
  11. What a great post! That documentary sounds so interesting I'm definitely going to check that out. And that running tip: So true for me- my apartment complex is just three loops so I'm always going right by my apartment.

    ReplyDelete
  12. To know that once I'm done with a marathon I get to have a few beers and a few pieces of that amazing cake we saw today :). Well, of course it's more than that, but that's all I can think of right now!

    Great to officially meet you and can't wait til we get together again!
    hugs, Jilly

    ReplyDelete
  13. Great post! Those Badwater folks are NUTS and I love it!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Good post. I’ve been following Badwater for years. I think the ability to put mind over matter into practice is a must for events as tough as that.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post. I did not know about that documentary. I'll have to check it out.

    I've always believed that you have to LOVE the "thing" more than anything else in order to achieve greatness at it, whether it's running, music, art, skiing, hockey or whatever. That's what gives you the will to stick with it through all of the challenges.

    I go the distance for my health, for the accomplishment and sometimes because I just don't want to fail (fear of failure can be a great motivator).

    ReplyDelete
  16. Awesome post. Thanks for the motivation to keep moving!

    ReplyDelete
  17. oh my lord, i want to watch that documentary !! i am reading born to run and just wrote a post about ultras and who the craziees are that do them...

    ReplyDelete
  18. Great Post. I think one of the main motivators for me is that feeling of crossing the finish line. That feeling of knowing how much work it took to beat your previous time by 15 minutes. To know that jutst because I am tired, that doesn;t mean there aren't a few more miles in me!

    ReplyDelete
  19. I think that's part of the beauty of this sport! Endurance athletes come in all shapes and sizes, and we share similar values/goals/challenges whether we're the "slacker" marathoners or hardcore Badwater runners!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I know three people who've done Badwater and there's a couple of things needed you didn't mention: creativity (one guy put a treadmill in his sauna for training. Clever!), support staff that understands you (one guy wanted to quit and his handler locked the van's doors and shouted "You're not thinking right!" The guy did finish.) and money (the average finisher spends $2500 just that weekend).

    ReplyDelete
  21. Sometimes, to get me to go the distance, I NEED my training partner. But also, a sense of hindsight. I used to not even be able to imagine running 2 miles, now I'm running 20. What's another 6.2, right?

    ReplyDelete
  22. All good, and I agree with you. I also think the ability to visualize is key. The top athletes do it, and I find it to be useful even in my humble run-my-own-race endeavors! I truly can see myself runing and and finishing that race, and that keeps me working, step-by-step to get there. I can see it! There is no option not to; I HAVE to get there! I also agree with loving what you are doing; if I hated running, I don't know that I would do it. It's hard some days, but I LOVE it.

    Also, the ability to ignore your bladder and keep on runnin....that seems key. :-P

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great post. I strive every day to uphold these characteristics, and it is a constant battle. At the end of the day I look at the guy in the mirror and am forced to account for the actions of the day. (or lack of)

    We are all Olympians, and at our own games we are the only competitor. Ultimately whether we get gold or not is dependant on how we answer the guy in the mirror.

    ReplyDelete
  24. Fantastic post! I needed to be reminded of some of these things so Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Such an absolutely amazing post...I'm going to print it out and tape it up on my wall, for reals. Thanks a million...we runners have each other, it's true...and sharing this kind of stuff is what makes running such a blast!!

    Thanks again!

    ReplyDelete
  26. #4 - I'll never be great, but everyone should practice #4 religiously.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I am loving your running tips- I absolutely use this one on my long runs- some days it is just too easy to stop early so don't give yourself the temptation

    ReplyDelete
  28. Honestly, I think a lot of the battle is mind over matter. I trained and ran my first marathon solo and I had a lot of time to think about my running and life in general. The training/running made me a more enjoyable person to be around. Doing it solo helped me to really understand what type of person I am, and what my thresholds were. I think Ghandi had it right when he said,

    "Whatever you do in life will be insignificant. But it's very important that you do it."

    ReplyDelete
  29. Great post! I think running is mostly mental. I often think about all the miles left in the run. True endurance runners can stay in the moment and find peace in what they are doing. They don't stress about what is up ahead.

    ReplyDelete
  30. wow you took the serious route today and it was amazing!! I loved this post

    ReplyDelete
  31. Thanks! Today, I sacrificed lunch and a nap to go run. And I felt great after that. :)
    You are inspiring!

    ReplyDelete
  32. Inspiring post!!! You're right on all of those points. I swear running is 90% mental and 10% physical. You have to push yourself, be (kinda) hard on yourself, and not let your thoughts of wanting to quit get in the way. By keeping your mind straight your body will follow.

    ReplyDelete
  33. a very smart and inspiring post. I'm with you on everything, especially on shopping at Target. :)

    ReplyDelete
  34. I love that running is "mine". I love that I am the only one who can put my right foot forward and then my left. I do have a tendency to get caught up with Suzy Runner and others...I have that competetive streak. But as I mature in my running, I use it as motivation for self-improvement. What motivates me to get out there: serenity.

    ReplyDelete
  35. i like your tips, esp the last one. sometimes the only thing you can do is suck it up and do it.

    ReplyDelete
  36. What a great, thought-provoking post. What makes an athlete ultra? I ponder. I think you have all the traits and potential.

    ReplyDelete
  37. It takes a lot. For me anyway. I need lots of motivation and encouragement. Somedays i just need someone to help me get the lead out of my ass. Its as simple as someone saying, "Nicole, GO RUN- you will feel better later" I appreciate that more than anything. Just about every single time I dont FEEL like running & i end up stumbling onto the treadmill or out the door, I'm glad i did it. :) Great post!

    ReplyDelete
  38. Great list.

    For me, it takes commitment and a goal. I'm very goal-driven and if I set a goal I'm then focused to achieve it. I'm contemplating running the 2010 chicago marathon with a goal in mind to run my fastest marathon yet. I'm also hard on myself and set high expectations. But, that is how I grow and learn
    Thanks again for the post

    ReplyDelete
  39. You know what, I could totally see myself trying something completely stupid like badwater. So, I'm not sure if that means that I have your greatness qualities or if I am just stuipd. probably the 2nd one....

    ReplyDelete