Written by Chase Parnell - https://chaseparnell.com

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“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.” -Mark Twain

Fear is in all of us. But it’s what we do with that fear that distinguishes us as humans. Twain hits on this idea of mastery of fear. This is a tall order. How do we master our fears? Just like how we master anything else … practice.

When I watched Kilian Jornet’s Matterhorn speed record video [click to watch] a few years ago, I was certain he was otherworldly, insane, a freak – a psychological anomaly – maybe he was born without the fear gland in his brain. Yet the more I consider what Kilian and others do, the more I believe that it was only by repetition, habitually choosing courage, and utilizing experiential confidence that allows them to not back down – to overcome the fear – to slay the dragon.

I am as scared as hell before a hundred. At the start of a hundred miler, we often stand around, using jokes and small-talk as coping mechanisms to battle the dread and fear that comes with running 100 miles (or really any distance for that matter). Every runner on that starting line has had to overcome some demons just to toe the line. This needs to be celebrated.

Personally, I fear literal death the most. I am totally aware that it is irrational. I know the odds are heavily in my favor that I’ll return home safely, yet the fear of that one in a million chance remains. I don’t want to die while running. I don’t want to slip off a rock face, get eaten by something higher on the food chain, get lost in the night, or have a freak heart-attack.  I think about these things before long solo training runs and races. I lay awake at night pondering what might happen to me, and then subsequently, my poor family. And I’m supposed to be some “elite level” ultra runner! Psssssht. I’m still a novice at courage. But I’m getting better.

If you are human, you are like me. So if we all have those little whispers of fear running through our minds, why do we plow on? Our human nature tells us to avoid danger – to avoid pursuits that implant fear and anxiety. I think we forge on because of the overcoming. It’s in the overcoming of adversity that soaks us with euphoric satisfaction. If you just finished your first 5k and you were scared that people were going to judge you because of your body, but you did it anyway, hell yeah! That’s an achievement to be proud of – you are now ready to step it up a notch – to gain a little more ground – to take another stab at the dragon. If you got spooked on your solo moonlight trail run and carried on anyways. That’s a victory. You can draw on that as the stakes rise.

So what can we do? This is the crux. This is hard. This will hurt. My fear manifests itself in anxiety. Sometimes, when I’m all alone in the mountains, and I begin to look around and contemplate all the ways things could go wrong, waves of nausea flood through my body. I get weak in knees and my self-preservation bells start singing like a boiling water.

I have to get down. Down. Down. Down. As fast as I can. I don’t want these feelings.

But you know what…SCREW THAT! I love it up there. I love the feeling of being alone in the world – away from social media, away from life pressures, soaking in the elements of a unique environment. It’s totally worth it and I refuse to let fear ruin it for me.

Exposure therapy. This is real and this is what I do. There’s no getting around it. If you truly have the desire to begin a journey towards mastery, you need to make incremental gains. But rest assured, you don’t need to do it all overnight! If you are deathly afraid of running alone in the woods at night, don’t start with a 4 hour night run on a remote trail in grizzly country. Instead, shoot for an early morning start when you know the sun will soon rise – perhaps on trail you know well with city lights in view. Remember: incremental gains.

When I’m on a summit and my fear is telling me to go down, I purposefully resist. What I started doing was bringing my lunch and forcing myself to eat it on the summit. To sit and ruminate in my discomfort and strive for a sense of calm. It has helped.

Whatever your fear, start chipping away at it.

The reward is worth it – it really is. Progression towards emotional maturity is a lifelong journey. I have improved a lot over the years but I am still far from where I want to be. I am not aiming for the fortitude of a Kilian Jornet or a Ueli Steck [click to watch] – I didn’t grow up in the mountains and have only been sojourning there for a handful of years now – but I am willing myself to improve. I don’t want to open another can of worms, but I also know this skill will transcend into other areas of my life: in my work, in my relationships, and in my quiet space. It’s a worthy pursuit.

So here’s to getting after it. Today’s the day to push your limits. To overcome. To challenge your inner demons.

Free the chains.

Written by Mark Cameron - https://markcameronrunner.wordpress.com

Rather than my usual race report I wanted to do something different with my blog, it still involves a race but from a different angle, linking it into work, I hope you like it as much as I enjoyed the process I will describe.

I work with processes (and people) in my day job, continuous improvement is my role, 2 key things I’ve learnt about processes

  1. Standardisation may result in a slower process, but also results in a more stable process, to do this you need to set upper and lower control limits and work within them, we are not robots and we rarely have standard inputs, so setting just one limit (a goal) does not work
  2. Measures can drive the wrong behaviours, productivity measured by speed can mean poor quality

I like to put what I talk about it theory into practice, sometimes at work this is hard as the people can be difficult to convince or pressures make us forget these basics, so this weekend I tried demonstrating these important points in a different way – through my running.

I love this African proverb, I truly believe in it which is why I enjoy long distance runs as I find myself running with others, not against others, but I still find it hard to ignore the word “fast”.

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This links back to the title of this blog, measures drive behaviours.  I find myself forever checking pace while running, and when i check pace i translate that into fast/slow (almost always just “fast”).  As a result of this my splits while running are all over the place, usually the classic positive split (start fast, burn out, finish slow), and over the last 12 months have resulted in quite a few injuries.

I’ve read a lot about the sub-conscious self, I knew I was doing wrong, I was gaining experience however not really improving, but I wasn’t acknowledging this and trying anything new, so recently I’ve decided to end my racing year which started with a bad injury and is in danger of ending similar, a little different.

Determined to move away from speed, I’ve dug out my heart rate monitor, turned off the pace/speed fields on my Garmin watch, and just run within certain heart rate zones.  My watch vibrates to tell me if I’m running too fast or slow, so I slow down or speed up, but I am never conscious of the speed.  I do know distance and total race time, but that’s it.

This weekend I put this to the test in a race, just a short local race (Chichester Half Marathon), running within the limits of heart rate zone 4 (apart from an uphill section where it went up, then the downhill I had to slow down to keep it low), not having a clue of my speed, and the result was, pretty much a perfect negative split, fresh enough at the end to sprint the final half kilometer, and a finishing time that was better than my lowest goal time.

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So I ran within limits, I slowed down, but I improved my process (the race) –  the theory worked for me, a super end to a very up and down year.  Maybe I need to demonstrate this a few more times before I can convince others (in and out of work) to try similar, not just to target performance within limits, but also to challenge current measures, behaviors, and thinking.

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Written by Apostolos Baranowski - https://medium.com

Definition: There is a fair amount of disagreement within the running community as to what distance constitutes an ultra marathon. Some say it’s anything over the standard marathon distance. (42km) Others insist that the race has to be a 24 hour all night affair. In my humble opinion, an ultra distance is 100km or anything over that.

It doesn’t matter how well rehearsed you are. How meticulously you trained and how seasoned a runner you may be. Although these attributes are unarguably essential, the one thing you cannot escape, is the fact that things can (and often do) go wrong. During a competition you’re constantly fighting the pain, the fatigue, your mind begging for you to stop and end the madness! Even the most detailed and well though out plans can falter. The reason for this is simple: There are just too many variables in the equation, so many unpredictable events that can occur. -as in life.

Ultra running is a pilgrimage where the journey starts within, you travel though many stages to ultimately discover your real self. It’s here that one finds out what they are made of.

As I persevere along the route there are times that all I want to do is throw in the towel and quit. I’m at the half way mark, It’s three in the morning and day has long since given way to night. The other runners have thinned out along the course and I find myself alone on a stretch of road, with five more kilometres to the next check point. I’m Hurting, joints are swollen, the pain has been with me for what seems an eternity, and it’s my only companion. With so much more distance left to cover and I’m at breaking point. Physically I have nothing left to give. My once proud strides now resemble the careless steps of a drunkard, Staggering to find his way back home. Breathing erratic at best, a cumbersome chore. I double up, hands on hips and come to an abrupt stop. Trying to straighten myself and restore some decorum, I look up into the dark sky, the clouds swimming in a sea of sorrow. It seems inevitable that my adventure will end here. I feel clinically dead.

Resurrection. In the darkest of places in which I find myself, the universe presents me with a unique opportunity. It’s here that I am given the choice to turn my darkest hour into my finest. I must dig deep, deeper than I’ve ever dug before. Substituting negative thought with positive, visualising my father and the sacrifices he made. I know that there is still something left in the tank, and I start to move forward. The pervious steps are in the past and no longer belong to me. — gone and none of my business. The next steps are yet to come so I needn’t worry about them. From now on I will only be as good as the next step I take!

With the finish line now in sight, I quicken my pace to embrace it like a long lost friend. It does not feel like I’ve reached a destination but rather a continuation of a journey. Everything that has happened in those hours of running was for a reason. The walls I encountered where not put there to stop me from finishing, they were put there to see how badly I wanted to finish. In life It really doesn’t matter how many walls you’ll find in front of you, know that you have the courage to smash them down. You just have too dig in deep and believe that there is aways going to be something left in the tank that’s going to propel you forward. Always!

Ultra lessons for a successful life.

There is alway light at the end of the tunnel, you just have to have the courage and belief to find it

Never give up. Understand the situation and adapt

Sometimes understanding why something is the way it is, is better than trying to change it

walls are there not to keep you from achieving your goals. Walls are there to see how badly you want to achieve those goals.

It’s in your darkest hour that you’ll have the opportunity to shine the most.

Don’t worry about the past because it no longer belongs to you. Don’t worry about the future because it has yet to come. Concentrate on the present.

There is no such thing as failure. Accept it, investigate it (learn from it) and move on

The only limitations are the ones we set up in our own minds.

Written by Ian Campbell - https://1ancampbell.wordpress.com

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As ultra runners we are truly obsessed with getting miles in as we focus on a target race. But of course we ultra runners need to run big miles and sometimes those big miles just need to be run at whatever pace you can do them in. But, you tempt yourself into that potentially ever declining circle of running at the same pace and getting slower and slower. What is required? A sharp injection of a different type of running that will freshen up and pimp your ride.

I am training for Comrades, yeah I’ve said it publicly now! There is a great deal of road running involved with this one, in fact all of it, you don’t say. I originally came from a road marathon background and then found ultras and the love of trails, so naturally I gravitated to running most of my miles off road. What’s wrong with that I hear you say? Well, if truth be told, that along with the steady ageing process, that I can’t do anything about, had made me a slower runner. I had neglected to do anything about it as my focus had been miles and having fun on the trails.

Like seeing a long lost first love of your life, I have rekindled a love of road running. There is simplicity in this form of running. You only need a limited amount of gear – running shoes, shorts and shirt, no backpacks, no head-torch, no compulsory gear and no trail shoes. To my surprise it’s like exploring again. In the same way that I found a love of trails and that ‘what’s round the corner’ surprise, I’ve come to enjoy and explore the environment and roads around where I live. True, I tend to only go out very early in the morning so the roads are empty of cars and people – but it’s truly reawakened my view of road running.

I’m back with a vengeance. I am running lots of road miles, seeking out hills and long climbs, pounding down hills trashing my quads and churning out interval sessions. I’m having a lot of fun just running on road and I’ve got faster. And do you know what I threw in the other day to liven it all up? – a trail run – and it just felt truly wonderful exploring something that I had not seen for quite a while.

Do something different with your running, enter a different type of race, train somewhere different, throw in a new type of session – just remember you can always go back to what you love but you might find something else that you love just as much. Happy running!

All images copyright – Ian Campbell Photography

Written by William Robertson - http://williamrobertson281285.blogspot.co.uk

I don't run to be like anyone else. I run to be myself and to share the me that I've found through these long runs and meditation. To explain it easier lets talk footballers ... Ibrahimovic didn't become Zlatan by copying Ronaldo, he became his first name by acting like his first name. So people like to model themselves on others which is good and it's great to have idols but never lose yourself in it. I have my own idols and inspiration too when it comes to my life and what I've learned along with my own self discovery. I chose to share my running life, my writing, my diet and my mediation practice. I share me because that's who I am and I will give my best to hammer down my running times but I know I'm not going to catch the Kenyans or Mo Farah but that's not who I am, I'm William Robertson and I get people taking to me on a personal level by my name not a title. 

 
I can run over 200 miles a week, I live of plants (fruit&veg) and people question this and even put me onto other runners who have there own methods of training to tell me what to do saying and say I need rest etc etc.  I never tell others what to do but one thing they need to understand is that I do things my way and the results I have are from my way and choices from mental attitude to food. When it comes to speed work I'm back at running club as I know that being around faster runners and the the whole community in general will make me better at the sport and this helps me develop individually but with a group or even by trying out ideas I see online. The exact same as someone wanting to get of alcohol would go to alcoholics annomminis  or someone who liked books would go to book club and look up books online. We become ourselves then we develop ourselves everyday by surrounding ourselves with people who share similar goals, plans and outlooks on our day to day life. I don't go to McDonald's to say I'm vegan or to the pub to say I drink water, I'm careful what I surround myself with the same as I am careful with what I put into my mind. 
 
So I run to be the best me that I can be, I run for the adventure and the new people I meet on the journey. To celebrate overcoming adversity and to enjoy life and the person that I have became through all of it. There will always be faster runners but I got of a foreign mental hospital in Greece, lost 7 stone and ran a 100 mile ultra marathon as a vegan ultra running athlete now I'm happy with my choices. We all have different goals, ambitions and plans and I get my motivation and have my idols too but I don't imitate them I learn from them and my life is mine and it's about sharing who I am. I'm not telling others how to live im just sharing my story and journey through recovery and enjoying life with better health. You see the real me through running, in person or online, you see the real me on my blog and the real me in my life. Your part of it, namaste  
 
Smile every mile & never stop living

 

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