Wednesday, September 10, 2014

ULTRA MARATHON RUNNING: Run to compete or run to complete

Have you ever found yourself doing something, just to one day ask yourself "why am I doing this?"  I'm sure you have.  This is fairly simply explained, yet hard to avoid.  In basic terms, it's an internal battle we're constantly taking part in between what you personally want out of life VS social conditioning. Personally, I have my own clear understanding on what it is that I want out of life, and how I'd ideally wish to carry it out.  Yet, how is it I often find myself doing the exact opposite, until making a concerted effort to re-align myself?  By nature, humans are followers, yet consciously we wish to carry out our own agendas.  A clear conflict.

So where am I going with this ramble?  "C'mon Matt, I didn't come on here for a Dr Phil special".  This is my nerdy way of explaining that every single one of you have you're own agenda to why you run.  Why you started.  Why you've continued, or why you've come back to it if you've had a break.  While some people's verbal descriptions may sound similar to others, their own personal understanding and drive behind it all is somewhat personal and unique.

So what drives you to lace up?  Take a minute to think about it.  I challenge you to take a few minutes and write down and few lines........ Can you?  If it's something you haven't yet consciously taken time to think about, it may be slightly challenging.

Todays post isn't a personal development session so I'll move on.  Ultimately what I want to put out there is we need to align our activity with our purpose.  This is what I was referring to in the first paragraph.  I can't possibly list and provide commentary on all the possible options out there so I'm going to pick 2 common theme's that sit behind various motives I come across when discussing this topic with fellow runners.
  1. The Thrillers: Those who are completely enthralled by pushing for every second and will go to huge lengths to grab a PB at their next race.
  2. The Chillers: Those who care not (or very little) for their performance, but simply enjoy the social aspect or some personal time to relax. 
Do you run to Compete; or do you run to Complete? I'm sure you can immediately think of some running colleagues and begin to pigeon hole the majority of them into one of these.  And just to throw in a variable, sometimes the same person can have both of these on the cards, but at different times in their lives.  Maybe you personally have gone through stages between these.

I've been caught up across the 2 at the same time, which caused me considerable grief.  Going back to my earlier suggestion that we battle between internal motives VS what goes on around us, I've found myself on occasion blurring these together.  It's like mixing milk with vinegar. 

Personally, I run because I love the freedom and self fulfillment out on the trails.  A couple of hours up in the hills either alone or with others can always solve all of the worlds problems, (or at least until I get back in the car and grab my phone........)  Yep, I'm a 'Chiller'.  However, in almost all other aspects of my life I tend to be quite competitive by nature.  I'm sales and commercially driven and can be a little impulsive when I want to achieve something.  While I have no intention of chasing down a course record for TNF100, nor probably have the ability anyway....... lol, early last year I found myself almost hating putting the runners on.  Why?  I love running.  After a little while, it dawned on me that I had become so wound up in trying to become competitive, my whole focus in training had become about what my garmin displayed each mile, and the weekly reports I'd download to assess the improvements.  I'd let go of what truly interested and motivated me, and began to follow suit with others who were more results driven. 

In terms of Ultra Marathon running, even training to just complete can be an extremely intense process, coupled with huge investments in time and personal sacrifice. Training to compete however, takes somewhat more.  For many, this is their own form of joy.  Their drive to keep going.  And to those, I commend you.  It's always inspiring to watch or read a race report from the front runners on huge events; however I find it equally inspiring to see someone come out of nowhere, possibly pulling themselves out from some personal issues to work they way up and complete their first 100km event.  50km, 100km or more for some is an incredibly long way to push the body. Whether you come first or last in an ultra marathon, it's important to understand that you've completed an extraordinary task that puts you in a minute minority group that others cannot fathom how you did it. Let alone why!

From here on in, I make concerted efforts to refresh myself on WHY I do what I do.  Rarely do I carry out my LSR alone, purely because I know me.  After a few weeks, I'll end up losing focus on what's really important. 

So, my message today is:  Why do you run?  In years to come when you look back on your journey, what will give you the greatest satisfaction?  Once you know what this is, why would you do anything else?

Run well and happy trails........