Recently, I faced one of the most challenging goals I’ve ever set.
To run a 7-hour Ultramarathon.
Picture this: Over 300 runners with a 7-hour window and a goal to run as far (or as long) as possible on a 7 km loop through Waltham Forest.
My main goal was simple: To run for the whole 7 hours and cover the distance of 70 kilometres.
Now, this is not about running.
(Well, maybe a tiny bit). 😉
The purpose of this article is to show you the power of personal development and how it helped me to endure and complete this race exactly as I planned.
If you’re not a personal development enthusiast, I hope this may give you the nudge you need and then help you with whatever goals you have.
Ok, let’s do this.
Firstly, a disclaimer: I’m a passionate runner.
I’ve run dozens of half-marathons (21km), several marathons (42km) and a few runs longer than that, the longest one was a 58km Ultramarathon.
But I’ll be honest. Running for 7 hours continuously is no joke.
While it sounds like an extreme physical challenge, it’s just as much ( if not more ) a mental challenge. That’s what I love about it.
Below are my insights and reflections about how personal development helped me through the race.
“Success doesn’t happen by accident. It’s a result of intentional action.”
To achieve something out of the ordinary, you must have a clear plan.
One can’t just rock up to a 7-hour running race without preparing for it.
I planned meticulously for this run, and on the day, I knew exactly what I needed to do to reach my goal. For example:
To cover 70m in the 7 hours, I knew I needed to complete 10 laps and average 6:00 per km. This would include aid station stops. My actual plan was to run at 5:30 – 5:45 per km, giving me 2-3 minutes at every aid station to top up my water and grab a gel or some food.
TIP: The importance of planning for a successful outcome is as surprising as the importance of healthy eating habits for good health. Yet, most of us are overweight. Knowing doesn't mean doing. You can't wing success. Repeat success is always a result of intentional (planned) action. Dedicate time to plan how you're going to achieve your goals.
If you want to succeed with your long-term goals, you must endure the journey. Otherwise, the wheels will fall off.
My average running pace was about 5:35 min/km.
I can run much faster than that, but I knew that if I ran too fast, I’d simply burn out way before the end. I had to stay disciplined and not get carried away just because other runners ran faster. (All but one stopped way before me).
I also knew that for me to be able to continue running, I had to fuel my body with the calories and water it needed and lost during the run.
I had a non-negotiable plan to eat an energy gel and to drink 500ml of carbohydrate drink every lap (7km) to keep topping up burned calories and sweat water. I also had to take a salt pill every 15km to minimise muscle cramping.
Fun interlude: Later in the race, I made my carb drink a bit too strong (sickly sweet) and had to fight not to throw up for about an hour, mostly successfully. I remember thinking, “You need this energy!”
TIP: It's easy to be impatient and get influenced by others (seemingly) overtaking you on your success journey. Never forget what race you're in. As with my race, just because others are on the same track doesn't mean they are chasing the same goals. Lock on your goal, stick to your plan and trust the process. If you treat long-term goals as sprints, you'll fail.
It’s often our mind that stops us, not our body.
It’s funny how our brains can play against us.
It’s important to understand that our minds/instincts don’t care about success or fame, less so about completing an ultra marathon. Our mind (by default) prioritises our comfort and safety.
That’s why there’s a voice in our head when we get outside our comfort zone, luring us back in. It’s trying to stop us from doing whatever is making us feel uncomfortable.
If you want to succeed (whatever that may be for you), you must learn how to understand, ignore, and master that voice.
Running for 7 hours hurts. A lot.
When you’re in pain (physical or emotional), that’s your body telling you something’s not right. We usually know what the source of the pain is, and so we feel the urge to avoid whatever is causing the pain.
Through personal development, discomfort training, and meditation, I’ve learned how to ignore that inner voice when I need to. Even better yet, I’ve learned how to override that inner voice with my voice and thoughts to help me do what needs to be done.
Learning how to manage your mind and this inner voice that kicks in every time you even just try to get out of your comfort zone is one of the most important skills you can develop.
Otherwise, it will keep you there and stop you from growing.
TIP: First of all, you're already doing it. Probably with small things like: The voice: I don't feel like taking the trash out. You: Yeah, but if I don't do it now, it will smell later on, so let's just do it. Ever gone through a similar thought process? I'm sure you have. The key is to do this intentionally, practice it more often, and override bigger pushback. Needless to say, you should always use this to do the 'right thing'.
People treat motivation as something that mysteriously and unpredictably happens to them. In reality, we DO motivation. Motivation is the result of our thought processes.
However, most people don’t really know what motivates them. Or, they think they know what it is because these things seem to motivate other people (on social media especially). But usually, it creates a “meh” spark of motivation that dies very quickly.
I believe we all have a scenario or a situation that, when we’re in it or we imagine it, it gives us a real kick up the ass and ignites drive and grit. All we need to do is to reconnect with it.
All the personal development helped me discover what the motivation points are for me.
For me, I love a situation where I’m one of the “last ones standing”. A situation where I’m persevering through something others quit on. I believe it goes back to watching action-hero movies as a kid. I always thought their courage, perseverance and dedication were admirable and noble. As corny as it may sound, in situations like these, I get to be my own action hero.
TIP: Search your soul for what you admire in others. May it be movie or book characters, people in real life or from comic books. Then try to be like them even momentarily. Be your own hero and see how it will make you feel.
“The further outside of your comfort zone you dare, the deeper you discover your true self.”
I believe self-discovery is possibly the most exciting and valuable part of any personal development journey.
I don’t think many people go WOW about who they are in their comfort zone. And while binge-watching a whole season of LOST may be quite an achievement (I don’t watch TV shows, so I have no idea how long it would take but assume some 12 hours, maybe?), I don’t think we or anybody else would be quite impressed by it.
It’s when we challenge our own “I wonder if I have what it takes to …” and face our fears, push our limits, and come close to or even past what we thought we were capable of. This is where we start discovering who we truly are.
You’ll find that you’re much more capable, resourceful, determined, driven, courageous, and tougher than you ever thought possible.
What also happens is that this new experience will shift the boundaries of your comfort zone much further than they were.
Exploring your limits is one of the most exciting journeys you can put yourself on.
TIP: Most of the time, we are overly aware of our weaknesses and shortcomings. You're much more than you believe you are. When you venture on the journey of self-discovery, may it be by challenging yourself or through mere journalling, you'll find how far your potential, passion, courage, and determination stretch. Far beyond what you expected. Once you see it, it can't be unseen, and you'll forever be changed.
I think David Goggins captured it quite well…
Needless to say, my 7-hour Ultramarathon was quite an experience.
I’m certain that it was all the personal development I’ve done that helped me succeed in the physical, strategic, and especially mental part of this challenge.
If you’re wondering how I finished, these were the results.
- I ran the whole 7 hours.
- I covered 70,45 km.
- I was the second to cover the most distance (out of 300)
- I ran at a consistent pace of 5:30-5:45 min/km, except for the last lap.
- My last lap was the fastest. (My ‘Strong finish Hero moment’)
- I signed up for London to Brighton 100km race next year.
I hope this gave you a bit of inspiration to delve into personal development.