If you follow my social media, you’re likely aware that over the last several years I’ve fallen in love with trail & ultra-marathon running. The experiences I’ve had in these endeavors are like nothing else I’ve ever known.
Through ultras, I’ve learned so much about myself, my friends, and about how we as humans can navigate our way through very tough situations.
And so, it has occurred to me that with the spread of COVID-19, we find ourselves in a shared ultra-marathon, or sorts.
We didn’t choose it. We may not like it. And there are vast differences of opinions on the various talking points about what’s happening.
But, to be sure, we are in for a rough season, and it’s going to take significant time for this all to unfold. Some of us will get very sick. We will watch others suffer. And it is going to get worse before it gets better. It’s a scary time.
In light of all of this, over the coming days, I plan to share a handful of thoughts from my ultra experiences that may help encourage you through this time.
I’ll start with two thoughts…
First, BE A GOOD, MUTUALLY SUPPORTIVE HUMAN.
One of the things I love about the trail/ultra community is the way people look out for one another. These are long, grueling races and by and large the people participating in them are NOT racing against one another, but against themselves, against the course, against the elements, or even against many unseen, unspoken things like their pasts, their pain, their heartaches, or their “demons”.
And that creates an incredibly supportive, mutually encouraging environment, where we are all aware of how hard everyone else is working, and how difficult it is to make it to the finish line.
When we’re out there on a 20+ hour effort, we know viscerally how hard it is, and that gives us an empathy for one another.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been encouraged and even physically/practically helped by other runners. And conversely, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done the same.
In November, at the Dead Horse Ultra 50 miler, around the 40 mile mark I came upon another runner just retching her guts out. She was struggling mightily with the cumulative effect of the miles and effort. I was in a relatively good spot and had a whole stash of Tums antacids that I just handed over to her, because she needed them way more than me.
Or there was the time at the North Fork 50k when Marianna Inslee (who first encouraged me way back in my first 50 miler) gave me some electrolyte tablets late in the race to help me with my badly cramping legs, and that kindness allowed me to finish strong.
Or ask Ben Dicke about the time he helped another runner down the mountain in the dark when they both had forgotten their headlamps.
So, in this COVID-19 season, recognize this is NOT A COMPETITION AGAINST ONE ANOTHER. Have a look around and really SEE how hard people are working to get through this. If you have something you can do to help them, do it. If you have a way to encourage someone, do it. Our shared kindness and empathy will go a long way towards getting us all to this finish line.
Second, CONTROL THE CONTROLLABLE.
In the days and weeks leading up to a big race, I put in the work to control what only I can control. I train for the specifics of the trail/ environment. I make a plan for food/fueling (MUCH more on this later), I test my gear in training, I plan for clothing, for travel, for resting before the race, etc, etc.
Ultra-marathons are long and hard enough, in and of themselves, and there are a wide range of variables. I can’t control the weather. I can’t control whether or not the race provides exactly the food or drink I might want at an aid station, or if they run out of said food/drink. I can’t control what other racers do or don’t do.
So, it only makes sense for me to take responsibility for my race and figure out what I CAN CONTROL, and do the work to take care of that. (Side note: this DOES NOT MEAN HOARDING SUPPLIES. Remember that bit above about being a good human…there’s a vast difference between getting what you need and controlling what you can control, and hoarding.)
And beyond that, I simply have to let all that other shit go and focus on running the race before me on the day.
Hope this helps in some small way. More later…
Love and Grace and Peace,