Expert Advice from Ultra Marathon Runner Crystal Seaver
I’ll start with my story, because I wasn’t always a runner, but I guess after you run a couple races of “I don’t even like to drive distances that far,” you start to believe you’re runner status. But, remember this: if you run 1 mile or 100 miles – you are a runner.
When you enter the world of ultra marathon running [that means anything over the 26.2 mi. distance] – you enter the world of lessons. Some of the lessons apply directly to running; others apply to life too. Running changes you – the miles you run – the time you put in – the places you go – the people you meet. It’s a place where the run and the race always mean more than sore legs. That’s because, behind the runner, you get a real person.
So whether you are just getting started, have been running for years, or want to start, enjoy these tips:
1. Just Run: Running is easy, we overcomplicate it. The mind games turn on, the technology smothers us, and the Square World illusions are at a scroll of the screen - all of the time. But, guess what? If you can learn to stand, then walk, then run as a toddler, you can do it as a big kid too! When it’s hard to just run, remember that your only goal is to lace up the shoes and get out the front door. It’s that initial push that will get you to where you want to be. Once you take the first steps [and, I hope you left that prized piece of technology that attaches to your wrist behind], you will know what I mean when I say – just run. Make it about running, not about how many calories you’re going to burn or even the distance you’re trying to achieve. I am positive you will take many more than just a few steps. All that dread for…? [Insert your thought here.]
2. Run Your Own Run/Race: This is about YOU. Y – O – U. In a world where we constantly compare ourselves to others, I am going to tell you this, run your own run. Do not compare your run to someone else’s run. They are not you. Fall into your world, your pace, and your zone. Do what you need to do to carry yourself through another day of training, another race, another day of life.
3. Know Your “Why?”: If you can push through without reason, you must be from the lineage of super [wo]man. Know why you are out there doing what you do, or what you are about to do. Know why every footstep counts. Know why you can keep going, even when you REALLY—I mean really—don’t want to. Know the source of passion, inspiration and heart.
4. Understand Stupidity vs. Grit: I will put it out there - do not be stupid.I do not care how many hours you trained, who is watching or about your hurt ego. Don’t be stupid. It is okay to be done, it is okay to fall short of a goal, it is okay to “fail.” At the same time, you have grit.Running hurts like you never felt hurt before. That’s okay. Embrace it.
5. Wear the Right Shoes: This may or may not be obvious, do not buy your prized running shoes based on look alone. I know they are pink and beautiful and everything you ever wanted, but don’t buy just to buy. I tell you this, because I’ve done it. Take a lesson from Cinderella – the perfect fit matters. Make your feet happy, visit your local running store and find the right pair of shoes for you. Happy running feet make a happy runner.
6. Find Your People [Accountability]: The running community is the most amazing group of people you will ever meet. It’s where all backgrounds come together, where life is just life, and you are connected by one thing – the forward motion, the footsteps, the run. These people will count on you and you will count on them. Here’s your motivation—accountability. Accountability, inspiration, and life-long friendship all in one place.
7. Plan. And, plan for the unplanned: Plan, Prepare, Train – do all of these things. Then, trust your training when the plan goes out the door because of A, B & C. Here is what you have to learn to do well, go with the flow. Trust that the things you prepared for are enough. That even with A, B & C in your way, the foundation is still there. Go with the unexpected. Do what you can.
8. Practice Mental Training – Run With Your Head & Heart: You have to tell yourself that you can. My favorite mantra: “You can do hard things.” And, you better believe it. Your mind is a powerful influence on your physical performance. So make the choice, tell yourself that you can do it, over and over and OVER again. At mile one, or mile 60. It’s the same thing. A little belief puts one foot in front of the other. The Universe knows your potential; you have to see it too.
9. Fuel, Hydrate, Cross Train: These are the basic principles that MUST be incorporated into your running routine. Running is a slow start. You have to acclimate. Fuel and hydrate for performance. Crosstrain for strength and injury prevention. This means incorporate other forms of exercise like weights or yoga. Activities that are different than running and will help your body recover faster and more efficiently. Recovery is a staple of every good running program. This is part of listening to your body – find the balance that works for you. The goal is to keep running – for a very long time.
10. Rest and Become a “Morning Person”: We could all use an extra 3-4 hours in our seemingly short 24-hour day. However, since this is, unfortunately, an impossibility, try and adjust to waking up early instead. If you are going to add one more thing within the few short hours you have, you are going to need rest and you are going to have to make that time slot a priority. Go to bed early and set the alarm. Rise and shine to get that run out of the way. Sunrise chasing? Learn to love it. When you run in the morning, you make a commitment to you. And when you make that pledge to yourself, you will discover that nothing else will get in your way.
Take it from me, someone who began as a non-runner and became someone who ran 100 mi. without stopping--These are the tips – for running and life. Think about them, apply them, practice them and remember, you are the only person who can accomplish your goals. All you have to do is start.
Author: Crystal Seaver