Lessons from a 100-Mile Trail Running Journey

I’ll never forget my first off-road trail race called “That Dam Run” in Escondido, California. I was talked into it by a friend and decided to give it a shot. This was roughly 13 or 14 years ago; I can’t remember the date or the details. But I vividly remember how I thought my lungs were going to burst and every inch of my legs throbbed with pain. I recall feeling regret and wonder as to why people would ever do this – as well as the certainty that I was not cut out for this sort of thing. The distance covered that day: 10 miles…

Running has taught me so much about life. There is nowhere I feel more alive and thankful than deep into a tough trail run. Preferably with no people around and nothing but nature to enjoy and be inspired by.

This article is not meant to sell you on running. It is a simple reminder of how the wisest and most profound lessons to serve us in our growth and performance can be found in our everyday basic life choices, as long as we are willing to take notice – and apply them.

This month I had the chance to ponder this for 25 hours and 42 minutes while running, hiking, and then limping in the Santa Ynez Valley wine country, a bit north of Santa Barbara, California.

Sounds beautiful, huh? It was… for the first couple hours!

Countless thoughts flooded my mind over the volatile wave of emotions and feelings on this journey.

Here are 4 distinct lessons that stuck out as directly applicable to both our daily and professional lives:

  1. Perspective is everything

After that initial 10-mile run over a decade ago that I believed was so incredibly intense, an 11th mile seemed about as possible as an NFL team in Ohio winning a Super Bowl. (Not likely!)

But months later the natural progression of “the runner” occurred – a half marathon, followed by a full marathon, and then many more marathons of trying to shave off a couple minutes of time to reach my goal. Try as I did, I just couldn’t get my body to move with any speed after mile 20! I was fascinated by this “20-Mile Wall” that most all marathoners seemed to hit and I wondered why…

Low and behold it was NOTHING physical – It was ALL mental!

 

I knew I needed to break some belief barriers. Sick of paved roads and concrete races with thousands of people, I decided to start running off-road and longer distances, aka: Trail Ultra Running. I did a 50K – then a 50 miler with much more elevation and obstacles mixed in. After another 50 miler and many runs over 30 miles under my belt, the “20-Mile Wall” no longer existed!

How did this happen? For starters, my perspective had simply changed. My brain had been reprogrammed. The actual mileage is meaningless – 3 miles or 300 – it doesn’t matter!

We each have a number that seems daunting; this is the case for anything and everything, not just running.

I work with so many sales professionals who have just as much natural talent as the person next to them. Same products and opportunities, but one has self-imposed limitations and a nice safe comfort zone, while the other does not. This person longs to test the limits and to find a way to reach higher. Failing is fine to them because it is only a temporary setback on the jagged rise to the next level.

  1. Temptations are everywhere

“Beware of the Chair” is a saying you’ll hear on an Ultra course. Being awake for 40+ hours straight is one of the mental aspects that is hard to prepare for.

The body and mind are so unaccustomed to this and don’t know how to cope. Cramps, GI issues, mirages, mental lapses, exhaustion beyond comprehension, etc. When you roll into an aid station and they go to get you food and drinks, your first instinct is to grab that open comfy chair and collapse into it. Bad idea! I’m sure you can imagine why.

We all suffer from procrastination and what we, in the SWC coaching program, call “Creative Avoidance.” This is consciously or subconsciously finding anything to do other than what we know we should be doing. Knowing these temptations are there and proactively planning how we will circumvent them is essential to us all in both our daily and professional lives.

  1. Laughter pretty much cures all

We all know what can happen when we care too much. We inevitably take ourselves so seriously we lose sight of the joy and humor in what is happening all around us.

You can see it on a runner’s face when they are so consumed by a pace on their watch. The same thing occurs when someone becomes consumed with the result stats in their professions.

Please don’t take me wrong. I see incredible value in paying attention to detail and being laser-focused on tracking and inspecting the finer details of our results in whatever we’re doing. However, hopefully we all realize there is a fine line where that healthy focus becomes detrimental.

One particular thing I love about Trail Ultra Running is the lack of focus on pace. You’ll often see an athlete stopping to lift the spirits of another who is suffering through the inevitable valleys – even if it costs them a couple minutes.

There is so much humor all around us if we’re willing to notice it and shift our focus to it.

During this last race, I was fortunate to have a great friend and runner with me through the lonely nighttime miles. Running at 2am, deep in the trails can get pretty dark (pun intended), but we had great laughter the entire night. His attitude and focus on fun literally altered my whole experience.

I also had a different close friend join me for the last 10 miles, when I actually needed walking poles to be able to hike some of the steeper portions. The fact that he used to be a stand-up comedian and is as enthusiastic and kindhearted of a person you could find was an incredible gift.

Thank you, David and Drew!!

  1. You can do more

Yes, you.

Yes, today.

Period.

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