As I’m slowly getting on track with my 230 days blogging challenge – this is my 6th day, by the way – I’m starting to revisit feelings and attitudes from my ultra-running races. If I really think about it, such a long writing challenge is very similar with an ultra. It stretches over a huge period of time, it requires stable focus and, at times, it gets boring. So, in today’s post I’ll try to share some of the tips I use to finish my ultras (if you’ve never read anything about my passion for ultra-running, I think this article may help you, it’s an aftermath of a 220km race).
1. Prepare In Advance
In longer ultras, organizers are setting up check-points mid-race (or at multiple points in the race) where runners can send in advance some of their belongings. If the race goes overnight, you would usually put your headlamp, some thinker clothes and, obviously, some hydration and food. Every time I made it to such a checkpoint, found my backpack and enjoyed the support I built myself for me, in advance, I felt great.
Similarly, in such a long challenge, it doesn’t hurt to have some pre-made blog posts, or at least some drafts available. Your level of energy will be very different, your general focus will change, so you will never count on a linear performance. Hence, a little bit of help in advance will go a long way. I have about 3-5 drafts at all time, ready to be used if an “emergency” kicks in.
2. It’s Expected To Be Hard, It’s An Ultra
I remember my first feelings of despair in an ultra, where pain got me and my mind almost gave in. During these moments, no positive mantra helped me, to be honest, no matter how motivational it was. The only thing that helped me was acceptance. It’s an ultra, of course it’s hard. You knew that when you signed up. You knew there will be sweat, blood and tears. So suck it up and move on.
Sometimes, during a writing challenge, your mind feels like an empty closet, your hands can barely move across the keyboard and you fell like you forgot not only to write, but also to talk or even think. It’s normal. It’s part of the process. I didn’t start this challenge because it was easy. I started it because it was hard. So heads up, and move on.
3. Project Yourself At The End Of It
There were many moments in my long races when I though the ordeal will never end. Especially during the point-to-point races, where you’re in the middle of nowhere, sometimes not even sure if somebody will come pick you up if you ask for it. So the only way to get over this was to project myself at the end of it. To create a mental image of closure, of finishing, of ending. It’s hard to describe, but even the mere thought of the race having an end, eventually, was very soothing.
Similarly, when I feel a bit overwhelmed by all these long minutes in front of an empty screen, I give myself a pat on the back and say: “You know this is going to end, right? You know there will be a day in which you won’t have to write every day, right?”. Even if that day is 30 days, 100 days, or, in this case, 230 days ahead of me, I know for sure that it’s there. Everything comes to an end, given enough time.
4. Do It Anyway
A common misconception about ultras is that you run the entire distance. In my experience, less than 1% of the participants are able to do this, and they are always professional athletes. The rest of us are mixing walking with running in such a way that we will make it to the end in time.
In writing, sometimes I get inspired, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I know exactly what I’m going to write about, sometimes I don’t. But I do it anyway, just like mixing running with walking, as long as I know that I’m still moving forward.
5. One Feet In Front Of The Other / One Sentence At A Time
The best strategy for finishing an ultra si to keep moving. Put one feet in front of the other. It seems so easy when you’re reading it, but, believe me, it’s not. When the body is starting to fall apart, when your mind is following suit and you hardly know who you are anymore, putting one feet in front of the other is the ultimate expression of willpower.
And so it is in writing: if I try to measure the enormity of the time that I have committed to, I will just freeze. Instead, I choose to get closer to the end goal, one sentence at a time.