What’s really, really hard, is to train to do extraordinary things. It’s the time you spend learning, the energy you put in training, the opportunities you skip by being on your own path, the joy you take away by not engaging in simple, normal, daily life, the mental fight with the comfort pull, all that shit is extra hard.
The Longest Race
A few years ago I finished a 222 kilometers race. It’s the longest point to point race I ever ran. Even today, when I casually mention this to the people I’m talking to, they’re completely baffled. “Man, even driving more than 200 kilometers is tiring”, some of them said. By any standard, finishing a 222 kilometers ultramarathon is an extraordinary thing (as in not very ordinary).
When I try to explain to them that it wasn’t that hard, they’re even more confused.
So I began to skip mentioning it all. It’s not worth telling this story I’m going to tell now, every single time I mention this, so I just change the topic when I’m asked about running and stuff.
Here’s the story.
The race itself took 31 hours and a half. That was it. During the race I’ve been through a few difficult moments, and in the last third the pain from my blisters was excruciating. But that was it. Eight hours of suffering. And 31 hours of continuous effort. That all it took.
In order to get to that point, though, I spent about three years of training. I slowly went from overweight, depressed and unmotivated, to finishing a 5 kilometers race, than a 10 kilometers race, than a marathon (that’s 42 kilometers), a 50 kilometers ultramarathon, a couple of 60-70 kilometers training races, and a 100 kilometers one. To be able to go through this process I had to make many, many adjustments to my life. I had to enforce discipline. Both mental and physical discipline. I had to go through the difficult moments when I wanted to quit (there weren’t just a few, to be honest). I wake up early and trained, got to know my body and learned when to push my limits, and when not. I showed up. More than 1000 days, in total.
And all that was hard as fuck.
But the race itself? Not so much. Compared to those three years, it was like almost invisible.
And yet, people are perceiving only the “out of the ordinary” part, and have no idea about those three years spent preparing for it.
It goes like this in any other extraordinary pursuit. It’s the invisible time that makes it possible, not the end result. The extraordinary thing is just the end of the journey, the final stage, the show-off part, the celebration. But that celebration is rooted in those boring and painful days in which you pulled yourself out from the bed, pushed forward one more kilometer, fought depression and anxiety (or just let them go through you, until they wore off), and kept moving forward. Sometimes angry, sometimes enthusiastic, sometimes bored or afraid that you wouldn’t make it, but you kept.
Every tiny little thing you do is in fact an extraordinary thing which wasn’t yet revealed.