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Kill Comfort

Kill Comfort - Wicked Trail Running

I write this on day 2 of a 3 day juice fast. Just raw, cold-pressed juice for 3 days.

It’s not long enough that I can pledge my allegiance to any of the various corners of the internet dedicated to long, arduous fasts.

It’s just long enough to reset my taste buds, to rekindle my affection for taste without heaps of sugar, salt, and artificial enhancement.

This affection is easily lost in a world where consumption—unique, look-at-me, often frivolous consumption—signifies well-being (if excess can be called well-being).

This affection is easily lost with comfort always on our plates, always within an arm’s reach.

And that’s another side of my juice fast, away from the biological changes in taste, appetite, and preference.

It’s about comfort.

It’s about Killing Comfort.

Because comfort is always lurking, eager to drown the birth-given responsibility we have to do something noble, courageous. Courage is putting yourself in difficult situations and trusting your best self to step up and take it on.

If you’ve made it this far, if you rock Wicked Trail gear, you’re likely someone who practices courage.

And you ought to!

The other avenue is full of self-loathing, pity, and regret (just look around at most other people). It’s a world full of “what ifs” and “maybes.” It’s blaming luck and opportunity for the success of others, and imagining yourself special and unique for suffering (hint: nobody is special because of they suffer).

If you detest courage, if you push away difficult opportunities to test your best self, if you lean on artificial sensation and all these society-prescribed avenues toward happiness, your spirit and child-like wonder will rot and perish.

And we all need spirit, we all need that child-like wonder.

Adults need to ask themselves what’s possible; they need to climb, run, and swim—explore! They need to move away from mediocrity of mind, complacency of effort.

Shop Kill Comfort Hats

It is such a tragedy that men and women are not in touch with their bodies, their minds, and the natural world’s relation to these.

Mountains, grass, trees, trails.

Rain, wind, snow, lightning.



Nature working against you.

Kill Comfort.

It’s your only chance.

It’s your only chance to breathe deeply and know you are alive, not a brain-dead zombie drinking a pot of coffee to make it through work, and pouring a drink to numb the day’s happenings into a smiley blur. It’s your only chance to truly participate in courage, that test to put your best self forward. It’s your only chance to transcend the unspecial, mortal suffering we all participate in.

Kill Comfort.

Breathe deeply. Practice courage. Transcend your excuses, regrets, apprehensions, and anxieties.

Make them bleed.

Make them pay for their insistence on a life less-than-lived.

They thrive—fester—the longer you bask in comfort—soft couch, big TV, too much food, stimulants and depressants.

How long have you been sitting there?

Draw your sword.

Lace your boots.

Go to war.

Kill Comfort.

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Kill Comfort Gear

Strength Tees

‘Kill Comfort’ Morale Patch

Kill Comfort Patch

Comfort is the easy death, the great lie, the executioner of everything you are called to be. Drag it up a tall mountain and throw it off.

Kill Comfort.

Embroidered patch.

Velcro adhesive back.

Perfect for rucking, plate carriers, tactical hats, sandbags, and decoration.

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Discomfort Grants Wishes

discomfort grants wishes wicked trail

Discomfort Grants Wishes

If you like the deep concepts and thoughts of my ultra running blog posts, you might like to read the short, fantastical novels I’ve written. Tap here to check them out. There’s a couple affiliate links on this post. If you use them, Wicked Trail Running might earn a small commission.

“Discomfort grants wishes, but you have to tell it what you want every single day.”

I find it hard lately to expand on the short reflections I write about ultra running, discomfort, fatigue, and adventure. The words are so simple and direct, but wide open to personal meditation, that I want to leave them as they are.

In years past, I wanted to tell followers of Wicked Trail—you readers of this blog—what I thought. Now I want to tell you what I think about.

It’s a change I’m glad for.

Short, simple, punctual words.

Words that are as broad as a lifetime, but as specific as mile 75 of 100 (the sun has been set for some time; my knees and hip flexors and big toes hurt; I’m tired and nauseous…).

Perhaps these short musings (of which Wicked Trail’s Instagram followers must one day tire) are born of my modern, shortening attention span. Maybe they’re a little lazy of me. Maybe they’re just as simple as ultra running: each short poem a single step on my own journey toward enlightenment via fatigue and discomfort.

And fatigue and discomfort are noble guides, worthy friends.

Discomfort is special to me.

It has a lot of talents.

It lacks nothing but comfort.

I train jiu jitsu and today, as a higher belt held me in an uncomfortable position, he acknowledged my calm breathing and lack of panic. “Good,” he said. “It’s just discomfort.”

(If only he knew I was wearing this shirt under my gi).

The word discomfort is simple and profound, like ultra running. There’re thousands of hours of wisdom just in the first letter, and woe to the man or woman who goes farther than that. That person is bound to have a bad time.

But aren’t we all bound to have a bad time?

Tied, chained, and captive to distress and anxiety, the toils of mortality.

But escape—freedom—lies in the dark cave in which you are a prisoner. You see, in that cave there is a dusty genie’s lamp. It’s tucked away in a corner, few people think to even look for it.

But if you find it and give it a little rub, Discomfort will spring forth!

And what does discomfort look like? Ghastly? Monstrous?

What does it say?

Discomfort does speak, after all.

Haven’t you heard it, while training and on race day?

“What do you want?”

That’s exactly what it says: “What do you want?”

Discomfort grants wishes, but you must tell it what you want every single day.

But discomfort is not easily beheld.

Every single day you must look for that lamp and tell discomfort what you want. It’s a reflection worth more than every motivational speech on YouTube and every self-help book in Barnes and Noble (even David Goggins’ latest book).

You can shout your desires from every rooftop, plaster them all over social media, you can tell your friends and family…but none of those ears can turn your ambitions to reality.

No shooting star, penny tossed in a fountain, or blown dandelion will make your wishes come true.

You need to find discomfort and—in the smallest moments of fatigue and pain—tell it what you want.

“I want to be free from _____________.”

“I want to be great at ______________.”

“I want to inspire __________________.”

“I want to ________________________.”

“I want…”

You know what discomfort—that premonition pouring from our little dusty lamp—will say?

Think about it…

I don’t want to give away all my thoughts.

Maybe it’s my modern attention span. Maybe it’s laziness. Maybe I’m still thinking about it, another step on my own journey.

grants wishes
but you have to tell it
what you want

Acknowledge mortality. Fumble around for that little lamp.

Be quiet. Discomfort is about to speak.

If you like the deep concepts and thoughts of my ultra running blog posts, you might like to read the short, fantastical novels I’ve written. Tap here to check them out. There’s a couple affiliate links on this post. If you use them, Wicked Trail Running might earn a small commission.

You might also like…

55 Ultra Running Quotes you need to read
Ultra running poems
Our most-popular hat
My original trail running and hiking poems featured on PineTreePoet

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Ultra Running Poems

Strength Tees

Popular Running Hats

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Ultra Running Matters

ultra running matters blog post

Ultra Running Matters

If you like the deep concepts and thoughts of my ultra running blog posts, you might like to read the short, fantastical novels I’ve written. Tap here to check them out. There’s a couple affiliate links on this post. If you use them, Wicked Trail Running might earn a small commission.

I often wonder what things in life really matter. 

Work, profit, and accumulation seem so frivolous and wasteful at times. 

Technology is driving creativity and intellect to extinction. 

Reason and discussion are dead where most people engage in them—online. 

Abundant curiosity has been replaced by rampant attention-seeking. 

Patience is a rare commodity in such a have-it-my-way society. 

It is a truly special person that can reject it all: wasteful accumulation, technological obsession, online diatribe, the dopamine faucets that are social media, and ultimate and final preference of conditions. 

Who is that person? 

Can we ask them what things in life really matter? 

Can you and I be that person? 

I’m afraid of where many of us are, and what we’re not looking at: the void of insignificance summed up above. That’s what those modern illnesses point us to: a void of insignificance. 

You and I are in danger of being completely insignificant, if we allow our lives to revolve around all of those things (or any of those things). It is a dreary life whose surface-level desires and achievements are blasted on social media, who seeks a dopamine rush by work, profit, and accumulation. It is hardly a life at all whose curiosity and patience are rarely pondered and appreciated, engaged. 

There is something special about depth, private achievement, curiosity, creativity, and patience. 

I believe ultra runners are special, too. 

But can even an ultra marathon runner—a human who has leaned into the thorny hug of discomfort and fatigue—become un-special? 

Maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe I’m thinking too hard about specialness. 

I’ve written before (and it’s one of my favorite Wicked Trail quotes): “You are not special. Earn it.” But I’m talking about a different kind of special. Rather than deserving and entitled to experience something, I mean special as in worth emulation. 

In that case, I think ultra runners are special. They are worth emulation. Anyone can benefit from that thorny, painful hug of discomfort and fatigue. Ultra running is adventuring up metaphorical mountains, curiosity about our capabilities inside fatigue and discomfort, and rejecting the easy death of unlimited comfort. It is nature, community, and effort. It is an example. It is a “silent campaign of long miles, heavy reps, and patience in discomfort.” 

There is little profit and accumulation in ultra running. We abandon technology at the starting line (except maybe my favorite watch) in favor of rugged adventure. We have real discussions with ourselves and other runners. We dispel reason and take a few more steps, even when the night is thick and hopeless. We’re purely curious and perfectly patient. 

Ultra runners are that special person. 

I believe it. 

It’s why I still crave these races, these adventures, that fatigue. 

Why else would I volunteer to run for hours and hours and hours? Miles and miles and miles? 


So ultra runners are worth emulation. 

Let’s keep it that way. 

You and me. 

Let’s not waste our lives for work, profit, and accumulation of physical goods. Let’s not obsess and become possessed by technology. Let’s keep the real conversations—perhaps the heated, spirited ones—for when we meet in person (let’s look each other in the eyes). Don’t seek attention; feed curiosity (and I think seeking attention dampens one’s curiosity). Let’s make patience popular. 

Isn’t that ultra running? 

Isn’t that why we run these races? 

So that we can look at ourselves in the mirror and know we are alive? 

Can I say that I am alive? 

I know there are people I want to be like. And so as I grow older, I want others to want to be like me. Call it vanity, call it pride, call it haughty. 

I call it pursuing what really matters. 

Here’s what I think matters, based on the intangible gifts ultra running has given me: patience, curiosity, creativity, and extremes. I think we should practice waiting, crave exploration and novelty, express ourselves onto the world, and go as far as we can down the path we choose. 

That’s as neatly as I can package this box, this treasure chest in my mind from running distances up to 100 miles. 

I think we should all open the blinds, let the sun in, and lay our intangible treasures out. Let’s leave them somewhere we can access them every single day. Let’s not forget to be special individuals, individuals worth imitating. 

We’ve certainly taken more than a few painful steps in the right direction. 

But the easy, mindless world wants to bury us in deep, suffocating mud. 

Tattoo your favorite Wicked Trail quote on your spirit and never let your life become insignificant. 

That’s ultra running, and I think it really matters. 

Stay on it. 

If you like the deep concepts and thoughts of my ultra running blog posts, you might like to read the short, fantastical novels I’ve written. Tap here to check them out. There’s a couple affiliate links on this post. If you use them, Wicked Trail Running might earn a small commission.

You might also like…

55 Ultra Running Quotes you need to read
Ultra running poems
Our most-popular hat
My original trail running and hiking poems featured on PineTreePoet

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Ultra Running Poems

Strength Tees

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Dukkha: Ultra Running Philosophy

dukkha ultra running philosophy

Dukkha: Sorrow, Suffering

Written by Julie Tertin. Julie is an ultra marathon runner who has raced (and won) ultra marathon distances 200 miles and beyond. You can connect with her at or follow her on Instagram @live.ultra.

I’m going to ask you a question, and I want you to be honest. I want to hear the story about a time you willingly–or unwillingly–suffered.

The suffering of discipline
The suffering of loss
The suffering of failure
The suffering of hurt
The suffering of grudge
The suffering of ego
The suffering of loneliness
The suffering of addiction
The suffering of regret
The suffering of inadequacy
The suffering of illness
The suffering of demographic

Reading this sparks recognition in your neurons because you are human. You can relate to this. Suffering floods our lives from both internal and external fountains. Remember the Buddha’s first teaching: life is dukkha, or aimless suffering. Learning to understand and interact with the suffering in my life opened my peripheral understanding of the world. It also tangibly applies to ultrarunning. I want to challenge your understanding of suffering.

The etymology of the verb to suffer suggests three meanings:

To experience.

At mile 41, when we realize we have 100k to go and our knee is tender and angry, we begin to enter the experience of what it means to suffer. At mile 76, when our vision slides all over the trail and we are moving slowly and stiffly up our demon mountains, we hurt, we are exhausted, and we are hungry. I believe that we experience suffering any time we ask ourselves to be patient in pain.

We also experience it when we enter lonely places, when our hopes deflate, when our goals are not met, or when our lives are stress-riddled. We experience suffering when we make decisions in secret or live in cognitive dissonance with our values. Suffering finds us when we are rocky financially or broken relationally. When our families grow or fall apart, when we lose cities and houses and friendships. The Buddha was right — suffering is the fundamental human experience.

To be subjected to.

To experience something does not necessarily assign blame. For example, if you registered for the race, you invited the struggle. To be subjected to something adds something sinister to the concept: there is a powerlessness simmering below the surface. This brings up hard words like trauma, grieving, and sickness. Being subjected to something means forced to your knees. You are without say. Scream and break things as much as you want, but you do not have the power to re-write the facts.

Not everything we are subjected to is painful; however, in general, I think that feeling tends to be more humiliating and submissive than not.

This kind of suffering you cannot escape. You cannot quit what you cannot control. You cannot stop mourning, choose not to be anxious, or try to marionette someone’s actions. Powerless suffering is dangerous; the risk is learned helplessness.

To tolerate.

We tolerate annoyances. We tolerate pain. We tolerate failure and weakness; we tolerate authority. We tolerate evil. Our toleration has little to do with good and bad or right and wrong, but again we find that suffering is tied to power. We learn to tolerate the things outside of our control. This is also a dangerous space.

There is suffering we must tolerate, choose to tolerate, and there is suffering we must resist.

In my life, these definitions have been layered. Some of my very earliest childhood memories are painful and dissociative; to be subjected to as a small girl leaves marks. The positive of this introduction to suffering is that it brought an opponent into my life early: hurt. Fighting an opponent will make you stronger than not fighting at all.

As I grew up and started to understand the world, I moved into the second layer of suffering. I tolerated, and still tolerate at times, things that were intolerable. I made decisions I still don’t fully understand. In this position, we develop pain points, hide bruises, switch off, and build in triggers — all for the effort of survival. We tolerate the storm and cling to small faith that it will end.

Sometimes I was forced into toleration by threat, which denied my own reality. I tolerated their desires. I tolerated their selfishness. This made it impossible to tell where boundary lines used to be. We are all pushed forward and backward along the spectrum of suffering throughout our lives, like beads on a string.

The great irony of this is that it spirals us deeper into hurt. I later allowed people and things to enter my mind and body that my reality did not truly want, but I felt submissive to. I was under the delusion that I was trapped – that I had to tolerate it. A sneaky small voice asks: who are you to say no? Why would your needs be prioritized? In the end you will not die, so shut your eyes, suppress your will.

Untangling this idea of toleration was overwhelming to the point of forsaking reality altogether and drowning in alcohol or anything else that misdirected my hurt. In ultras and in life, there is a point of suffering that breaks away into apathy. At a dramatic point, you break. Who gives a fuck? becomes your battle cry.

The truth is, to tolerate something is neither positive or negative. I learned to distinguish an appropriate boundary for what I can absorb without consequence. I learned to tolerate abuse, and later I learned to tolerate it with mercy. Those are wildly different behaviors. One left marks on me, and the other was a gift given freely that never broke the skin. I learned to tolerate illness and evil on my terms instead of theirs. I also learned what I do not tolerate and equally as importantly: how to get away. This is a radical shift of power.

Ultra running

For two decades I tolerated fear and punishment, but today I refuse both. Toleration that leads to further violation is not the suffering that empowers us, not right away. I do not tolerate things that betray my reality. Some people would argue that you should be intolerant to all violations. Ideally that would be wonderful and probably pain-free, but we are human and we are full of mistakes. I think the wiser road is simply knowing your property lines.

I pursue endurance and discipline, which means I welcome the experience of suffering and I tolerate the struggle. Life has the power to pitch you into any of the layers at any time and you will be a pebble in a rockslide. Life can construct all sorts of suffering for you, on any day, that you will be powerless about, so I do not want to give you the impression that I have arrived anywhere above suffering’s reach, but my present suffering is often in my control — like running a hundred or two hundred miles.

It now is an exercise into reality, rather than a desperate attempt to exit it.

The suffering of an ultra is a productive experience to subject yourself because there is no ulterior motive. To be broken is a beautiful thing, especially in a safe place with people who understand. Even more blessed are those who break themselves.

To cut away the safety netting, the comfort, the easiness, and sometimes even your help — to remove it all and ask yourself if you are strong enough to keep going, if you are committed enough to endure the pain, if you are disciplined enough to continue to push forward — that is invaluable suffering. These are the decisions that keep us honest and help us mark our boundaries. These exercises help me know my own thoughts and feelings in no uncertain terms. For those of us who have had to live others’ realities, there is something freeing in living your own raw reality during the second half of an ultra. The pain grounds us, but not like the past.

The denial of suffering leads to locking the doors to rooms in our minds and slipping the keys on a keyring of delusion. Sometimes we do this so readily that we now carry a heavy jangle at all times. I think true freedom is perhaps throwing away the keyring entirely.

Some things cannot change—powerlessness is also part of life—but your interpretation of suffering can. Your relationship to it can. If you can accept that idea, you have already loosened its grip, just a little. We are not free when we are someone’s subject. Do not let suffering be your master.

Because we’ve chosen this sport, because we’ve attempted to give life’s aimless suffering a compass, we might be a little more free.

If you’re suffering with us, if you’re in control of your own suffering with us, I applaud your courage, and look forward to running with you today, tomorrow, and every day after, as ultra marathon runners.

Written by Julie Tertin. Julie is an ultra marathon runner who has raced (and won) ultra marathon distances 200 miles and beyond. You can connect with her at or follow her on Instagram @live.ultra.

You might also like…

51 Ultra Running Quotes you need to read
Ultra running poems
Our most-popular hat

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Ultra Running Poems

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Performance // Running Trucker Hats

'Comfort Is A Lie' trail / ultra running performance trucker hat

🍁 FALL SALE. All hats and shirts just $10. Help us make room for more truckers!

Run Far. Look good. Keep climbing mountains.

Our running trucker hats are bold companions. Take them on your long runs, to race start lines, and rock them loud and proud in finish line pictures. They represent the long miles and many hours spent in the pursuit of your big running goals.

Comfort. Style. Performance.

Disappear-on-your-head comfort, bold designs featuring original mantras, and the durability to withstand your next many training runs and races.

Your new favorite running trucker hat. Guaranteed.

Welcome to the Wicked Trail.

Ultra Running Hats

Wicked Trail Ultra Running Hats cover image

🍁 FALL SALE. All hats and shirts just $10. Help us make room for more truckers!

I’m glad you’re here.

These performance hats are bold reminders to stay goal-oriented and adventurous. They brandish the mantras of your investment: the miles and hours spent on your ultra running journey.

Fatigue is the ultimate mental battleground: take our hats with you to the darkness of 40 miles, 70 miles, 100 miles, and beyond.

Welcome to the Wicked Trail.

UltraCaps are lightweight, packable, crushable, 5 panel hats that disappear on your head. Flip the brim up for better visibility or leave it down in the sun, these will be your new favorite ultra running hats. Guaranteed.

Performance trucker hats are just that: structured, snapback truckers with a moisture-wicking sweatband and lightweight construction for any run, no matter the distance. They’re low profile and take a few runs to break in. Once they do, you’ll never wear another trucker hat.

Mesh running hats are our most breathable running hats. They have the least structure, are the lightest weight, and are great for warm-weather running. If you like 5 panel running hats but want more breathability, our mesh running hats are awesome.

All Wicked Trail hats are designed for tons of miles, lots of sweat, and the hardest adventures you’ll ever have.

Check out all of our ultra running hats below.

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Showing 1–20 of 21 results

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5 Ultra Marathon Workouts You’re Not Doing

5 Ultra Marathon Workouts to challenge your mind. Are you ready?

The following 5 ultra marathon workouts are not for the faint of heart. They’re not for people who are new to fitness (although, scale accordingly and give them a try).

These workouts are designed for those gearing up for an ultra, looking for a little strength challenge, or want to take a periodic does of discomfort. Choose one and use it as a monthly challenge, or complete them with a training buddy. Just keep in mind: any strong training program will incorporate much more than these. Glute and hip isolation, ankle stability, and posterior chain strength, along with other facets of endurance training, cannot be neglected.

These 5 ultra marathon workouts push your body and your mind.

You ready?

Consult a doctor before beginning any ultra marathon exercise program. Wicked Trail LLC is not responsible for injury, death, hurt feelings, or excessive laundry.


Ultra Marathon Workout #1: Trunks

Equipment: squat rack with barbell


  • 60s slow high-knees in place
  • 30 slow, controlled body-weight squats
  • 60s slow high-knees in place
  • 20 cross-body leg swings each side
  • 2 minute plank with some mountain climbers sprinkled in

⚔ Ensure legs are warm and ready for high volume exercise. The high-knees should elevate your heart rate and get some sweat dripping. Strength and endurance come into play in Trunks. My first two ultra marathons saw my quads and glutes go down in flames; this is one of my remedies. Keep good form and don’t force reps late in the session. ⚔

Remember as you go through these ultra marathon workouts: Comfort Is A Lie. [click to shop]

100 squats @95lbs-135lbs in as few sets as possible

Use good form and take your time. Which is harder: 100 miles running or 100 weighted squats? Probably whichever one you’re currently doing. Start with a weight you can outright do 30 reps with and build from there.

5 minute hand plank

This is the real kick in the teeth. Get off those elbows and up on your hands; your shoulders are feeling neglected. You might not think you used your core on those squats and it’s not like you’ll use your legs on these planks, right? Incorrect. Start small and build to 5 minutes.


That’s it. 100 squats and a 5 minute plank. Rest after these types of intense workouts. Not for us; we already waived liability (see above). Do it for your next long run. You may be inclined to try running immediately after this workout for an extra ultra marathon inspired challenge. If so, take it easy and get fully recovered before your next hard effort.

Dismantle Your Wall: Each moment of discomfort beyond fatigue frames your mind for your next big challenge. [click to shop]

Ultra Marathon Workout #2: Washboard

Equipment: a good attitude


  • 60s slow high-knees in place
  • 30 slow, controlled body-weight squats
  • 60s slow high-knees in place
  • 50 2-count trunk twists
  • 2 minute hand plank with some mountain climbers sprinkled in

⚔ Ensure legs are warm and your core is ready for high volume exercise. The high-knees should engage your lower abs and hip flexors, elevate your heart rate, and get some sweat dripping. My hip flexors and lower core was smoked for the last 30 miles of my first 100 mile race. Strengthen them with Washboard so you don’t suffer the same fate. ⚔

Some Core to Get Those Abs Turned On. Summer is only 0-12 months away. The trails are calling.

100 four-count flutter kicks [minimal rest between exercises]

90 lying leg levers

80 two-count mountain climbers

70 V-Ups

60 second side planks each side

50 pushups

40 four-count flutter kicks

30 lying leg levers

20 two-count lying windshield wipers

10 eight-count bodybuilders


Take the next few days to gradually return to core exercises. Sprinkle in some light work with your regular training until any residual soreness has depleted. After all, time on your feet is always the focus in ultra marathon training. Remember, these workouts are intermittent challenges, not smoke sessions to take away from the rest of your training.

Ultra Marathon Workout #3: Secret Weapon

Equipment: running shoes and a local hill of at least 400 meters


  • Simple mobility to warm up ankles, hips, knees, and the surrounding muscle tissue
  • 2-4 miles at an easy jogging pace with short strides in the final 25% of the distance

⚔ Ensure legs are warm and you’ve got a decent sweat going. This Secret Weapon is a great way to finish a running session and prepare for the hills of a trail or mountain ultra marathon. Downhill running is a skill and ought to be practiced on fatigued legs; use the uphills to build endurance and persistence.

Find a hill near you of at least 1/4 mile. If you can’t find one, refer to workout #1, Trunks

The distance of your hill does not matter. Adpat to the distance. Its YOUR Secret Weapon, use its entirety.

Summit hill at 85% effort. Return to bottom, letting yourself go. Develop a downhill rythm and let your quads absorb the impact, building your downhill legs.

Rest 2 minutes

Repeat hill 3X, resting for 2 minutes at the bottom

100 four-count lunges, standing in place (400 total lunge steps)

Rest 2 minutes

Summit hill at 85% effort. Return to bottom, letting yourself go. Develop a downhill rythm and let your quads absorb the impact, building your downhill legs.

Rest 2 minutes

Repeat hill 3X, resting for 2 minutes at the bottom


A running workout like this, one that is taxing on many different systems in your body, needs to be followed up by a few days of low intensity training. This is how you avoid burnout & injury. A workout like this should only be used as a mental challenge for healthy ultra runners gaining traction in their training.

This workout is tough: strength, endurance, and grit are put to the test.

Ultra Marathon Workout #4: Super Murph

Equipment: pull-up bar and a great attitude


  • Simple mobility to warm up ankles, hips, knees, and the surrounding muscle tissue
  • 2-4 miles at an easy jogging pace with short bursts of speed in the final 25% of the distance
  • 50 two-count trunk twists
  • 50 arm circles in each direction

⚔ Ensure legs and upper body are warm and you’ve developed a decent sweat. This ultra marathon workout is going to be something elseSuper Murph simply requires grit. It is long, arduous, and multiple muscle groups are used throughout the session. The second one mile run is a good taste of ‘mile 80.’ Don’t worry about time. Just get it done.

Our take on the Murph:

1 mile run

100 4ct lunges (400 lunge steps)

100 pull-ups (sub sandbag rows / slow downward dog to high plank

200 lying leg levers

200 pushups (elevate hands on a counter if necessary)

300 seconds worth of elbow planks

300 body-weight squats

1 mile run


This is a multi-discipline workout not necessarily ideal for runners focused solely on getting faster. Just like this entire list, this is a test of grit and persistence. This is a long, take-it-slow workout for those who like a cross-training challenge.

Ultra Marathon Workout #5: Trunks, The Sequel

Equipment: 25lbs weight


  • 60s slow high-knees in place
  • 30 slow, controlled body-weight squats
  • 60s high-knees in place
  • 20 cross-body leg swings each side

⚔ Ensure legs are warm and ready for high volume exercise. The high-knees should elevate your heart rate and get some sweat dripping. One of my favorite exercises for building a strong core and legs is lunges. This takes lunges down the endurance route and throws in a heavy dose of hip flexor work. Another great option is simply 100 four-count lunges with no break. Build those tree trunks.

50 four-count lunges @25lbs

Stand in place. Keep your knees over your ankles and keep a strong, solid core. Don’t get into extension; keep your ribs down and low. Hold the weight at chest-level, but don’t lean it against you. Take 200 total steps, alternating legs.

50 two-count Russian Twists @25lbs

Feet elevated, ankles uncrossed. Full torso twist with weight, barely tap the ground. Legs kick in opposite direction of weight-tap. Full range of motion here.

50 four-count lunges @25lbs

Stand in place. Keep your knees over your ankles and keep a strong, solid core. Don’t get into extension; keep your ribs down and low. Hold the weight at chest-level, but don’t lean it against you. Take 200 total steps, alternating legs.


This is another great way to ruin the rest of your week, so make sure you’re hydrating and fueling well in the hours and days after this session. Easy, slow runs should be on the agenda for the next few days.


You didn’t do them all at once, did you?

Thanks for reading through a few unconventional workouts for endurance athletes. I’ve done them all, and they are gut-checks.

And I think gut-checks can be important leading up to 50+ mile races.

Give these ultra marathon workouts a try. Tweak them, scale them, make them a little easier or harder; it’s your personal challenge. They’ll test your training and your resolve, like a micro-ultra marathon. A little taste of the discomfort that lies ahead.

Don’t be afraid of long, arduous workouts that don’t require your running shoes. Keep the trails and pavement primary, but acknowledge, with your training, the importance of strength and the fundamental idea of discomfort.

If you’re content with your training, start challenging yourself with uncomfortable workouts like these.

It’s all in your head.

Now go get after it.

Concise, simplified training tips:

  • You can get faster with 90% of your mileage being easy.
  • Hamstrings are often neglected by mid to back-of-the-pack runners.
  • Doing one speed workout per month might be better than one per week.
  • Cross train! Seriously. Hot yoga, cycling, hiking, rowing.
  • Simplicity is important in running, training, and life.
  • Comfort Is A Lie

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51 Ultra Running Quotes you need to read
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Your First 100 Mile Race: Are You Ready?

Your First 100 Mile Race by Wicked Trail Running

Running your First 100 Mile Race will come with a lot of questions…

“What’s your weekly mileage?”

“Are you ready?

“It’s going to take how long?”

Why would you ever do that to your body?”

“I could never do that.”

Not enough. Probably not. At least a whole day. It’s not about what happens to your body.

Most importantly, yes, you could.

After I ran my first ultra marathon, a 50 mile race, a simple question burned in my mind: What else can I do?

I stood at the finish line of that 50 mile, 11-something-hour run, and thought: Look at those people. They’re going to do 50 more miles!

That simple 50 mile race altered my understanding of challenge, altered the way I interpreted the world. I’d caught the bug.

Two weeks until I run my first 100 mile race

With only two weeks until the day of my first 100 mile race, it honestly doesn’t seem like a big deal. I’ve spent so much time thinking about it on my own terms, deeply in training and preparation, I don’t often stop to think about how crazy the idea once seemed to me. [Update: its done. Read about it.]

I once categorized marathon runners as crazy. I didn’t even know people ran 100 mile races.

To clarify, “What’s the point? Why do people run races of 100 miles?” summed up my opinion of ultra endurance running.

I now look at it another way:

Why aren’t more people jumping on board and running ultras? Does the danger of exploring one’s mind, one’s capabilities, scare people away? I can’t believe more runners aren’t wondering if they have what it takes to conquer 50, 100, or more miles!

Do I have what it takes?

On April 7 2018, the day of my first ultra marathon, it rained for 12 hours and the temperature stayed below 45 degrees. It turns out a windbreaker can’t cut it as a rain jacket; I was soaked by mile 20. I only had two spare shirts. “Movement is warmth” became my mantra.

The weather necessitated rain gear and I wasn’t prepared. I walked about 10 of the last twelve miles because of blisters and chafing, peed on my own hands multiple times to warm them up, and refused to take hand warmers because, once the sun went down, the 100-mile runners’ teeth would be chattering harder than mine.

The last lap of the 12.5 mile course was the most difficult; I was chilled to the bone wearing only a long sleeve polyester shirt (soaked) under a veil of a windbreaker (more soaked) and running shorts in 45 degree, rainy weather. My feet had over 8 hours on them. To further my physical deterioration, I attempted to dry off at the last aid station and wiped all the BodyGlide off of my nipples. They chaffed raw.

Uncomfortable hardly describes that first 50 miler.

While my clothing choices left much to desire, I finished in 10 hours 41 minutes and 26 seconds, a time burned in my mind. That’s about a 12:49/mile pace. In other words, physically I was decently prepared. Additionally, I felt mentally prepared for the race. I didn’t get frustrated or upset, I had positive thoughts the entire time, and I finished with a smile and a deep breath of relief.

Now, in early July, with only weeks to the most physically demanding challenge of my life, I feel similar to what I felt before the Umstead 50. Only this time, I’ll repeat the distance back to back at the Burning River 100 in Cleveland, Ohio.

“Are You Ready to Run Your First 100 Mile Race?”

This ultra marathon is my first of many 100 mile races, I hope.

And if someone asked me today “Are you ready?” my answer is: “I have no idea.”

Because I don’t. I have no idea. Is a person ready to run for 24+ hours with only one other ultra-distance event under his belt? Does pain exponentially get worse? What mile will be the hardest? Will the mild elevation changes of Northeast Ohio play to my advantage, or is it still enough to dismantle my legs? Does anyone have an advantage in his or her first 100 mile ultra marathon? What exactly does it feel like at mile 70, 80, or 90?

As my first 100 mile race approached, these are the questions I asked. I haven’t talked to many people about their first 100 mile experiences because frankly, I never thought the experiences of others mattered much. It’s 100 miles: suck it up and keep moving.

But now, as I stare down the barrel of 100 miles, I’m listening to others’ experiences. Did you have doubts? What was your peak weekly mileage? Was there any moment of the race you thought you’d throw in the towel? What was the hardest part? Is it really all in your mind? (Turns out: YES)

As I prepare to tackle my first hundo, I feel calm. Either I have trained enough, or I have not; it’s too late to try and catch up. I genuinely don’t think the training matters after a certain point, unless you’re after the podium. In other words, it really is all in your head.

If your mind is right, if you have mental clarity heading into the race, you are ready.

This is why I’m doing it. I’m not a great athlete. I had never run an official race (of any distance) until four months ago. But does it matter? When the race clock hits 24 hours at 4 AM on July 29 and the morning darkness is thick & chilly in Cleveland, everyone on the trail will be exhaustion beyond comprehension. Everyone. Time, distance, and darkness will leave everyone in the same shoes, not realistically capable of continuing.

But we’ll run on…

When Your 100 Mile Race Training Falls Short

My training plan fell apart for my first 100 mile race [in fact, THIS is how bad it went]. I have battled Achilles, hip, and foot issues all on the right side of my body due to running and non-running activities.

Consequentially, my peak mileage was never where I wanted it. Last month I adopted a “healthy not ready” mindset. This decision certainly gave me peace. I was no longer racing a clock to squeeze mileage in. Instead I was preparing my mind and body in a way that carried no anxiety or hurry.

“Healthy not ready” means lots of cross-training and less running.

I am ready. Even if my training log doesn’t say so.

And you are too, you would-be-100-mile-runner reading this. Or you who would embark on your first ultra marathon.

Just show up to the starting line and start running. Value lies in the passing of the miles, the steps toward the finish line. As the pain passes by, something will be left…

A hardened man or woman who just traversed 100 miles; one who can shut the voices off and just keep putting one foot in front of the other, relentlessly.

Over and over again. No matter how you feel.

Anything life can throw at you, any hill that rises in front of you, will be easier after your first 100 mile race. Sure, you get a belt buckle and a great set of finish line photos for Instagram. Above all, though, the moment of your finish will never die.

Your First 100 Mile Race Is Just One Long Hill

Earlier today, a steep hill interrupted one of my casual runs. People normally take it easy on hills so I choose to run them faster solely for the reason that most people don’t. It’s also great for the glutes, I suppose. As I was gasping up this steep incline today, I realized something: my first ultra marathon was, and this impending first 100 mile race is, just a long and steep hill.

Too many people avoid the hills or use them as an excuse to slow down. We all have these hills in our lives; I challenge you to not slow down on the hills, to not take it easy, and to search them out.

Look for the hills.

If you find them and run them hard, harder than anyone else, you’ll build your glutes and hamstrings and grit and confidence. Then, when another hill comes along, a Wicked Trail you didn’t plan for, you’ll be ready. Your legs will be strong, your mind will understand the value of the hill, and you’ll run up it, passing everyone who wasn’t prepared, who chose to avoid hills and remain comfortable in life.

Hills are meant to forge an uncommon mindset. Comfort Is A Lie, and if you don’t challenge yourself on some hills, you’ll slip into a dull, comfortable, life. You’re going to get knocked down by life. Go forge an uncommon mindset so you’re prepared.

When you find a hill, whether it’s a jog tomorrow morning or your first 100 mile race, remind yourself of the prize at the finish line: you will be that much more prepared for the next hill. And the next, and the next. Your body will be more capable, and your mind more endurable.

That’s what it’s all about. And anyone eager for hills, eager for growth, eager to develop that uncommon mindset, is ready for their first 100 mile race.

Check these out…

51 Ultra Running Quotes you need to read
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Torture Your Faults

Torture Your Faults Ultra Marathon Blog

Mornings are hard. Cold weather is hard. Late nights are hard. Saying no to fun is hard.

Nobody asked you to Be Your Own Culture, to chase something intangible and pursue an imagined ideal.

You don’t have to do whatever hard thing you’re doing. You can probably die happy without ever running, squatting under a barbell, or toeing the line for a 100 mile race.

It would be the easier route, right?

The only entity that will question your sloth, your commitment to fitting in, your addiction to plush couches and big screens and instant gratification is the Wicked Trail, that place in your mind where challenge lives, where opportunity thrives as a student of fatigue and pain and adventure.

Culture will not hold you accountable; only the knowledge buried in your mind –that adventure and dissociation from normalcy are one step away– will haunt you.

It’s your call, your decision. It’s a joyous YES or a doubtful and afraid NO.

Have you decided?

That joyous YES demands kinetic commitment, one of action.

You must embrace the hard and challenging and inconvenient. Find a smile in heavy breaths and wobbly legs and blistered toes.

Identify strengths and build them; search for your weaknesses and wring them out.

Torture Your Faults.

Torturing your faults isn’t a negative proposition. It’s not meant for you to ride yourself miserable for your weaknesses and failures. Rather, celebrate and go in the direction of your strengths. Build them and strategize your mission in relation to them.

Then, while honoring your strengths in goal-oriented action, expose those things that do not contribute to your success or the betterment of your team, those people with whom you’re building a community of pursuit.

Faults; Parasites

Impatience, addiction, regret; it may be just a crumb, but at least one these faults has burrowed into your mind. They bore a black and diseased hole and feed on the stimulation of a culture possessed by ease and gratification.

I’ve seen impatience in running with my dog; I want him to skip the many pee stops and sniff breaks for a continuous effort. I’ve had to pay close attention to my emotions and ensure I allow him to be a dog. Don’t worry about the time on your watch; Cowboy is enjoying this run with you.

Addiction hides in ease and accessibility. Cell phones are one of the sneakiest fiends of addiction. Social networks and quick-stop news sites are wired to keep us coming back; I’ve found myself forgetting the actual thing I logged on for and aimlessly perusing pictures on Instagram. Sugar, alcohol, or caffeine, anyone?

I wrote about regret here. Before you ever miss out, fail, or fall into defeat, regret lives in your mind. It feeds on daily indecision and indifference, growing into a monster of what-ifs and maybes that plague a person with negativity. Don’t feed it. After DNF’ing from the Umstead 100, quitting with an indifference to my goal, my pursuit, I felt massive regret. It’s easy to sit in regret and doubt capabilities, motives, and orientation. That’s what regret wants: doubt.

Torture Your Faults

Take your impatience into the sunlight; tie him up and drag him to to the starting line of a 100 mile race. Bring her on your training runs, those ten mile slogs on tired legs, when you must sit in the discomfort and quiet your mind. Impatience will howl and beg for relief in your daily life, if you choose challenge and adventure. Stay in the right lane on your morning commute, let someone take your place in line during the weekend grocery store rush, or just sit –alone with your thoughts– on a bench before entering a store. Inconvenience yourself for the sake of waiting; you’ll need that skill when it comes to ‘mile 90’ of whatever your goal is.

Addiction is tricky. She sneaks around and stays in the shadows. He is brushed off as normal and acceptable. Filling everyone’s cup with warmth, addiction flourishes. We are chemically inclined for comfort; our minds crave salt, sugar, and fat. Medicate, alleviate, and allow your life to spiral into dependence. It’s not just pills and nicotine; look around at the cravings you satisfy every single day. The time has come to torture your addiction. Tape his mouth shut and chain him to challenge. Put your sugar cravings under a heavy barbell and take your caffeine dependence down a dark, twisting trail. Comfort Is A Lie; show your addiction rain and mud, steep ascents and long miles. Do not let addiction have her say: find strength in achievement and the sensation of rugged experience.

Ah, regret. That festering negativity for missing out, for sitting on the sidelines of life. He or she is the fear that your life will remain as it is: complacent, boring, and unfulfilled. Send your regret an email, a link. Better yet, invite him over to watch you peruse UltraSignUp or RunSignUp. Take her for coffee and tell her about your plans for a Spartan Race, a backpacking trip, or a 100 mile ultra marathon. She’ll get angry. He’ll throw a fit. Good. Regret has no place at your table. You’ve left concern and worry behind; your thoughts have moved on to brighter, more adventurous, and hugely challenging endeavors.

Sweaty palms, calloused feet, and heavy breaths.

Pine trees, roots and rocks, and cold creek crossings.

Belt buckles, finish line pictures, and passions pursued.

Write the book.

Learn the skill.

Take the plunge.

Find a Wicked Trail…

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My Dirty Hat

My Dirty Hat - Ultra Trail Trucker Hat

“I thought about buying a new hat, a fresh and clean one, but it wouldn’t be the same.

It’s my hat.

It knows my struggles on the trail and my successes.

I’ve trained and raced with it. It’s tasted sweat and dirt and lots of stream water on hot days.”

It kept the sun out of my eyes on that long, desolate, beach road in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, when I crossed the finish line in first place after fifty miles of asphalt and loose, gritty sand.

This hat climbed those unforgiving Virginia switchbacks that cold March night, when five headlamps bobbed along the Blue Ridge Parkway ten minutes before the thirteen-hour cut-off.

My hat was there at my first DNF, fifteen minutes from my apartment in Raleigh, North Carolina, when the voices of comfort and ease sang louder than my battle-forged will.

This hat kept the rain off my face as I circled a gravel loop in northeast Ohio for twenty-four hours on my twenty-fourth birthday.

Less than a week later, my hat flew to Austin, Texas, to run trails on tired legs and sore feet, all for the sake of adventure and experience.

Hadn’t we had enough adventure and experience?

“It’s never enough,” my hat says, hanging now on my door handle. “Let’s get back out there! Where are we going next? What challenge, fatigue, and fear can we run through together?”

I look at that hat, white and green and now with dirt splotches, and feel its weight on my head.

I feel the sand in my shoes, and I see the heat coming off that oceanside asphalt.

I taste the cold winter air of the Virginia mountains. I see flakes falling thick and frigid stream crossings and myself stopping with ten miles left, taking it all in, this grand adventure.

When I see that dirt-splotched hat, I hear myself say “I’m done” at my first DNF; I feel my hip and foot and I get that April nighttime chill down my spine. I see the doubt and pain in my eyes and return to that Moment of Quit. There’s my hat: along for the bad as it was for the good.

[click here to read about the Moment of Quit]

On that wet Ohio morning, my hat finished 87 laps of monotonous gravel. It heard my conversations, laughs, groans, and self-talk. It sat next to that warm aid station fire for too long and crossed the finish line perched above my smile.

Outside Austin, it saw the rocky hills of Texas for the first time. It slid down loose descents, navigated mountain bike trails, and got soaked by a frigid rain just across the finish line.

My hat is dirty, and it has a salty sweat stain on the brim.

It’s been sat on, dunked in streams, latched to backpacks, complimented, and shared.

It’s seen first-place finishes, fatigue and pain, and moments of massive weakness, of quit.

Races and training sessions. Sweat and sun. Wind and snow. Gravel, asphalt and sand; roots and rocks.

I thought I might swap it out for a fresh one today.

But what good would that do my bank of experiences and adventures, of challenges faced?

I’ll give this dirt-splotched hat another ride. And probably another. It’ll earn its retirement one day; it might get lost in the desert or loaned to a sun-tanned friend. I might leave it under a pine tree or watch it float down some river. It might get blown off in a mountain thunderstorm as I run for the cover of the tree line.

Then I might swap it out for a fresh one.

Won’t that be some story?

Like this post? Check out some other Creative posts…

Creation Trail [reading time: 3 minutes]

Gravel [reading time: 3 minutes]

Barbed Wire [reading time: 23 minutes]

Grounded by Home Trails [reading time: 4 minutes]

Cape Cod 50k: A High Five and a Seashell [reading time: 4 minutes]

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So Long, And Thanks For The Suffering

Thanks For The Suffering Ultra Marathon Blog Michael Moran

Written By Michael Moran

I chose to do this.

Nobody forced me to run 50 miles.

Pouring sweat into a paper cup of Gatorade three quarters of the way through the race, I felt like I was about to cave inward. The weight of the last few months, the heat, my wet and muddy feet, and the physical toll of this race brought me to an edge I hadn’t felt before. I was losing sight of my why.  I thought it was about adventure, accomplishment, and identity, but that turned out to be wrong.

I chose the Pineland Farms 50 miler because of a lifetime-love of playing in the woods of Maine. Maine is nicknamed “Vacation Land” for the hundreds of miles of bucolic back roads, cow pastures, and impossibly lush, dark woods. It’s the ideal setting for long backpacking trips, camping, or stargazing.  When I signed up for this race in November of 2018, I booked a campsite and spent the winter dreaming of starry night skies and bonfires, good beer, and a chance to connect with other ultra runners.

I thought about a terrifying goal and that I was ready to go for it

The night before the race, a few runners huddled around a hissing fire, which was fighting against light rain.

A pleasant couple, Paul and Carol-Ann, joined me by the fire and we started chatting. They were there to watch their son race the 50 miler. Paul’s friendly face poked out of his rain jacket like it was just perched on top of his rounded body. He had a magnetic kindness and openness, which pulled everyone gathered toward him.

Paul’s experience in ultra marathons, if not for his knowledge, would have been given away by his Western States belt buckle barely hidden under his belly. In fact, this Paul was Paul Days-Merrill, winner of the 1996 Vermont 100. When the gravity of my company became clear, the conversation became a frenetic series of my training questions and his stories about ultra races. We spent the evening talking about the sport and its evolution. We chatted about flat coke, Doritos, and fanny packs. We discussed Gordy and Walmsley. His incongruous identity shifted through the night and I could almost see that young ultra runner standing in front of me.  He pulled me into conversation in a way that welcomed me to a club of eccentricity that few people understand. Our conversation lasted until rain and the clock forced us to our tents for the night.  I was about to become part of his pack; I was fired up and couldn’t sleep. I laid in my tent, listening to the sound of heavy rain, thinking about the adventure of the following day.

I did not think about what that rain meant for the trails. 

The Narrative

The rain left deep, murky mud puddles in the cow pastures used for the course. The only way to deal with them was to slog through –up to your ankles— and hope your shoes didn’t fill with mud. The looped course sent us back through the same slog over and over.

By the time I reached the 50 kilometer (31.07 miles) mark, I was feeling intense fatigue from lifting burnt quads against the mud’s sticky resistance. In addition, the course markings were off by a few miles; the mental game was on.

I felt frustration and defeat.

I could barely run faster than a trot with the mud and hills.

The miles felt like quicksand. Thick black sludge suctioned my feet and pulled me under. My hammered quads and burned out glutes fought stiffly to rise out of the sludge. 

My first 50 miler would be a walk.

For some reason, this bruised my ego and seemed to dull my energy further. The sun baked mercilessly on me and my soaked shirt. I have always been mentally tough, and I have struggled in races before. Why was this feeling different? I had to stop for a few moments at an aide station in order to get my shit together.

I thought about where I was in my life and my context. I was beaten down before I even got to the starting line of this race; I needed to look at myself in the mirror. This race, as it turned out, was as much about what I was looking to find inside of my mind as what my body could do. 

In the spring of 2019, just before the race, I found myself in the crosshairs of three massive moments in my life. I was finalizing a divorce from a person I spent 16 years with, selling my first home, and tapering for my first 50 mile race. The pressure of uncertainty, instability and emotional pain mingled with brutal self-talk and taper anxieties.

Three in the morning became the worst time. Sleep was needed with my training build-up for the race, but my brain wanted to do a full review of my resume of mistakes since 1982. By the time my alarm sounded each morning, I was already suffering with physical and emotional fatigue. My family had mostly moved out of the state the year before and I was almost always alone.  I found myself closing off from the world around me. 

Through this period of instability and emotional vulnerability, I continued my practice of writing down five things I am grateful for each morning. I thrive on stability and routine; on painful mornings, with the help of my best friend, a woman I love very much, I clenched my teeth and grunted out that I was thankful for her and black coffee. Despite her living in Arizona and me living in Massachusetts, she texts me like a sunrise every morning: “Gimme those gratitudes!” Often, forcing myself to think deeper, I reminded myself about the obvious ones: my daughter, my family, a roof over my head, my fitness or my best friend.

Yet, in all of my daily gratitudes, I never stopped to thank my suffering. I showed gratitude for overcoming obstacles, my achievements, and my victories, but never just raw pain. 

We are all the product of a lifetime of choices and events. It’s fair to think that the “positive” choices we make are the ones to attribute toward our identity or success. This is my success narrative: going to college, choosing a healthy diet, mindfulness meditation and daily gratitude, a daily commitment to fitness, seven hours of sleep, high effort in my career, a history of solid performance in running. This narrative is why I claim to be successful.

It’s easy to show gratitude for a successful narrative because these paths ease tension and optimize my life.

Conversely, we attribute our obstacles and pain to success with a grit-based narrative.

I overcame adversity through grit, I shoved the bullshit aside and got tough, I got away from that destructive situation. No pain, no gain! I toiled for that outcome. These are my identity and, just like the success narrative, have a positive spin. They rely on overcoming tension between situation and goals. We need grit and it’s easy to feel gratitude toward a mindset that drives us forward through passion and intensity, despite the obstacles.

Yet, when we are actively in a moment of suffering, and we feel defeated –not particularly gritty, or tough, and like we want to break—how can we feel gratitude? We are inside suffering and haven’t met the goal. We see no way out of the current pain and struggle and are flooded with uncertainty. How can we feel gratitude in this?

Why feel gratitude for this? 

No Narrative: Gratitude

“Smile! even when you don’t want to” is some of the best advice I’ve heard. Instead of allowing defeat and discomfort to take control at mile 38 and feed a failure narrative of how my whole life has been a mess, and how life has kicked me in the teeth, I smiled.

I smiled to accept the pain. I tried to embrace it and cherish it. It wasn’t going to kill me or make me stronger. It was just going to hurt. I needed to hurt; that’s a part of this experience too. 

Instead of feeding thoughts about my failed relationship, an uncertain future, the loss of my first home, my loved ones living thousands of miles away, or worrying about my daughter, those voices which were starting to bark in my ear, I smiled.

The pendulum swung back and I was in misery again. Screw this, I’m not going to do this mindfulness bullshit because this pain actually sucks. Mindfulness can feel insulting in real pain. Say thank you for this? No, fuck you

Thanking the suffering took me out of the participation in the suffering and let me observe it. I allowed the present moment to be painful, held, and observed. Suffering itself has a place at the table.

The pendulum went again toward gratitude; I allowed it in.

Thank you, suffering. I am lucky to have you in my life.

It wasn’t a grit-based narrative, or a success-based narrative; it was in true gratitude for the pain. I didn’t imagine overcoming it. I didn’t tell myself I was strong and brave and that I could do this. I didn’t tell myself that I was mentally tough or any number of positive-narrative spins. I didn’t pat myself on the back for running an ultra. I just thanked the suffering. It was good stuff.

I saw Paul at an aide station cheering for the runners and I got a boost. I remembered last night’s fiery conversation about this sport and the people who do it. It’s all about discomfort and hard work. You don’t win the Vermont 100 without suffering at some point on the way to victory. Suffering is a mindset to lovingly embrace. 

There was no more tension, and my mind stopped spiraling. I didn’t force it to happen, and I didn’t magically stop hurting; it just no longer was a source of tension. The pain was very real. The emotional turmoil was still there, but it was all being held and accepted, observed and appreciated.

It was the reason I was there. I was getting what I came for.

After this, I started to run again. Now that the suffering was allowed, and even embraced, I was ok. I was able to turn the volume up on that grit-based inner dialogue and put my head down. I wasn’t gritting through pain; I had accepted it and could work with it in order to finish.  I stopped complaining about the mile markers and the mud. That was some good suffering, too.

I allowed everything to be what it was –even suffering—and I pounded my destroyed legs to the finish.

I smiled and I meant it.

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Barbed Wire

Barbed Wire | Scott Waldrop

Written By Scott Waldrop

Scott has completed numerous ultra marathon distance races (including a Badwater 135 finish and an Arrowhead 135 attempt) and is a father, husband, writer, and guitarist.

He placed first in the 2018 Charleston 100, 2 weeks after winning the crewed division of the Tarheel 378-miler. His story has been featured in The News And Observer, USA Today, The Chicago Tribune, Ultrarunning Magazine, and Endurance Magazine.

I hope I didn’t miss anything. Although, knowing Scott, I’ve hardly scratched the surface…

We all have God on our side.

Most of us are too blind or too numb to be aware of the presence; many of us have misgivings about what to call it so we choose not to call it anything. We stagnate in our inability to choose and in this moor we become fearful, angry, guilt-ridden, jealous and wanting.

In these negative emotions we lose our power.

Conversely, moving towards finding divine purpose creates new potential. Momentum and riding the crest of the present moment clears stagnant energy and opens the doors of circumstance to a veritable constellation of synchronicities which light our way. This requires one to surrender unto belief which is counterintuitive to the pragmatic ‘elbow grease & gumption’ paradigms bestowed upon us by our parents’ generations. The world is changing fast enough for anyone to find themselves estranged who spends too long looking backwards from the zeitgeist, back towards the familiar comfort of what was and will never be again.

You have to move with the changing waters as opposed to fighting their current, which is limitless in its ability break you.

It is ever-changing and doesn’t care about the illusionary concept that you may have even an infinitesimal sway on its ever-unfolding aspect. This movement begs the question, “Are we at least presently moving towards being someone we’re comfortable with being when we die?”

Drunk & Stoned

I grew up valuing a day spent outdoors.

My mother’s side were horse people and much of my childhood was spent on the back of a pony in the woods. My father was athletic, a marine, and made sure I was never a stranger to mountain nor sea. Growing up in North Carolina & Virginia, I spent a good deal of my youth hiking The Smoky Mountains and The Blue Ridge Mountains. My stepmother was from California so I also spent many summers in The Pacific surf as well as The Isle of Palms in South Carolina where my Dad had a timeshare.

During my formative years I lived in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Vienna, Virginia where my home was perched near a small cliff only yards from Difficult Run, a tributary stream of the Potomac River. In those woods I could ride my BMX bike for miles and miles in either direction, stopping to catch eels and crayfish.

In my early 20’s my friends and I would spend much of the summer in George Washington National Forest within The Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. Here, we’d hike, fish, swim and –most importantly– get drunk & stoned.

We decided to spread our wings and set out to see America in its entirety by car and tent. This was the mid 90’s and we did it all by map. We went on epic hikes through Glacier Park, Yellowstone, The Black Hills, The Badlands, Crater Lake, Mount Rainier, Vail, The Grand Canyon and so on. This wetted my appetite for getting out into our nation’s vast wilderness.

Again, by the time I was exploring America by car & tent, psychoactive chemicals were integral to my journey. My aforementioned childhood was depicted as idyllic, but it was not without its events that perhaps lead to my alcohol consumption developing its own creeping momentum later in life.

To egregiously abbreviate a dark period, my drinking increased in my 30’s and with that I began to realize that I had some significant underlying mental illness. Mercifully, some unknown force came to free me from my own wreckage.

I prayed to return to that child who loved to wander and knew peace.

So, I started to run and I managed to run myself out of the depression and anxiety that caused my addiction.

Gushing Gratitude

To greatly simplify and encapsulate this process, I began running a mile further each week until I could run 70 miles from my house, down The Falls of Neuse River trail in Raleigh, and back.

This process included learning where to stash water and food along the river bank. It also involved learning how to cope with lightning, snow, hurricanes, rising floods, dehydration, near overhydration, and sunburn, when I was twenty miles from home on foot.

By early 2016 I had trained myself to be an ultrarunner but didn’t go out to meet any like-minded people nor allow the magic of circumstance to take effect. I was aware that I had done the work and it was time to grow in a new way.

I decided to jump into a new unknown.

I don’t know where it was ultimately leading me to, but I knew I had to start taking steps. I wanted to give others the gushing gratitude I felt towards the blue sky and sun on my face while running in sobriety.

I decided to get a running coach certification from the RRCA (Road Runners Club of America).

The only thing stopping me was the fact that the only class I could get into was far away, in Boise, Idaho. I was unsure about what to do but my wife catalyzed my courage saying, “We have the money; go after this. I believe in you.” It was her strength that propelled me to take the steps that would set forth a chain of events which quickly and beautifully reshaped my life.

In the true spirit of adventure, I flew out west with only my wallet and a hydration pack; there was no rental car waiting for me. As we began our final descent I saw the amazing desert plateau that would be my ‘downtime playground’ for the next few days; emerald Tolkien-esque hills rolled across the horizon, divided by The Snake River. From these myriad Hobbit Hills arose a yellow-orange rock which beckoned to me from the airplane’s little window.

These hills exuded mystery as they were (to me), a perfect romanticization of “Old West” ghost stories.

Once on the ground, I ran to my motel which was a few miles from the airport in the urban sprawl.

Boise is typical of an 18-wheeler interstate interchange area; a spaghetti tangle of swirling exits and road debris. As I ran, I’d look to the ground to dodge needles, bottles of urine, bits industrial metal, and all other manner of road detritus. Off in the distance I could see the rolling hills and prairie which clashed in stark disparity against Boise’s monotone infrastructure and right angles.

Barbed Wire

The first morning I woke up before the sun and ran the 5 miles from the hotel to the gym where the certification course was taking place. When class let out in the early afternoon, I literally began to run for the hills; in the remote distance I saw snow peaks which pulled at my heart. Along the way were historic markers for The Oregon Trail. I thought about ‘Indian attacks’ and bones buried under rock piles.

I was running along a path where daring hearts –far bolder than mine!– had faced undreamed hardship.

There had recently been a massive snow melt which left The Boise River violent and powerful beneath the rusted bridge I crested as I moved closer across a grassy field towards a dramatic ascent at Table Rock Trail.

I ran past innumerable amounts of ageless barbed wire which seemed to litter the countryside. It made me feel like a stranger as I had no personal history nor connection to ‘the lands of barbed wire prairies.’

As an Easterner, being in this environment was like finding myself in some childhood dream about “Cowboys and Indians” (please pardon the antiquated terminology as these thoughts are being reflected through the lense of childhood memory).

Delicate wildflowers sprouted from juxtaposing gnarls of rusted wire. This wire was made to harm, hoard, enslave, and divide. Its profusion was subconsciously unnerving. Large rocks jutted upwards from the hills arranged in strange caprice. They were gorgeously jagged and their exposed layers of strata were ribonned in warm hues. Some of them were conspicuously monolithic and stood like sentinels in the blowing tall grass. I passed a true ‘Old West’ prison which now stood as a museum.

It was as if so few men ever came this far into the wild, the facility was preserved from lack of interaction with the incarnate, and seemingly tended by the dead.

The dirt trail which ran along the hill just above it was encrusted with relics of the bygone. The dark yellow dirt was bejeweled with implements of the previous century which were rusted beyond recognition inasmuch as one could begin to decipher their original purpose. Misplaced structural stones carved into crude squares by the hands of The Prairie’s long-since departed inhabitants were dispersed sporadically about the precipitous and narrow path which loomed over the hoary prison.

As I looked over my shoulder the sun was setting and the vision of the compound was curiously monotone in its dusty desert yellowishness. I continued towards the snow peaks unconcerned about impending nightfall and being alone in the wilderness of this strange new land.

This exhilarated me.

I’d spent so many years under the influence of substances I’d learned to not trust myself.

I was learning that I could trust myself and that I was capable of so much more than I ever imagined. My self-assuredness that I would be okay as I journeyed into this bizarre and alien terrain was affirming this trust. I ducked under more barbed wired, surmounted several nearly vertical hills, and then went down again. However, I was surly trespassing and hoping I wasn’t being observed from afar by a rancher’s gunscope.

I felt strangely calm as if I had spirit guides protecting me. I felt very much in touch with my true self exploring this place. Adventure into to the unknown brings with it the promise of general weirdness.

The twilight lingered far longer than I suspected which inspired me to go out farther; the snow peaks being my north star. Along a valley floor where no one could possibly have recently been – save a ghost, extraterrestrial, or perhaps an ultrarunner – lay the scant and mysterious remains of some large animal. It was a fully intact stomach, a small bit of gut, and not a trace more. There were no tire tracks, footprints, nor animal tracks in the surrounding area. I hastened my pace to surmount the canyon wall and gain higher ground. Once I made it to the top, I found myself on a road so dramatically cracked in half and separated, it looked like cartoon-depicted Armageddon.

There were tilted signs reading Danger Zone and Do Not Enter dotting the obliterated road. I couldn’t resist walking into this area like I was be sung to by syrens.

It was truly one of the strangest scenes I’d ever chanced upon.

There was an entire neighborhood of unfinished mansions which had all been torn in half by cracked earth. The destruction looked biblical and it was fully deserted save me.

This was a hidden gem of urban decay tourism; a ruinscape of towering transom shards and diagonal colonnades in splinters. It was clearly all recent construction yet nestled in the middle of nowhere. The ruin eerily implied that some elemental force simply wouldn’t allow these superfluous monuments of avarice to stand in the sacred midst of this wilderness.

There was a clear and final demarcation with a particularly large sign erected by The State of Idaho. It extended the width of the road, warning not to enter.

I walked past this sign feeling very uncomfortable in my gut, and proceeded to raise myself several feet up over a layer of the cracked earth. In that moment my cell phone slid from my fingertips and shattered on the ground joining the sea of broken glass.

I took this as a sign from forces greater than The State of Idaho to turn around and start heading home. The snow peaks could wait for another time.

As I saw the lights of the city reappear in the distance, the sky was the most dramatic shade of amethyst I’d ever seen it. The darkening blue enveloped the firmament with a nearly imperceptible softness.

In this time of half-dark I came upon a valley where a hoard of ancient wagons and anachronistic farm equipment lay ochre-colored and corroded like giant red skeletons. Some were behemoth machines while others were simple and modest, but all slept in death-silence forever rusting in this twilight prairie.

It was like a dream.

It was a scene I never would have saw back East or in a parallel future in which I never started moving towards signs.

Leadville, Old Dominion, and Service

When I returned home as a certified RRCA running coach I felt confident that I could now pull off what once seemed foolhardy, so I decided to keep the dice rolling. I knew one of the things missing in my life and on my journey to betterment was service to others. My friend at the local running store kept telling me to volunteer at our local and venerable ultra, The Umstead 100.

For some reason I didn’t immediately take his advice albeit obvious now that it was opportunity falling on my nose.

A sign, perhaps.

I kept telling my wife that I needed to volunteer to figure out my purpose and she (again) pointed me to the obvious. She said, “They keep telling you to volunteer at Umstead, why don’t you start there?”

I had been thinking that ‘service’ had to mean volunteering at soup kitchens and my mind just couldn’t get around it.

I relented.

At Umstead I volunteered to be a pacer for runners in the middle of the night which entailed being morally supportive, making sure they were taking in calories, drinking water, and not freaking out. The race director had the pacers do a night time training run on the course to make sure we knew what we had signed up for.

Before this training run began, I heard a loud voice punctuating the still night air and dominating all the other voices. It’s a friendly and excitable voice. It sounds like life is new again to this person. I’m drawn to it.

It is Sean.

We wind up running thirteen miles in the dark together and blathering like long-lost brothers. We had a similar history of alcoholism and a very similar envisioned future for ourselves.

The following week he invited me on a road trip to Boston to meet the charity team he ran for (and still does) called The Herren Project (THP). It felt a little weird saying “yes”, but I went on the 12-hour car ride with my new friend as heeding omens had done nothing but pay off thus far.

Meeting the folks at THP and the intricate synchronicities around this are another story unto itself, but in the spirit of keeping this particular story focused on relentless forward movement, it suffices to say that THP gave me the opportunity to run The Leadville 100; a goal I hadn’t dare dream of realizing for years to come.

The only stipulation was that I publicize my story and raise the funds. Again, taking this chance and its outcome was a force of wonder in my life but to pay it justice would be to take the reader down a tributary on the ‘proverbial river of chance’ and off the one you’re currently on.

It was April 2017 and in August 2017 I was to run Leadville.

A month earlier I didn’t even know another runner!

My life had taken a quantum leap to a level some people work decades towards.

Of course, we cannot know the future despite our anxious minds telling us the opposite.

I had signed up for The Old Dominion 100-miler a month prior to meeting The Herren Project. Old Dominion is one of the original races from the ‘golden age,’ or seminal time, of this sport and is a real deal 100 mile ultra marathon through mountains. Despite its lack of altitude, its terrain is as brutal as you could ask for on the eastern side of the Mississippi.

Old Dominion

Sean and I took my Tahoe and some tents into the Blue Ridge Mountains, and then into George Washington Forest; my old watering hole where me and my college buddies would get loaded up on weed and beer every summer. This was incredibly venerating and beautifully ironic. I woke at 3 am in my tent, ate my cold oatmeal, took a shot of apple cider vinegar, and Sean drove me to the starting line.

In the dark of pre-dawn the pack of some 150 runners made our way out of Woodstock, Virginia and straight up the mountain. As the morning rolled on, I saw younger athletes flying up the ascents as I paced myself, hoping that I was making the right decision in conserving my energy.

The late morning brought me to quintessentially Virginian country roads flanked by precariously quivering grey-boarded structures, red barns, and mossy pastures in the bottoms of hollows. The multi-triangular mountain skyline zigzagged blackish in the approaching distance; I’d be inside them by early afternoon if I kept an honest pace.

I climbed Skyline Drive and spilled out onto The Massanutten trail which was sodden, rocky, and generally-cruel. Much of it was simply un-run-able as it was comprised of rocks of such varying size and shape; it was perpetual negotiation for several miles. As the rocks gave way to mud, I was able to pick up my pace and take in the scenery.

I had a panoramic view of the mountain range and lush forest presided over by ancient and unusually tall trees. The sky was a shocking blue in its springtime glow. The memory of that day is punctuated by exquisitely perfect weather with the familiar odor of Virginia’s flora which I felt so at home in.

Exiting the forest, I emerged onto Skyline Drive and proceeded to run down the winding mountain road with a pack of runners. I think we were all trying to impress one another because after 5 miles of dramatic downhill road racing you could hear the groans of people shredding their quadriceps into hamburger meat.

As the day wore on I was racing towards Elizabeth Furnace, a deep valley just below the race’s most brutal ascent. As dusk began to set I was running through an open field and something large flew inches from my face. I must be hallucinating. Then the blackish blur whizzed in front of me again, swooping a bit then soaring upward. I look up to see the silhouettes of bats against the darkening purple-orange sky. They were feeding off the numerous tiny insects which were swarming around my headlamp!

Innumerable obstacles conspired to make me face-plant in the dark should I turn the light off. I was going to have to deal with the unnerving dive bombers until the trail spilled back into the dense forest where they wouldn’t have the tactical advantage of air supremacy.

When I made it into Elizabeth Furnace I picked up Sean to help guide me over Sherman Gap. I was nearly 75 miles in, about to embark upon a phantasmagorical ordeal up this ‘hill.’

We began to ascend the nearly vertical climb and it was immediately cruel on the glutes, calves, hamstrings, lungs, and my core temperature. To my left was gaping darkness and underfoot were streams curiously dribbling across the steep rooted trail. The whole scene seemed to defy natural science as it felt like we were walking up some alien night-world dreamed by MC Escher. It was psychological calisthenics to continuously place one’s feet on wet obsidian-like river stones and not slip into whatever chasm was in the blacker dark at my side. By headlamp, deprivation, and depletion, these stones’ bright green slime coat seemed to take on weird phosphorus properties. Their stringy algae undulated wildly in the trickling brook like witch’s hair in some underwater tribal dance. Mercifully, dawn broke and reality returned with the rising sun. I made my way down the mountain, through the town, and across the finish line. My first 100 mile ultra marathon was complete!


With the coming of August, it was time to confront the infamous Leadville 100 which started at over 10,000’ in The Colorado Rockies. Two days before I left, I met with New Balance who hired me as their new coach. The fact that I was running Leadville that year made my resume “stick out” as they’re a major sponsor of the race and have their own trail shoe with its namesake.

This was another amazing synchronicity of 2017. If I had to summarize the entire experience in a phrase I would say it was like running with spirits under the bluest of skies. For this event I brought my wife and fourteen-year-old son. We flew out to Denver, borrowed my best friend’s SUV, and drove out to Leadville where we had a campsite served.

The moment we started to put up our tent it started hailing!

This place was unpredictable to be sure, and my beloved pack took it like champs. We had the tent erected, air mattresses inflated, blankets laid out, and cozy clothes on in less than a half hour.

I was so proud of us!

Once settled we took notice of our environment. The hail had passed. The air was noticeably thinner and my wife asked, “I can barely breath in this, how are you going to run in this?”

I told her truthfully that I wasn’t quite sure.

With the weather now calm again, we decided to walk to Turquoise Lake, about a quarter mile from our camp. Similar to how the hail storm had begun with such a fickle turn, the mists on the lake began to rise.

The swirling amorphic grayness contrasted ominously with the dark mountain range behind it. It was as if the weather possessed the mind of a neurotic human prone to violent mood swings, this one being a cold-calculated demonstration of its dominance.

The lake and landscape’s green-blue palette instantaneously fell pallid and ill into monochromatic grays.

The winds were domineeringly forceful, as a general malaise of bleak indifference issued forth from the water.

To say it seemed like the wind, sky, and water were personified as some supernatural being bent on petty demonstrative power understates the ethereal nature of the experience.

Despite the oppressive weather we were able to hunker down and enjoy our sleep in this beautifully rugged place. On the morning of the race I woke up to eat my obligatory oatmeal and geared up inside the truck with the heat blasting to temper my shivering. My family saw me off at the starting line with hugs and well wishes, then I began running with some 700 other runners into the black morning. After a spin around Turquoise lake the day broke and I was running up the Colorado Rockies in some of the crispest air, bluest skies, and divine sunlight I can remember.

I was staying ahead of the cutoffs as the infamous ascent to Hope’s Pass approached. I ran through a valley, across an open field, crossed a cold river with the aid of a rope, and came to the shadowy foot of the mountain.

The aspect of the forest here took on a pronounced feeling of primordial energy.

There were greens so deep you simply felt more alive by being near them. Everything smelled of earthen godliness and ancient moisture. At first the ascent was pleasant enough. Sunbeams shot out in straight white lines from the tree line above and touched the surface of a hurried mountain stream making it shimmer in a myriad of ephemeral bursts of angel-light.

As I progressed upwards the terrain became increasingly difficult. Soon, it became an all-out death march. I conserved my lungs, legs, and general homeostasis by climbing very slowly as if in suspended animation. This atmosphere, coupled with the extreme strenuousness of the climb, was putting me in touch with something undefinable.

I could begin to see where I would summit; once I burst upon the highest point, something in my heart felt like it was set free. I was finally walking amongst the snow caps. There is something unique to the feeling of summiting a mountain on your own legs and being in the presence of this sun-coated wilderness in the clouds that changes you. It’s abstract to contemplate but I suppose it could be described as “coming closer to God;” albeit I’m yet unsure if I mean that literally or metaphorically.

I was now at nearly 14,000’. The atmosphere dizzied me enough to make me cautious, but I was okay. I had to be mindful of keeping my balance after the taxing ascent.

There were many other runners bottlenecking the small rocky trail and you simply had to let one person pass, or the other allow you space, as the trail became narrow and dizzying. The run downwards was nerve-racking, even terrifying, when I looked at the drop to my left. You had to choose between running or possibly knocking another runner off the mountain.

As I heard other runners talking who were coming from the opposite direction, I began to realize that I was behind the 50 mile cut-off time. I was 7 miles up and a little over an hour away.

The prognosis was grim but salvageable. So I thought.

I started to fly downwards as skillfully and valiantly as I was capable. I was choosing every rock and root in sub-seconds; heading downwards with reckless abandon.

Then I hit a wall of runners who weren’t running.

As more runners coming from the opposite direction clogged the tiny artery, it slowly became clear that my chances of hitting the 14-hour cut off time were quickly waning. Runners coming back up were saying things to me like Never give up and I love your spirit. It became obvious that I was fighting a logistical impossibility as I looked to the aid station far below and the massive procession of runners squeezing the trail in every direction.

A girl near me began to petulantly cry after her friend ran up the hill and said, “There is no humanly possible way you can make it to the cut off in time.”

I’d resigned to my fate and decided this would be a humble learning lesson. Ultrarunning isn’t supposed to be easy and I was okay with not earning my wings without due process.

Without a “Why?”

After my DNF (did not finish) at Leadville, I needed to affirm that my success at Old Dominion wasn’t a fluke, a victory won by a once-in-a-lifetime conjuring of fear-strength.

A couple months had gone by and my thirst for redemption was so great that I couldn’t sit around any longer without taking action. I had to sign up for another 100 mile ultra marathon and it had to be now.

The Devil Dog Ultras in Triangle, Virginia was the closest and soonest option I had.

If I had to summarize this race in a few words it would be brutal, sleet, and rocks.

In the first few minutes of the start a girl wiped out and succumbed to this course’s sole aspect: a mind game where any break in one’s laser-focused and perpetual observation of the root-choked ground hidden beneath a blanket of rotting leaves clumped in hoarfrost, inevitably leads to a crushing impact on vicious terrain.

The girl was bleeding and crying.

Despite her friends’ remonstrations, she was already heading back in the opposite direction.

The ankle-breakers on these trails were so incessant in their repetitiveness it was almost comedic how much everyone was spilling.

50 miles in, I noticed my back leg muscles stiffening every time I hit a root. I went airborne only to readjust at the last moment and hit the ground with both feet running hard. Eventually my number was up and one of the roots got me, and got me hard. I hit the ground with a pitiful thud and my left calf muscle balled up with such quick and blinding pain I was certain something had snapped off internally. In a fractious second, I was buried in rocky mud as a tremendous howl began to well up from a dark chasm inside. I saw two runners approaching, and I instinctively grabbed the balled-up muscle forcing it back in place.

I stood up and to my complete astonishment, the calf stayed in place.

The runners passed by asking if The Mudman was okay; I gave the thumbs up and, feeling a little pukey (but mostly grateful), I kept running.

Night fell and the running was smooth past the 60 mile mark; then plummeting cold fell upon the forest with a disconcerting quickness.

Sleet started to come down and it wasn’t the sort of sleet that seemed like it was going say “hello” and scamper off.

This was tenacious Type-A personality sleet with no social filter and it was coming right at ya.

I’d experienced this before on my long training runs at home and was aware of how serious the various factors involved were. I made sure to keep my core temperature up by running hard and taking in the needed calories. To stop moving in this kind of weather was to surrender. I kept my fingers warm by stuffing them in my pants, armpits, and alternating gloves periodically. Still, my hands were frost nipped and would be numb days later.

When I came in from my 3rd loop the main camp was full of people that looked haggard and glazed; they drank coffee by huge fireplaces.

I turned around and ran right back out into the darkness and sleet.

There were certain outcroppings of rock on this course that were so ridiculously dangerous and awkward to maneuver around that by the third time you crossed them you knew them quite well. The problem was this: the technique you’d used the last time you passed this obstacle no longer applied when you see it again as you’re increasingly less limber and less intelligent.

I never stopped on this race as the thought of another DNF terrified me.

But why?

Why abuse myself to this degree?

I heard that if you don’t know why you run these races, you won’t have anything to dig deep from when you’re in the dark night of the soul.

This concerned me because I wasn’t totally sure what made me do this crazy stuff.

Nevertheless, I saw the sunrise and I made it to the finish line.

I was elated. I knew I had what it takes to get through 100-milers, even in punishing weather. But again, why? What did I really stand for? This bothered me a bit until the end of my next race where I figured out my answer to my question.

“I hate this.”

February 2018 found me in the outskirts of Houston, Texas.

The last time I was in this state was 20 years ago. I was thrown in jail in the little desert town of Alpine near the border of Mexico. I got pulled over with an ounce of weed and they locked me away for 48 hours without telling me what they planned to do.

I’m guessing that’s why I had no interest in returning. It’s different down there.

My return to Texas was a redemptive one; I’d be running the Rocky Raccoon 100. This is a qualifier for some of the more nefarious ultras on my bucket list.

Running this race is par for the course if you’re a developing ultrarunner.

The race started in the usual black hours of predawn – as all other 100-milers – where the runners are pinned together like sardines for the first couple hours. This seems to bring out as much nerve and weirdness as the end of the race; it just manifests in a different type of ‘the jitters.’

The shrill voice of an old lady cut through hundreds of mumbles and marching feet. She was talking to some youngsters about the good ‘ol days of ultrarunning, how she knew all these special people, and about how she herself was a legend.

The girl to my left mumbles “Shut the fuck up,” under her breath.

About an hour in, the pack thinned, the trail widened, and the rain started. It would rain and mist for the next 30 hours. The four 25-mile loops that comprise this race were rather ‘hard on the brain’ in the sense that I was very cognizant of the fact that I was running 4 marathons in succession.

This mileage is no different than any other 100-miler, but for some reason when divided into these marathon distance denominations, the numbers sound scarier.

As the day wore on, the rooted track turned into a glorious mud pit.

By now I was very at home in these conditions; they actually seemed rather benign compared to Devil Dog. However, more than half of the runners would eventually drop out.

Moisture seems to always bring with it a high attrition rate in these races.

As the night came down the tiny mist particles falling horizontally in the wind looked like Star Wars Hyperspace in the light of my headlamp. This weird visual effect wasn’t helping my sour stomach, but I trudged on knowing that the key to finishing 100-milers is relentless forward motion.

Towards the end, I encountered my reason for being there; I found my reservoir to tap into when things get rough. I had forgotten my reason and purpose in its simplicity.

There was a gentleman I encountered in the most remote part of the course griping in the darkness by himself. He was saying, “I hate this, I don’t want to be here, and I never want to see this place again.”

This guy showed me my purpose!

It was not only my purpose for running ultras, but my purpose in life: I never want to be the way he was then.

Never ever.

I will never again let the cycle of self-victimization thoughts swirl through my mind and hypnotize me into holding limiting beliefs. I will not wish things different and suffer in my inability to deal with things I cannot change.

What you say to the Universe is exactly what The Universe responds to.

The Universe does not play in semantics. If you say “I hate this,” it will be so.

It’s such a simple and profound truth that it’s lost in plain sight to most.

All you need to do is ask yourself, “Who am I and what do I stand for?”

Ask these questions in every moment and look for the signs. As the signs appear in response to these questions, we just keep moving towards them with relentless forward motion.

Written By Scott Waldrop

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My Top 3 Ultra Marathon Tips [Mental Hacks]

Ultra marathon tips and tricks | Mind Hacks

My Three Tips and Tricks for ultra marathoners

The top three Tips and Tricks I used in the beginning of my ultra marathon running journey, the three Mind Hacks that led me to my first 100 mile finish, my first 50 mile victory, and conquering my first mountain ultra marathon aren’t exactly what you’re expecting.

I’m not here to talk to you about discipline, consistency, or motivation.

Running late at night and cold showers aren’t tools in my arsenal.

Podcasts aren’t my thing and I don’t have any audio book recommendations to tune into during your long runs.

I do, however, want to tell you how I finished my first 100 mile race with very poor training. To clarify, in the six weeks leading up to my first 100 mile ultra marathon, I ran seven times; none of those seven were over 5 miles. In addition to this trepidation, my first 100 mile run was only my fourth run over 20 miles.

The first ultra marathon I won was a North Carolina beach race, the Light 2 Light 50. Without racing for 6 months and without doing a single speed training session, I came in first place at this admittedly small, local race. My pace was 10:02 per mile.

And when my first mountain ultra marathon rolled around a month after Light 2 Light 50, I battled slick snow and freezing conditions all the way to the finish line. With a 55% completion rate and 8,000 feet of climbing in precarious conditions, I was thrilled to finish. Interestingly enough, I didn’t do one hill-speed session or train with much of any elevation change leading up to the race.

I was prepared for these races. Unless, of course, you looked at my training log.


Ultra Marathon Mindset

Toeing the line for races like these is intimidating.

Any ultra marathon, honestly, invokes a sense of fear and wonder in a runner. Most races have elements and experiences completely unique to that individual race, challenges that can’t be replicated in training. Every runner listening to the race director’s countdown agrees: “Anything can happen out there.”

For example, after a successful opening to 2019, I DNF’d my second 100 mile race at the Umstead 100 in Raleigh, North Carolina.

This is an ultra marathon! Ultra marathoners don’t sign up for these races because they’re predictable and tame; we run these races out of a sense of wonder for our world, and our bodies and minds.

Wonder for our world, and for our bodies and minds, is the ultra marathon mindset.

What am I capable of?

What’s on top of that ‘mountain?’

Who can I bring with me?

Where is the limit, and how can I explore the world beyond this limit?

The answer to these questions, and all the others constituting the ultra marathon mindset, lie down the Wicked Trail and up the mountain of your goals. The Wicked Trail winds through deep valleys, over roots and rocks, and across frigid streams. The nights are black and the days hot. When this trail starts up the mountain of your goals, fear and doubt fill the air. The mountain is rugged, the fog thick.

Prepare. Arm your mind and strengthen your resolve.

The three ultra marathon Tips and Tricks I used to conquer those ‘mountains,’ and will continue to use as I climb the Wicked Trail, are One Breath of Air, Patience, and Decisiveness.

Tip #1: One Breath of Air

One Breath of Air is fundamental to ultra marathon running; this is the most important section in this reflection.

To start, a huge piece of this ultra marathon mindset puzzle is within you.

All of your hopes and dreams, your wildest ambitions and most profound daydreams, the talents and skills and experiences you possess, the unique character perfected over years and years and years: all of these are within you

All of these are ‘potential.’

Your hopes and dreams and wildest ambitions and most profound daydreams, and your talents and skills and experiences that make you unique –there really is no one just like you– comprise your potential.

We’ve defined potential!

I challenge you embrace this definition and the responsibility that comes along with it.

Your first Mental Hack!


People naturally fear their potential. Instinct tells them to stay with the pack and go where others go. Food, water, and safety are found within culture; people gather where resources abound.

One’s own unique character, your potential, is frightening; it challenges the sacred order of routine and begs adventure on one’s own terms.

“Live your dream,” unique character cries out. “Draw from the well of your experiences and skills and talents to live on your own terms.”

“Shed your potential and commit to our routine, our survival,” culture counters. “Your experiences and skills and talents aren’t of much use here; we don’t have room for your hopes and dreams and wildest ambitions and profound daydreams.”

Your unique character is wise; culture is afraid, those living in it are unfulfilled. Use your potential, your hopes and dreams and ambitions and daydreams and your experiences and skills and talents.

Draw from the well.

Take a deep breath and explore these things.

That’s all it takes: an introspective deep breath.

One Breath of Air

With the proper mindset, one of a deep yearning to engage your potential and pursue your goals, a person can do anything on just one breath of air.

It all comes down to your focus, your mindset, where your thoughts lie.

Stop. Breath.

No seriously, take a deep breath.

That right there is all you need to fulfill, to explore, to realize those profound daydreams.

It’s all you need to accomplish what you desire.

One breath of air.

Comprehending the power of your potential, your unique character, and acknowledging the influence it can have on your path in life is essential to running an ultra marathon.

For example, physical fatigue and mental deterioration late into a race will crumble strong, experienced runners. Wind and rain will crush a first-timer. Rocks and roots, unexpected technical terrain, will wear on the unprepared.

When the Moment of Quit arrives, use this Mental Hack!

Take a deep breath [deeper than that!] and repeat: I am still breathing. My lungs are full of air. I am strong and uniquely qualified to keep going. My potential brought me here and will carry me across the finish line.

I failed to take an introspective deep breath at Umstead; I did not acknowledge my potential and use it to qualify me for forward progress.

Do you remember the definition of potential?

Your hopes and dreams and wildest ambitions and most profound daydreams, and your talents and skills and experiences that make you unique –there really is no one just like you– comprise your potential.

Your potential is everything you are. You are here and your lungs are full of air. Take another deep breath. This experience will add to your potential and aid in building your indomitable will.

Tip #2: Patience

Patience is the most neglected facet of mental toughness. It lies in the corner, begging attention from from one who has adopted impatience. Impatience dismantles goals, obstructs progress; many claim it with a laugh, never realizing the damage being done.

Do you practice patience

Patience, for the ultra marathon runner, isn’t just about training. Gradually increasing mileage, stretching for minutes of your time, and learning to ‘love the grind’ are wonderful (although, you should stretch more), but they fall so short of meaningful practices of patience.

Ultra marathon tip #2 revolves around an intentionally patient life and building the mindset, ahead of race day, incapable of quitting.

Patience and the Wicked Trail

Remember before, under Ultra Marathon Mindset, when we talked about this Wicked Trail? The one that winds through dense forest and deep valleys, and climbs the steep mountain of your goal? This path to fulfillment?

The role of patience in ultra running becomes clear when a person arrives at the base of this mountain, the mountain of your goal.

Perhaps your goal is finishing a 50k, or maybe the finish line of a western 100 mile mountain race. When you select this goal, this mountain to climb, the fog clears; you can see the route ahead. It’s a long and winding Wicked Trail. It starts out as a steady climb littered with roots and rocks. Near the peak, however, you can just make out how gnarly the terrain becomes and how adverse the weather looks.

That peak is far away. Your goal is far away.

Have patience, start climbing. Put in the miles and hours on your feet. When you settle at the end of each day, remember to gaze at the peak; keep it in sight. With patience, chip away at that mountain every day, never letting your eyes come off the distant peak, your goal, lest you forget what the journey leads to.

The closer you get to your goal, the more challenging the climb becomes. When race day comes and you prepare to summit the peak of your goal, rugged terrain and blisters and wind will work against you.

Have patience. The adversity lasts a long time.

Patience In Practice

I consider myself patient. Perhaps you do, as well.

Still, the role of patience in ultra marathon running demands our attention; find areas of your life where you lack patience.

I identified two areas of impatience in my life that require attention and allow habitual practice.


Walking my dog or taking him to the park, or especially when I run with Cowboy, I found that I often rush him in haste to finish my run, or get along with my day. I am adamantly reminding myself that when he’s with me, the time is his.

This is practicing patience!

The rehearsed haste unnecessarily compounds stress by inviting stress in. I find reasons to rush him or hurry him along rather than enjoying the time; it actually makes me enjoy it much less!

I now purposefully take Cowboy out at unexpected times and leave my phone behind; sitting in the grass with him or sweating on a quick jog, I smile and remind myself that this is his time, and he wants me to enjoy it with him.

Acknowledging the impatience, here, is important.


This is an unusual one; we don’t normally equate exercise in the moment with patience. Remember, though, that I said Have patience. The adversity lasts a long time. Your physical training, in the smallest moments of fatigue, is preparing you for that final peak summit, when the terrain will turn rugged and blisters and wind will work against you.

Patience is required long-term in fitness and health, but can also be intensely practiced in individual exercise moments.

Have patience in your planks, or other static exercises. It’s easy to try and distract the mind with phones and music during static exercises because our hands are often free; I challenge you to breathe in the discomfort and picture your peak of accomplishment, your goal. Have patience in this plank, Go Farther, as the adversity later on will require it ten-fold.

Planks ought to be practiced daily, distraction-free, for this reason alone. Sure, reap the benefits of a strong core; just don’t miss the huge opportunity of patience. Wait out this discomfort; wait longer than you want.

Tip #3: Decisiveness

The final tip for ultra marathon runners, the final Mind Hack to stimulate your thoughtfulness, is decisiveness. Making decisions is a lost practice. Decision making is a skill, after all. From minute decisions all the way to the big leagues, it takes practice to develop sound decision-making skills.

Decision-making plays a huge part in mental toughness development, and therefore in the pursuit of ultra marathon running.

Deciding what? you might wonder. What decisions affect ultra marathon mindset, the reaching of my goal?

You decide to train and to eat well, you decide to pursue challenge; you see the peak of your goal and you march on.

On the surface your decision-making is astute.

It is not, however, which decision is made that is paramount to developing this practice; how long it takes to decide is primary. Deciding without hesitation is skillful. Taking unnecessary time to decide is incompetence.

Minute decisions, those of seeming unimportance, present an opportunity to develop good habit. Picking an outfit, deciding whether to have pasta or chicken for dinner, choosing where one will meet friends, deciding on a movie; these seemingly inconsequential decisions are extremely important. It does mattertell yourself.

Why does it matter?

Small Decisions Matter Most

Consider these situations: quitting smoking, joining an exercise group, pursuing self-employment, leaving an unhealthy relationship.

Pretty big decisions, right?

If one cannot skillfully navigate small decisions, how can one expect to cross the ocean of unknown presented by these?

Okay, but why does timeliness equate expert navigation in decision-making?

The realization that small, unimportant decisions are not focused on items of importance is paramount. An outfit doesn’t matter. What’s eaten for dinner doesn’t matter. Which movie is chosen does not matter. You lose time with the important when you spend time deciding between the unimportant.

What is important?

That which your gaze is fixed upon, your goal, the peak.

Compound the time spent making unimportant decisions. You’re on the mountain, climbing the Wicked Trail toward the peak, preparing for your opportunity to summit.

Open your pack and lay out your belongings. What will you wear today, on your journey? Which piece of fruit will you eat as you hike up the mountain? Where will you stop next to rest?

Weigh your options. Examine the possibilities.

Or just start hiking, climbing the mountain of your goal.

Does it matter which trail you run today?

Will it matter if you take a salad or smoothie to work today?

Can you decide to re-wear an outfit?

Will your movie choice or dinner debate contribute to your climb, your pursuit of more?

You lose time with the important, your goal, when you spend time deciding on things that do not impact your pursuit. Timeliness in decision-making is the easiest of the three ultra marathon tips and tricks, Mind Hacks, to implement because of the dozens of decisions you and I make every single day.

Take time and look at small, daily decisions. Which is unimportant? Which takes more time than it ought?

Ultra Marathon Tips and Tricks: Final Thoughts

These ultra marathon tips and tricks are meant to provoke thoughtfulness in your training and daily activity. Be relentless in training, yes, and run toward discomfort. Bleed and sweat for your desire, run the Wicked Trail.

Just keep in mind intentional thinking and training. Identify your unique potential and say it out loud. Call on it when adversity rises up. I am still breathing. My lungs are full of air. I am strong and uniquely qualified to keep going. My potential brought me here and will carry me across the finish line. Choose a few areas of your life, within individual training moments or across the spectrum of your day, where impatience creeps in. Stay your desire for entertainment during these times; turn the music down, the podcast off, and close your eyes, envisioning that which you desire. Similarly, shut down impatience with genuine enjoyment of slow-moving times and inefficiency; your mind is hardening to negativity. Finally, practice decision-making with the intention of remaining loyal to your mountain, your goal. Don’t let the habituation of mindless debate surrounding trivial matters distract you from the ultra marathon.

Welcome to the Wicked Trail.

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