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Patience: Why Ultra Marathon Runners Need It

Written By George Callahan

Nov 12, 2018

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Ultra Marathon Patience, or lack thereof…

You seek excellence and pursue challenge; your goals and passions breathe life into your days.

Any bystander would say you have WHAT IT TAKES to run an ultra marathon.

Is there anything missing? Hardly.

And so you sign up for that ultra marathon; you’re physically prepared and mentally ready for immense challenge.

Bring it on…

Are you ready for immense challenge?

Do you stammer and look around a restaurant when your food takes too long?

Does sitting in stand-still traffic make your blood pressure rise?

Are hyper children such an annoyance that you become noticeably anguished around them?

When you’re at Walmart and there are only two lanes open with five full carts in each, do you mentally admonish the company for a lack of service and employment?

Maybe when you explain something you are passionate about to another person, and he or she doesn’t understand, you treat them differently. He doesn’t get it. She just hasn’t gone through what I’ve gone through. His ego is too big. She just doesn’t understand where I’m coming from. Rather than changing the approach and the delivery, another person’s shortcomings flash in your mind.

Impatience creeps on and is justified by circumstance. It’s ignored, excused, and allowed to fester and rot the mind.

You don’t realize the damage you’re doing

Goals

Ever tried to lose weight? Gain muscle? These are not overnight processes. Why are fitness centers so jam-packed in January and February? Everyone has a newfound commitment to improving their health. Many of those who drop out of the pursuit of wellness do so from an inability to see results quickly or on their terms.

“I want to look good now now now.”

Well, you were patient enough to get fat for 5 years; you’d better be just as patient in taking it off.

Outside of fitness and ultrarunning, what about goals in general? Goals, the ones that are defined and concrete, take a lot of time.

What is a goal of yours?

Is it defined and concrete? Does it draw on your values and beliefs? It ought to. Even when a goal is this powerful, people struggle to commit to it.

Why?

Patience. The anticipation of adversity in the long process of achieving desired results is terrifying. It’s more terrifying than slowly dying in comfort and complacency. Commit to a goal and you will suffer ten times as much as one who has no solid commitment, one who quits.

Be patient.

The adversity lasts a long time. Patience in goals is why people become platinum selling artists, athletic superstars, wealthy entrepreneurs, and experts in science. Impatience in goals is why others talk about those people as otherworldly and lucky.

The comfort found in excuses and self-limiting thoughts, like labeling success as ‘otherworldy’ or ‘lucky’, is toxic. It removes blame from the one who sits down and quits, one who has no patience.

Ultra marathon patience

Mental Toughness

Patience is the most neglected facet of mental toughness in this stage of human existence.

Want to raise a mentally tough child? Teach him or her patience. Take away the cell phone. Immediately halt all instant gratification. Right now. Teach him or her that waiting is normal, acceptable, and even enjoyable.

Want to teach a child the road to success, to reaching goals? Show him or her the way of patience.

Want to teach a child to enjoy life more? You guessed it: patience

What about you? Do you want to experience mental toughness, reach your goals, and live a more enjoyable life?

Of course! (You’d better sign up for an ultra marathon, then!)

Patience is fundamental to the enjoyment of life because it is the practice of “letting go.” You know how great it feels to clean out a cluttered closet and “let-go” of things you have not seen (let alone worn!) in years?

Doesn’t resemble patience, does it?

On the contrary, it has strong relation patience! Letting go of an emotional connection to another person’s bad habit or poor performance or any inconvenience (something that will make one lose his or her patience) is the same as letting go of the empty emotional connection you have to unused possessions.

It is detachment.

Do you need to detach?

Ultra marathon patience

Look around you. Your family is at the dinner table and the food will arrive soon. That classic song you love is on the radio and you’re focused on the stand-still traffic. Your niece just drank two cans of Coke; it will wear off soon. You don’t have to shop at Walmart.

These small moments of patience compound and develop into an effective skill.

Wait. Relax. Breathe…

In fitness, aesthetics and performance do not change in one, three, ten, or maybe even fifty sessions. These visible indicators of physical fitness take months and years. Years.

Impatience is why goals sit in the corner of the room, staring at people. Glaring at the mediocrity that has become that individual’s life.

“I don’t have time for that.”

“It just takes too long.”

“I have other things going on.”

“You see, ten years from now you will surely arrive. The question is: Where? Who will you have become? How will you live? What will you contribute? Now is the time to design the next ten years – not once they’re over. We must seize the moment.” Tony Robbins

Ultra Marathon Patience

Ultra marathon patience (and really patience in the pursuit of any goal, even outside of endurance sports), means three things:

  1. In the long run, a person understands the impact day-to-day activity has on goals and is willing to take action in anticipation of the final product
  2. Individual training sessions will be comprised of moments of fatigue and a desire to quit which require patience of will to proceed through
  3. On race day, pain and fatigue must be battled. It is a long and arduous battle. Carry on; with each step you move closer to completion, to goal fruition.

Point number two, patience during moments of fatigue in training, builds to point number one. Patience in working toward goal achievement over a long period of time is built on patience in training fatigue and during times when the desire to quit a task is highest.

These both lead to number three.

You must be patient in execution of the final product. Running an ultra marathon, writing a book, building a business; executing on months and years of goal-oriented ‘training sessions’ will require patience.

The finish line is near; carry on.

Where does one acquire the patience to persist in moments of fatigue so that he or she can persist in long term goal pursuit? What is the first building block?

How does a person develop ultra marathon patience?

Patience Is A Skill

Patience must be practiced in daily activity.

It must be habituated. Without habituation, one cannot use patience in the battle against the monotony and long-winded repetition of individual training sessions or against the pain and fatigue of race-day.

Patience does take practice and it is a skill. The first step is acknowledging small moments of impatience as toxic! Many will laugh and claim impatience without knowing how it holds them back.

Don’t laugh it off. Don’t excuse it as your ‘personality.’ Don’t accept impatience as a part of life.

Impatience must be destroyed.

How can it be destroyed? Remember, we said a person must become habitual in patience. Patience must be built on easily accessible actions or the temptation of impatience will surface regularly. It is acknowledging impatience and habitually making the decision to be patient, even sometimes unnecessarily, that creates a person who is capable of exercising patience in training moments and therefore long-term goal achievement, and the pain and fatigue that accompany each of these.

There are a few decisions one can make throughout a day to increase in patience and decrease in impatience. Some easy ones to try:

  • Stay in the right lane on the freeway in slower traffic. Reject rehearsed haste.
  • Intentionally interact with people you do not enjoy speaking with. Be friendly when it is inconvenient.
  • Sit on a bench for 5 minutes (without looking at your phone) before entering a store. Exercise discipline in quiet reflection.
  • Allow others to take your place in line. Decide and act intentionally.

Patience, when practiced and normalized, creates a calm awareness of one’s focus. Where does your focus lie? The trivial and unavoidable annoyances of life?

Or your goals?

The pursuit of your goal is the one thing your focus should never be removed from. Gaze upon it, not the inconveniences of the outside.

Build daily patience and carry it over to your training. In your training, use patience to Go Farther during times of fatigue and when thoughts of quitting surface. Then, when you have built patience in training, your goal, that which makes you leap out of bed each day, will seem attainable. It will seem close; it just takes time. No matter, you’ve developed patience and thrown off the shackles of impatience that once restricted your mind and potential.

You have forged patience to run the ultra marathon.

Welcome to the Wicked Trail…

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