I talk a big game sometimes
Going into Anchor Down 24 Hour Ultramarathon… I made a bold statement. I said, just like I did before Ghost Train Rail Trail Race last year, that I was coming for a belt buckle. The only acceptable outcome of the race was a 100 mile finish. I did not finish 100 miles at Anchor Down… and I had to figure something out – how to define success and failure. In recapping the event… I’m pretty sure, at least in this instance, I’ve managed to map out the gray area and do just that.
Anchor Down Ultra is an incredible event.
This was my second showing at Anchor Down, and it did not disappoint. With a beautiful course, top notch support, and a supportive atmosphere, it’s tough to go wrong with this race. I could go on for days about this race, but the bottom line is… it’s simply superb. The course is 2.45 miles through Colt State Park in Bristol, Rhode Island – .95 miles of it is trail while the remaining 1.5 is paved walkways in the park. There’s minimal elevation gain and a large chunk of the course overlooks Narragansett Bay – yes, right up along the water. It’s a beautiful course that, despite its relatively short length, you will not get tired of looking at. The aid stations are fully stocked and the volunteers & crew are amazingly helpful – even the vendors show up ready to go! Anchor Down provides all of this in 6, 12, and 24 hour flavors, giving runners an excellent opportunity to flex their muscles and see what they’re made of. At Anchor Down, you’ve got one of the best chances you could ask for to succeed. But… what is success here, really?
Success and failure dance together in the gray area a lot.
It always seems so black and white, right? You either did or you didn’t. You finished or not. Sure, that’s easy enough to delineate in, say, a marathon – you either crossed the finish and ran 26.2 miles… or you didn’t. In a 100 mile ultramarathon… you either crossed the finish line having finished 100 miles or not. Sometimes, though… it’s not that easy.
The “24 hour ultramarathon” is a perfect example.
In a 24 hour ultramarathon… there is no set distance you must hit in order to “finish”. There is not typically a pre-determined, hard-and-fast threshold you must pass in order to achieve success in such an event. So, in a race where you “finish” when you simply do not continue running, whether by choice or by time limit… how do you define success? How, in that situation, do you determine if you have failed or not?
It’s all about the objective… and whether you “did it” or not.
In a 24 hour ultramarathon, the goal is to “go” for as long as you can… get as far as you can… inside the given time allotment. So… ultimately… success depends on whether or not you did that. Did you go as far as you could? Can you say with confidence that, within reason, you gave it a complete, whole, uncompromising effort? Or did you stop when you still had something left to give.
“I wanted to quit because I was suffering. That was not a good enough reason.” – Marshall Ulrich
That’s the difference – that’s what defines “failure”.
We can’t quit just because something is difficult. We can’t give up, stop, and go home because we’re uncomfortable. There’s a cheesy line that flies around the fitness industry – “success lies outside your comfort zone”. It’s so prevalent because it’s so true – we don’t progress, grow, and change for the better by sticking to the safe and comfortable. Without challenge, adversity, and discomfort… there’s no need, no imperative… to improve. If we never have something more difficult to achieve, there’s no need to rise to the occasion… because there IS no occasion TO rise to. SO, in the dark, ugly depths of your ultramarathon “pain cave”… that dark place that only those of us who take on endurance sport have discovered… that is where some of the most profound change in the human experience can occur. The rest of the population, those who DON’T do endurance sport, can experience it too – in a less extreme, more attainable way. None of us, however, can experience it… if we quit. If we… give up because we’re suffering, and it’s hard, and it hurts… even though we could have kept putting one foot in front of the other. THAT would be to fail – to give less than we’ve got to give, and to forfeit the change and growth we were fighting for. To be and to do less than we are capable of.
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” – Steve Prefontaine
Maybe that’s why I keep running marathons and ultramarathons.
Because I not only want to give it my best… but I want to see what my best really is. I want to fight for success and know what it really means. I want to experience it, viscerally – to feel the demons of failure clawing at my heels as I kick them off and crawl towards success. Perhaps, in some sick way… I enjoy the challenge, the fight, and the exhausted heap I become at the end – the state in which I finally enjoy the fruits of my labor. And so… here I find myself… preparing for my next endeavor – my return to Ghost Train Rail Trail Race on October 21st. Because despite the pain I know full well waits for me between the start and finish lines… I just can’t shake how badly I want to fight through it to earn success.
What’s in this episode:
- A recap of my race at Anchor Down 24 Hour Ultra
- How to define success and failure
- A roundtable discussion on the overall experience at Anchor Down Ultra, and big Ultra in general, with my crew – FitWife Megan, Mom and Dad
Interested in working with Darrell?
If you don’t live in Attleboro, or don’t have an Anytime Fitness near you… consider working with Darrell anyway! Darrell is accepting Virtual Training Clients – it’s about as close as you can get to working with him one-on-one in person without actually BEING in person. If you’re ready to make a change and have it stick, e-mail Darrell@SoTHISIsFitness.com for more details.
- So THIS Is Fitness Podcast #51 – “Why do we run… and what does it take?” (Anchor Down preview & interview with Jay Paganelli)
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