Minding the mud

It was 9:26pm last Saturday evening on a dark gravel track in the middle of the Wendover Woods in the Chiltern Hills.  The temperature had hit freezing point earlier in the day and I had been on my feet for over 13 hours traversing through mud, climbing hills and making new friends. I had stopped at an aid station to gulp down a banana and a few slices of watermelon before the final stretch and climb to the finish.

I had 94 minutes to complete 4.5 miles to beat the 15-hour cut-off time and earn a finishers medal. Under normal circumstances that’s an easy distance to cover. The only problem was my mindset. I had accessed that part of the brain that oozes self-doubt. All I could think of was the four major climbs remaining and a tricky single track laced with uncovered roots and puddles of mud. It was time to get a grip and visualise the feeling of running across the finish line.

I flipped a ‘switch’ and after walking up the first hill I ran two of the quickest miles I had run all day to finish comfortably within the cut off time.

We all access this wasteful, self-doubting part of our brain, but one of the biggest benefits of running ultra-marathons is you really get to know your body and mind. Running off-road gives me the headspace I need from my city life and inbox. I listen to my breathing and I’m fully present, in the moment, focusing on the track ahead. It’s meditation in motion.

In my experience, a positive mindset is the largest component of completing any race. I haven’t done research to back up my theory but I’d say at least 60% of completing an ultra-marathon is the right mindset. The other 40% covers logistics, training, nutrition and remaining injury free.

There is no doubt training is crucial, but a positive mindset is a key component of running an ultra and navigating life. Flip off that negative switch in your brain and it’s amazing how many hills you can climb!

3 thoughts on “Minding the mud

  1. Wow Marcus, I love this post! Describing running as “meditation in motion” really stood out for me. Keep writing, you are good at it.

  2. Well done Marcus. On both fronts – finishing the race strong and capturing the mindset and emotions that go through one’s head during an intense race. The biggest enemy and advocate is between our two ears. It’s how we channel it that makes all of the difference.

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