The other day, someone I knew shared a story about a motivational speaker who came back from a devastating car accident to run an ultra-marathon. I was intrigued, because much of what they were pitching was schlocky self-help, positive self-talk types of advice. If you just follow their simple, easy advice, you too can be everything you want to be and do anything you want to do!!!
Needless to say, I’m usually very skeptical of motivational speakers. However, when I see that one of them is a fellow ultra-marathoner, I wanted to check out the story behind it. So, I started looking around for the race that they did. I checked all the regular places, and then dug into their back story to get a clue as to what they ran. I finally found a blog entry where they talked about which marathon they ran, where they decided to make it an “ultra” by running it twice. I know people who do that (in particular at Grandma’s Marathon), and it’s quite a tough accomplishment to finish two marathons back to back. Usually these folks will start very early in the morning to run the course once, and then join the start line to run it again. It’s very difficult to finish the second marathon before the course cut-off.
As I dug into this story I find out that his plan, with his friends, was to do just that; to get up at 3:00am and run the course before the start, and then run it again. Here’s where things started to fall apart. They self admitted that it took over 6 hours to complete the course the first time, meaning that they missed the start of the marathon. They then proceeded to continue to run the course and finished 15.5 hours later. This means that they finished the actual marathon HOURS after the course had officially closed (most courses close after 6-7 hours). He lamented about how hard it was and that he couldn’t even walk the next day, and I certainly don’t doubt that.
What bugs me about all of this though, is that he made the claim that he did this with only a few months of training, having gone from running zero miles since high school, until tackling this double marathon. He attributed his success to his positive self-talk rituals and how they made it possible for him to complete this amazing feat. As someone who has completed a 50 mile trail race (in roughly the same time as his race) I’m actually offended by this.
It took me 5 years of running experience before I was able to put down my goal marathon time, and another year before I was tackling my 50 mile race. I got there, not because of some silly daily ritual, but through hard work, training, perseverance, and struggle. When I crossed the finish line of my 50 miler I knew that all the hard work had paid off. All the early mornings, long Saturdays, and exhausted Sundays yielded results. I stuck to a plan and got it done, and had every reason to be proud of my accomplishment. Sure there are folks who are able to ramp up faster than I did, but it still takes hard work and perseverance.
What offends me is that this guy is using his ultra-marathon accomplishment in his tag line, adding it to the list of accomplishments that YOU TOO can do if you follow his methods. From my searching I’ve yet to find another single race result that this person has done, ever.
I love running, and when someone tries to exploit it to push their crap it gets me riled up. There are people out there, ordinary people like my wife and I, who train, struggle, and persevere to accomplish our goals. We don’t rely on schlocky shortcuts, but we put in the work to get the results we want (not some half-assed attempt). I’ve earned my ultra-marathon badge, and I wear it proudly. It’s a symbol of 6 years of dedication to something that I never thought I was capable of. But it wasn’t easy, and it wasn’t quick.
Life isn’t always about shortcuts.