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Bill Bergeman


10 Life Lessons I Learned From Running My 16th Ultra Marathon Earlier This Week

I ran a 50-kilometer race on Sunday, and I decided to sit down and recap what I learned from the experience, as well as all of the previous ultra marathon experiences I've had.


    1. The template for doing hard stuff is basically the same for everything.

    1 - Identify your big vision/goal.
    2 - Write down the steps to get there.
    3 - Make sure the steps are broken down into small enough chunks that each one can be tackled in a day.
    4 - Start today.
    5 - Work on a task, no matter how big or small, every day. Don't break the chain.

    2. You can do it. Really, you can.

    'It' can be anything you think is out of reach: building a business, calling a difficult prospect, getting that report in on time, or running an ultra marathon.

    3. But, you have to decide to do it.

    I'm talking really, truly commit. If you waffle, it's possible you'll still accomplish the goal - but, it's going to be a hell of a lot harder. More than likely, you'll fail.

    Once you select that big goal, make the firm and unshaken decision to see it through or else move on to something else.

    4. You can only control what you can control.

    Of course, we've all heard this advice before. But, it becomes so much more salient when you're at mile 12 of a 31-mile race, it's cold, it's raining, you're alone in the middle of the woods somewhere, and you have an ankle that's hurting so bad that you can barely walk.

    You can't change the weather and you can't make the pain go away. What can you do?

    You can quit. You can stand there and whine (more on that below). Or, you can put your chin up, start walking for a while, see if the pain goes away, and then start running again (which is what I did, and it worked out).

    In life, there's always something you can control.

    5. You can quit any time you want.

    Just make sure it's after you finish this mile. Or, around the next turn in the trail. Or, at the top of the climb that is just ahead.

    The funny thing about the mind is that even though it wants to quit when things get hard, it also likes reaching milestones. If you can get past the next hurdle directly in front of you, momentum builds and you can usually keep going.

    Speaking of which...

    6. Momentum is a powerful fuel.

    It's amazing how things feel a little bit easier with each passing accomplishment, no matter how small. Momentum is the real deal.

    7. Stop whining.

    Seriously. No one wants to hear it. Anytime I've done it in a big race, it's literally made me weaker and has never gotten me a step closer to the finish line. Stop the complaining, approach each step with a positive, can-do mindset, and move forward.

    8. At some point, you're going to be afraid.

    Everyone is afraid of something. The higher the stakes, the more the fear is amplified. It comes down to how you respond to it: Will you attack the fear, or will you let it eat you up?

    9. Doing something really hard magically puts you in the moment.

    How many times have we heard the advice to 'live in the moment,' which we do for about 10 seconds and then drift off thinking about the next item on our to-do list or what we're going to have for lunch?

    I discovered that it's not possible to drift out of the moment when I'm running up or down a hard climb, or at mile 47 of a 50-mile race, and I just need to push through the pain and keep going. I'm totally in the moment, absorbed with each footstep falling in front of me.

    What's something really hard that you can do that will pull you into the present moment?

    10. When you're in the middle of something really hard, you just want it to end. But when it's over, you can't wait to do it again.

    It's a weird phenomenon, but it's true. I'm always excited at the beginning of a race, and when I'm getting close to (and when I reach) the end. It's that long, mushy, slog of the middle of a race that's most challenging.

    Accomplishing something really hard is one of the most rewarding things to do in life.

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