What can one of the most successful ultramarathoners teLL us about Enduring in Life?
What You Eat Affects How You Perform
Scott is an advocate for a plant-based diet, and manages to convey his passion for it without sounding preachy. He grew up on meat and potatoes, but noticed over time that the more leafy greens and whole grains he ate, the better he performed and felt.
A few key moments led to his adoption of a plant-based diet. One was while completing a physical therapy internship. He noticed a connection between his patients and what they ate.
He climbed into bed and looked at the lunch tray waiting for him: Salisbury steak drenched in something brown and congealed, instant potatoes, iridescent-looking canned peas. His expression said it might as well have been a tray of rocks. He didn’t say anything, but it was as though he was shouting. That’s when I heard part of the secret. What we eat is a matter of life and death. Food is who we are.
The more he incorporated whole, plant-based foods into his diet, the more benefits he noticed.
Meanwhile, I ran farther. I ran faster. The periods of soreness and fatigue that resulted were shorter and less severe. I was convinced it was the result of the plants I was eating and the meat I was not eating. The chili showed me I could recover faster without abusing my taste buds.
Whether or not you’re inspired to explore a plant-based diet, Scott shows us the value in experimenting with food and paying attention to how it affects performance. Some of us can carb load on beer, and some of us can’t handle the sauce. Cutting out processed foods and incorporating more colorful vegetables is something I aim for everyday.
Where You Come From Affects Where You Go
Everyone has a past. We can’t control where we come from, but we can choose how it directs our future.
Scott’s past included a stern dad, an unexpectedly and increasingly ill mom, and a heightened sense of responsibility and duty. He learned to endure before he knew what endurance was, and he adopted a motto that would keep him going in his toughest races, and his darkest moments.
Sometimes you just do things.
This motto helped him win the Western States 100 seven consecutive times.
Be Open to Life’s Tangents
I didn’t run because it always felt good. My muscles ached, I had blisters, and I was having to go to the bathroom on the run – that was the summer I learned about the runner’s trots (cramps, gastrointestinal distress, and the urgent need to move your bowels). That was the summer I got honked at and run off the roads of northern Minnesota. I enjoyed the sense of movement and progress, discovering that I could reach places on my own without anyone driving me. But that’s not why I kept running. I ran because I wanted to ski.
Scott started running because he needed to build conditioning for skiing, and now he holds the United States record for 24-hour distance on all surfaces (165.7 Miles/266.01 Kilometers). That’s 6.5 marathons in one day!
Life doesn’t always go in straight lines. One passion can lead to another, and hidden talents can be sparked. Be open to the adventure, and welcome the paths that deviate from the main road.
Enduring Builds Strong Bonds
“It hit me that night – as I was contemplating a life alone on a country farm – how important friendship was to me. It also struck me how ironic it was that my most important friendships had come from a sport singular in its isolation and demands on self-reliance. Ultramarathons aren’t won by teams, yet the bonds I have forged through this sport of obsessive individualism are stronger than any others in my life.”
Ultramarathons are an exercise in enduring alone, but together.
Each runner has only themselves to rely on during a race, but they’re all fighting against some version of the same physical limitations and mental demons. It doesn’t seem strange that shared passions would lead to such a strong sense of camaraderie.
In The End, It’s The How That Matters
It’s easy to get wrapped up in deadlines and debt, victory and loss. Friends squabble. Loved ones leave. People suffer. A 100-mile race – or a 5K, or a run around the block – won’t cure pain. A plate filled with guacamole and dinosaur kale will not deliver anyone from sorrow.
But you can be transformed. Not overnight, but over time. Life is not a race. Neither is an ultramarathon, not really, even though it looks like one. There is no finish line. We strive toward a goal, and whether we achieve it or not is important, but it’s not what’s most important. What matters is how we move toward that goal. What’s crucial is the step we’re taking now, the step you’re taking now.
What steps are you taking on the way to your goals?
What type of food helps fuel your runs?
Have you ever run an ultramarathon?
Do you have a motto or a mantra that gets you through the tough times?