By Andy Jones-Wilkins, CTS Ultrarunning Coach
Anyone who has been running ultras for a while has, at one time or another, had to fight off the urge to quit. It is simply an inevitable fact of life that for most normal humans, after about 8 hours of running, hiking, crawling, limping, whining, and shuffling, the little voices in our heads begin to compete for attention and we are drawn to ask, “What the heck am I doing this for?” In these moments, thoughts of warm beds, comfortable clothes, and full stomachs begin to dominate the psyche and, if we’re not careful, we just end up quitting.
In my career as a runner I have faced the urge to quit multiple times and have relied on three specific mind tricks to get me away from that quitters’ funk:
Everyone else feels terrible, too
My first line of defense against the urge to quit, which is usually preceded by an intense bout of feeling sorry for myself, is to look around and accept the fact that everyone feels as bad, or worse, than I do. Even though my quads are screaming in agony, my macerated and blistered feet are burning in pain, and my stomach feels worse than a tequila hangover, this is totally normal for an ultra and absolutely no reason to quit. In fact, it would be rather embarrassing to quit for such basic reasons as trashed quads, beat up feet, and a queasy stomach. Get over it and move on!
Explaining why you quit to friends and family
Step two is to sit there in the aid station and imagine explaining to my family and friends why I am quitting. In these moments I find it particularly important to say the words out loud. “I just don’t feel like running anymore.” Or, “I am really tired.” Or, “Everything hurts.” These declarations don’t sound all that persuasive when said out loud. In effect, as valid reasons to quit they seem to lose their power once they’re out of your head and spoken out loud. Often when I’ve done this I realize the statements sound pathetic and I just get out of the chair and shuffle out of the aid station.
Letting all your hard work and training go to waste
My last resort when confronting the DNF demons is to simply step back and think about all the training I’ve done to prepare for this day; the early morning long runs, the lung-searing hill repeats, the intense track workouts and the painful tempo runs. Do I really want that all to go to waste simply because I’m feeling tired and sorry for myself? How much regret will I have to live with if I just give up? Usually, if the first two techniques fail (and sometimes they do), the good old “don’t let the training go to waste” technique does the trick.
And there you have it, three tried and true ways to battle through and fight the urge to quit. Next time you find yourself in that all too familiar predicament, give these three a shot. They may just get you to the finish line.