Building Resilience: Inspirational Lessons from Tackling an Ultra Marathon

Building Resilience: Inspirational Lessons from Tackling an Ultra Marathon
Photo by Zan / Unsplash

Have you ever wanted to do something bigger than yourself? Running an ultra marathon can be one of those things. When I ran my first ultra marathon, I wouldn’t have dreamed of doing it a few years before.

I am not a natural-born distance runner. I grew up playing football and I was a sprinter in track. Running over 4 miles in a single go a great accomplishment for me in my early 20s.

Soon after that, I experienced some endurance events that lasted 12+ hours. This opened up a new door to me realizing what I was capable of.

Photo by Kayvan Mazhar / Unsplash

“If you can see yourself doing something, you can do it. If you can’t see yourself doing it, usually you can’t achieve it.”- David Goggins

You’re Capable Of More Than You Think

We rarely live up to our potential. We usually quit at the first sign of fatigue. This is normal. It’s our brain freaking out because it always wants to leave some gas left in the tank. Our brain uses 20% of our body's energy so of course it wants to conserve as much as possible.

These signals are usually a lie.

We are far more capable than we give ourselves credit for. If there’s something that you can see yourself doing, then you can achieve it. I can imagine myself running a 100-mile ultra marathon now. Once upon a time, I couldn’t see myself doing it.

What changed?

It was a belief in myself.

What you have to do to believe in yourself is to back it up with the actions you take. Once you start putting in the time to see what you are capable of, doors will start to open up.

Pressure test what you are capable of. There may be some tests that you will fail. That’s okay. At least you know where you stand. Knowing where you stand is better than always wondering where you are.

Circumnavigating a mountain paradise in one day.
Photo by Brian Erickson / Unsplash

Take Things One Step At A Time

Things will go wrong in an ultramarathon. The further the distance, the greater likelihood there will be errors.

When things go wrong, you must take everything one step at a time. The totality of the race does not matter at that point.

If you think about the totality of the race, you will fail. Your mind will freak out when you’re hurting at mile 30 of a 100-mile race knowing that you have 70 miles left to go.

Your legs will hurt. Dehydration becomes a concern. The goal becomes to make it to the next aid station.

Where are your aid stations in life? Where can you push to and know you will have an opportunity for a break?

Find your aid stations in life. It might not even be a day. Your aid stations can be in moments like taking a shower. Taking a mental break is essential. It can turn your journey from something grueling to manageable.

Photo by Estée Janssens / Unsplash

Planning Is Essential

If you go into an ultra marathon with some kind of plan, you likely will fail. When you are going distances that are 50+ miles, a plan becomes essential.

When I ran my first ultra marathon, I had no plan. The race was a 50-mile run in 10-mile loops. I filled a duffel bag with meal replacement powder and electrolytes. I figured the race would have food (thank god it did) and would eat whatever they had there.

I made it through the race but things could have been far easier than they were. The first 35 miles I ran were as fast as the last 15 miles. I didn’t plan to hydrate and fuel and I paid the price for it.

But Plans Will Go Wrong

Plans will go wrong. That’s okay. The plans that we start off with are frameworks to know what is the next step we should take. Plans create some logic for us to build off of.

In an ultra, you may find the altitude is bothering you more than you expected.
This is all a part of the process of learning and becoming better for the next time.


Running ultra marathons can be a lot of fun. Not in the sense that it’s going to be like a fun night out at the bar but because of the lessons that they teach you.

Personal growth through experience is one of the best experiences that you can have.

They will teach you to build resilience and become a better version of yourself. The discipline required to train each day will carry over to your normal life.

It will change you into a better person.