Reading My Way Through Training

I’m reading two books about ultrarunning. The first, Running on Empty by Marshall Ulrich, is mostly about his run across America, in which he tries to average 70 miles per day. That’s more than two and a half marathons per day!

This is certainly a fascinating new world to me (because I’ll NEVER run across America).

I love to read about other people’s experiences with running, especially when they’re so different from my own.

Here are his Ten Commandments of Endurance, which any runner at any level can use:

  1. Expect a journey and a battle.
  2. Focus on the present and set intermediate goals.
  3. Don’t dwell on the negative.
  4. Transcend the physical.
  5. Accept your fate.
  6. Have confidence that you will succeed.
  7. Know that there will be an end.
  8. Suffering is okay.
  9. Be kind to yourself.
  10. Quitting is not an option.

The other book I’m reading, Running Through the Wall, compiled by Neal Jamison, is a gathering of various ultrarunners’ stories about ultras they have run. Here is a passage from the book that stood out to me:

In the process of completely exhausting myself, I connect with an inner part of me ordinarily veiled by the everyday distractions of life. During that short time spent on a trail in the mountains, my life is reduced to its simplest terms. Most ultrarunners are people who find goodness and joy in difficult times, who see beyond the misery to the beauty of nature, and who truly realize the elemental and important aspects of life.

(Keith Knipling)

Everyone has their reasons for becoming runners, and they may run long distances for completely different reasons. The reasons can change. I started running because I liked the challenge. I kept running because I fell in love with it. I continue to run long distances because of both the challenge and the love, but also because of the way it keeps everything so simple.

Move, breathe, sweat.

All I have to do is move my legs and keep going. Everything else is optional.


  1. iRuniBreathe

    Transcend the physical! I like your comment about how everything in running is optional, except motion. Isn’t that so true? A very zen take on it.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Yep, I think I narrowed it down as far as I could. As long as I just keep moving, everything else happens on its own. However, I wish it was only about transcending the physical. Running is probably 90% mental for me, especially on very long runs, so I’m still working on that part of it.

      • iRuniBreathe

        Perhaps not-thinking is easier than thinking about not thinking. I’m very mental in my running as well. I remember that my brain will give out sooner than my body and I trust what is going on. That helps me.

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        Trying to stay as focused as I can on not-thinking does help. I also have little mantras I tell myself over and over, like “just keep going,” that help, as well as little mind games, like pretending I’m in charge and everyone is following me and counting on me to get them to the finish line.

        Interesting idea that your brain will give out before your body. I think I’ve always believed the opposite. I’m going to try and remember that the next time I feel like giving up.

  2. coachdougbowers

    I’m more of an obstacle runner but I have done a few distance runs in my short time as a runner. On one run in particular I was setting my best pace ever and basically hit the wall…I was done and about to start walking until I saw some graffiti painted on a mailbox,
    ” thoughts control things”. I finished with a personal best. It was an awesome day.
    Those ultra runners are incredible.


    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      What a great story! When I ran the St George Marathon, one of the best things about it (other than the beautiful desert landscape) was the signs the organizers posted along the last six miles of the course. They helped tremendously. My favorite was “Every wall has a door.” I saw that sign when I needed it the most, and coasted in to qualify for Boston.

      • coachdougbowers

        The Boston!? You are amazing…waaay out of my league! I’ve done the distance…and more ( once accidentally, another story I’ll tell you about later) but I don’t have the speed.
        And isn’t it amazing how those little words can push people that extra mile?

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        All I can say is, everything fell into place that day. It was perfect weather, perfect surroundings, and I felt good. I knew if I could keep the pace up to mile 20 I would somehow find the strength to BQ. I think you have to want it bad enough, and I did. The last five miles were really, really tough, but nothing was going to stop me. I care less about speed these days, though. It’s all about having fun and finishing. And, yes, running is 90% mental, so those little words can help tremendously.

  3. sahbinahvioletflynn

    The Ten Commandments of Endurance sound like a recipe for life. I love to run; racing not so much. It helps me get out of my head and into my body.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I thought the same thing, that the list could also apply to life. I also like training much more than the actual race. I was surprised when I ran the half in Eugene this past April, however, because I had so much fun running the race. I think the cooler temps, the excitement of being at Hayward Field, and not feeling any pressure to PR really made a difference. I’m hoping trail running, with more of an emphasis on finishing rather than running fast, will jive more with me.

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