Learnings Learnt From Running Ultramarathons
It usually starts off with just a little jog. My small jog eventually turned into a passion for running ultramarathons, a slightly bizarre sport to explain to some. After all, who goes out for a 3-hour run in the Singapore heat on a Sunday afternoon?
I completed my first ultramarathon in 2011 and when I crossed the finish line, I was not the same person. I felt like my thought process had rebooted itself. Over the years since then, the same feelings repeated themselves every time I crossed the finish line. While reading the book, The Tao of Running by Gary Dudney, I started reflecting on some of my learnings from running ultramarathons. Here are my three key learnings.
According to Headspace, “mindfulness is the quality of being present and fully engaged with whatever we’re doing at the moment — free from distraction or judgment, and aware of our thoughts and feelings without getting caught up in them.”
Running for hours has helped me develop ways to tune out the unnecessary and focus on the here and now. It has taught me to pause, take a breath and stay in the present especially when dealing with difficult and challenging situations.
Ultramarathons have helped me adapt to some of the most challenging and adverse situations, such as hail, strong winds, sleep deprivation and endless blisters. Running an ultramarathon is a lot like life; I prepare for it continuously over an extended amount of time, but at some point everything will fall apart which I need to be prepared to adapt to.
It’s not very different from running agile projects at work.
When I ran my first 100-mile ultramarathon, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. It was daunting and a little scary as I was going into a space which was completely unknown to me.
Timothy Olson, a world renown ultramarathon runner, shares, “You really have to embrace the unknown. You can try all you want to script it how you see the day going and have these plans but the mountains don't care. They're indifferent to whatever plans, whatever hopes you have. You have no choice but to just embrace the moment and be present and accept whatever comes your way.”
If there is one learning that I have applied in my daily life both at home and at work during the pandemic, it was to embrace this new and unknown world we live in. The future is equally unknown, so there will always be more unknowns to embrace, newer things to learn and better ways to adapt.