[This article was originally published on Trail and Ultra Running blog, which you can find here.]
Courtney Dauwalter needs no introduction in the ultramarathon world. Most recently she won the Moab 240 in 57 hours 55 minutes. Courtney joined a podcast that I co-host and we went DEEP into the mental side of her running game.
Her mental toughness and ability to push through physical pain are unbelievable, so I felt compelled to share the three takeaways from our conversation with Courtney. The way I see it, if we can adopt any one of the three bullets into our running game, we will be better off because of it.
#1 “SEEK THE PAIN”
This nomenclature is nothing new in the running world, but we have to take a step back to understand why this is important to Courtney. More than any person I’ve hosted on the podcast, Courtney has a curiosity to see how far we can push the body and brain. She’s adamant that the combination of the body and brain working together is a source of unlimited potential, but to tap into that potential we must seek states of pain or uncomfortableness. Courtney’s medium is running insane distances at an unbelievable pace, such as beating the second place finisher in Moab by over 10 hours.
Don’t give yourself excuses or reasons to quit, invest all of your energy and time on a given task, and you’ll be amazed at the results, says Courtney.
#2 “STOPPING DIDN’T CROSS MY MIND”
A month before Moab, Courtney won the Run Rabbit Run race, completing the final 12 miles while blind due to a case of corneal edema. With 12 miles left in the race, deep in the Rockies, we asked Courtney why she didn’t simply stop and her answer was simple: “Stopping didn’t cross my mind…what is stopping going to do for me?” The realization that Courtney’s response is a metaphor for life didn’t hit me until a few days after the interview.
While one’s definition of success changes from person to person, failure is always defined as the inability to reach one’s goal. The reality is that most people quit right before they tap into their definition of success. In a race, or in life, we never know how close we are to our goal unless we continue to push and take the next step. Courtney experiences low points throughout a race just like the rest of us, but her determination to continue moving forward is absolute. It’s amazing to see what humans are capable of when their conviction and belief are laser focused on a given task.
Think of what we could do if we simply refused to stop or quit, no matter what obstacles are thrown at us, such as blindness during a race.
#3 “BE PRESENT AND SAVOR THE EXPERIENCE”
238 miles is a daunting distance to run, and focusing on the entirety of the race can be crippling. To avoid being bogged down mentally, Courtney focuses only on the section of the race where she finds herself and savors the experience of the run. Sport psychologist Michael Gervais refers to this as being “on time” or experiencing flow state – you know the feeling, when the game or run seems to slow down and opens-up before your eyes.
I’m convinced that Courtney’s ability to live in the now and ignore past sections or the miles ahead, is one of the reasons she can push through even the lowest points of a run. Focusing on the now removes a ton of emotional baggage, and frees-up Courtney’s mind to push through those low moments of the race.
Thank you for reading! If you’d like to listen to the full podcast interview (30 minutes), click here.
The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, iTunes, Stitcher, and Google Play. Search “TR Talk” and scroll to episode 15. If you would like to recommend guests for upcoming episodes, leave a comment and we’ll do our best to bring those folks onto the show.
About the author
Ryan Warner (@Ryan_N_Warner) is the co-host of TR Talk Podcast, which interviews leaders in their field to learn how millennials can make an impact in today’s operating environment. Former guests have included CEO’s, sports psychologists, New York Times best sellers, self-help gurus, and former/current professional athletes. If you want to support the podcast, have a listen and feel free to recommend guests in the comments below. Contact: Website.