Comfort Zones...who needs them anyway? My first Ultra Marathon

Ian Kinsella 25.07.2017

As I am coming back down to reality after my recent experience running my first ever ultra marathon at the North Face Endurance Challenge (this is a 50 KM mountain race in the Blue Mountains in Collingwood, Ontario), I thought about how on earth I even got to the start-line in the first place let alone finish in 3rd place overall and to share the podium with ultra legends Rob Krar and Dean Kanarzes

I often write articles and share them after I run a big race. I feel the comparison to success in sport has very similar principles to the workplace and is worth sharing in success or failure. Getting out of your comfort-zone and into your stretch-zone is when amazing things happen.

The race itself was quite the journey both physically and mentally. The terrain was extremely poor and muddy due to rain the week before so it was far from ideal running conditions. However, everyone was in the same boat so we dealt with it as best we could and tried to stay on our feet.

I was 10th after 5 kilometers and 3rd after 25 kilometers so there is a a lot to be said about correct pacing and planning ahead when taking on a longer distance. The last 8 kilometers was a killer and as I have not ran that distance before it tested me in every way. I broke it down into segments and focused on the beauty around me in the mountain rather than the physical pain and I had enough self belief to get through it. The winner was Rob Krar who is one of the best Ultra runners in the world so I was delighted to share the podium with him after the race.

How did I end up running this...well I jokingly mentioned running this race to a friend of mine and about 2 weeks later we had all signed up and were planning the trip. I can be a bit of a yes man when it comes to new challenges.

Broken down - here is how it went for me

  1. Goal Setting

I always do this before a big race. My first goal was to get through training and make it to the start line healthy. I am always grateful when I can run a race fit and healthy and never take it for granted. Second goal was to finish in one piece, third was to podium in the race.

2. Training

Like with any new challenge, I didn’t want to fail so I made sure I put enough training in to get me through the race. I didn’t have enough time to specifically train for this event, however I certainly made sure I did enough so that I was confident in my fitness and ability.

3. Commitment

I signed up for it, so I was 100% committed. That meant some early mornings and serious hours of training had to be done. Certain sacrifices had to be made to make sure I was in decent shape to get through the distance however I was okay with that.

4. Self Belief

As I had never ran this distance before, it is hard to be confident that I wouldn’t fall apart after 26 miles. However I do know that when I commit to something and I train properly I should be confident in my ability. Self Belief is a phenomenally powerful mental tool for successful people. Conor McGregor is a key (extreme) example of self belief.  

5. Mental Strength

Endurance athletes often say that the stronger the mind the stronger the body. The last 5k of this race was tough and I certainly fought through some mental barriers in order to finish. I expected this though so I was able to cope...just about.

6. Support / Team work

It’s nearly impossible to achieve big goals without support or team work. I was lucky enough to have both and I am certain I would of failed without it.

7. Leaving my comfort zone  

Its simple - this is where the magic happens in sport, business and life. That final 8KM I was well and truly outside my comfort zone and I am now better off for it as I didn’t know if I could do it before. Push yourself and the rest will take care of itself.

In summary this is 100% how I would go about taking on a new personal challenge be it in work or in sport. Performance through well-being is something I believe to be very true and I am a living example of this is some regard....however I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to go run a 50K in the Blue Mountains anytime soon. :-)

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