By Ultra-Runner, Explorer & Christopher Ward Challenger Jamie Maddison
Running and adventuring are two sides of the same, very weather-beaten, coin. They can both land you in some crazy spaces – geographical, physical and psychological – far out of your comfort zone and with little else to do but grit your teeth and keep going or risk complete failure.
I first noticed this similarity several years ago. A dyed-in-the wool adventurous person, I’ve ridden horses across Kazakhstan, lived with eagle hunters in Mongolia and explored untouched valleys in Kyrgyzstan’s Tien Shan mountain. I then became interested in running, and over the past three years have raced every distance, from a 4-minute 34-second road mile all the way up to an “eight marathons in eight days” crossing of an uncrossed desert called the Betpak Dala, or the “Steppe of Misfortune”.
With all of these activities, the challenge is as much in the mind as it is physical. Here are seven key mental habits I believe you need to cope on both adventures and long-distance runs.
Situations change. It doesn’t matter whether you’re running low on resources in a far off country, or simply running out of steam mid-race, being able to clearly assess a situation and then change one’s behaviour, as a result, is one of the most important skills an adventure/runner can have. It can be the difference between success, failure, and even injury or death.
The crossing of Kazakhstan by horse took me 64 days to complete, through very barren terrain; rolling steppe, uninterrupted and completely flat, save for the odd small river. It seemed to take forever to get anywhere, an experience many long-distance runners are all too familiar with. Being able to cope with extended periods of monotony and boredom is essential and hence patience has to be one of your key virtues, on a run or en-route to completing an expedition.
Competitive runners stick to training calendars, record daily run logs, even create nutrition diaries. Prior to a race they are known to research the course, discuss race tactics, and plan everything all the way down to the how fast each and every mile should be run at. Likewise, on my upcoming expedition to cross a hundred mile desert on foot, I recently made a database of 144 geographic coordinate of each and every-turn I need to take for the most efficient crossing. That’s a waypoint for every two-thirds of a mile. To excel at both disciplines, a meticulous and planning-orientated mindset serves wonders in keeping you on the path toward success,
Coming up with interesting places to explore or expeditions no-one has ever tried before requires imagination. This is also true in running, where an inquisitive approach pushes you to set out and find new routes and terrain to run over. This approach keeps the activity fresh and you enjoying the sport, essential if you’re to keep hammering away at it, day in and day out. A creative mindset also helps strengthen Point 5, patience, as it’s amazing how quickly time passes when you’re daydreaming about something else.
Being a “Jack Of All Trades”
A mark of a truly great runner is being as formidable in the mile as you are in the marathon. It’s a skill few other than the greats such as Haile Gebrselassie, Kenenisa Bekele and Mo Farah have ever achieved.
Likewise, the great adventurers, humans such as Edmund Hillary, weren’t confined to one discipline: Hillary also undertook hard polar journeys such as the Commonwealth Trans-Antarctic Expedition to the South Pole, as well as his historic summiting of Everest. Being a quick and skilled learner who can operate in many different situations seamlessly is an inherently useful trait for both adventurers and running.
Introversion and Extroversion
Adventures require an insane amount of hours spent inside one’s own head, with precious few other people to speak with. Being able to rest within your own company is essential for success both activities (Point 3 also helps with this), but that’s not to say the sports favour recluses. Being able to converse freely – whether it’s with the locals in Tajikistan or in-between sets with your running mates – helps create a support network for you, that can only help ensure success with your project.
Whether you’re on the fourth lap in the 1500 metres or the last day in a multi-day ultra marathon, being able to cope with pain and discomfort, and still keep going, is vitally important for seeing both activities through. It also takes courage to push into the unknown, to keeping going even though you do not know what lays around the next corner, or what the next 10 minutes might bring.
Luckily – like all of the mental habits listed – courage can be taught. It is just a matter of practice; of learning the ropes slowly, practising, and digging a bit deeper day by day. Until one day you’re there, and you’re ready to head out and blaze out into the world. And the best way to practice? Running, of course.
Jamie Maddison is running 100 miles over an uncrossed desert in Kazakhstan this September, supported by the Christopher Ward Challenger Programme. To follow his journey, please visit:
Anyone with a running or cycling app will have heard of Relive (you have now). When I first started this blog back in 2008 I used to post, write and record every run, every day that I did. I would take the time to copy and paste my run into paint and carefully edit the image to upload to my blog. Nowadays we have stuff like this.
This is my afternoon run.
The place I work has recently been focusing on the health side to health and safety at work and as such some initiatives have been put into place to promote this. We now get free fruit on a daily basis and it has to be said a large variety of top of the range stuff and some I have never tried, Dragon Fruit anyone?
We have for the last month been given some posh pedometers and taken part in a 10000 step daily challenge. I have just collected the figures for all the guys at work and everyone has smashed that challenge with an average of 15000 a day! The eye opener for me was how little movement I did in the day apart from running. A lot of the people at work have decided to continue doing it.
The sessions we coach at Junior Run Club are always uplifting and fun. After the kids did a hard session where everyone put lots of effort in we did some wheelbarrow races. I haven’t done these in well over 20 years. These were made all the more difficult by my horrific giggling. When the weather is good we always get out of the gym and head for the track. This below is a typical GPS track of our session, consisting of warm up, 300-meter sprints, 100-meter relay and the wheelbarrow race……of course.
I haven’t lifted a single bit of weight lifting equipment for years. I don’t do many press ups ,pull ups and sit ups and by many I mean none at all. This is the reason I have well defined legs and an upper body of a sloth.
I recently went on a health and wellbeing course at work which was not as horrendous as it sounds. It was delivered by a professional training team and best of all we didn’t have to do any role playing. I didn’t go to RADA that’s why I work in a quarry.
They took us through a height, weight, BMI, blood pressure, body fat you name it examination with lots of high tech kit. At the end of this you got a printout of all the details. It turns out I have a metabolic age of 51 I’m actually 44. This was because of my weight and overall body fat.
So now I own weights with a bench and I have a plan to reduce the body fat and build muscle to improve my metabolism and stop being a fat shit. This combined with smaller portions of food along with my running should do the trick.
I will keep you posted.
My wife is a Welsh Athletics Coach and has a junior run club on Wednesdays and a junior athletics club on Thursdays. Her assistant coach has recently retired and I have now stepped into the breach. I have had so much fun doing this that I am now looking at doing it long term. The kids enthusiasm is inspiring. This has had such a positive effect on me, I wish I had done this years ago.
I’m now booked onto some courses to get me qualified and doing various workshops to gain proper experience. It’s been a long time since I have done any throwing and jumping.
I didn’t start this year with any intention to run 1000 miles in one year. 3 weeks into January I was looking at my totals and I realized I wasn’t that far off if I was to start the challenge. My wife and a few people I know who run on a regular basis have started already. I had a think about it and I thought if it gets me motivated to keep running throughout 2017 then that can only be a good thing.
You will always get people telling you it’s not a good idea. These people can fuck right off. The benefits far out way any negative bullshit. Even if you don’t reach the 1000 mile goal if it has got you motivated to run then it’s already worth it. It also forces you to consider a more structured plan.
I’m breaking it down into small segments because this then makes it sound a bit easier.
1000 miles in 1 year is 2.73 miles a day. That’s a little under 20 miles a week, 19.11 miles to be more precise. It’s roughly 80 miles a month. Or 0.001902 miles per minute.
I stopped using the usual sports drinks you see a lot of people guzzling on a few years ago. My wife is an athletics coach and as such has a qualification in sports nutrition. She came home one day and showed me the crap that goes into these drinks and binned them. It all seemed quite logical so from that point on I was drinking water and eating Bananas for training and events.So, 6 sachets of Active Root and a 500ml bottle (the correct amount to mix with one sachet with) arrived in the new year. I can’t eat anything within 2 hours of running because I start burping it up and getting bad heartburn. So, it was great to try this stuff out. I decided to try 250ml before the run and 250ml afterward as a sort of recovery drink. It tastes great and I mean, let me just guzzle all this in a one go great. While this first try is of course not an intense study into the effects of drinking Active Root (I work in a lab we can do more) I had no bloating and it didn’t repeat on me It’s easy to mix and dissolves into the water quickly. Did I tell you it tastes great? It does.
So, 6 sachets and a 500ml bottle (the correct amount to mix with one sachet with) arrived in the new year. I can’t eat anything within 2 hours of running because I start burping it up and getting bad heartburn. So, it was great to try this stuff out. I decided to try 250ml before the run and 250ml afterward as a sort of recovery drink. It tastes great and I mean, let me just guzzle all this in a one go great. While this first try is of course not an intense study into the effects of drinking Active Root (I work in a lab we can do more) I had no bloating and it didn’t repeat on me It’s easy to mix and dissolves into the water quickly. Did I tell you it tastes great? It does.
Anyway, it is nice to have a natural drink to turn to for my runs and workouts.
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