I was recently one of the four main guests at SBS Insight night on "Pushing the Limits".
We discussed different aspect of endurance sport, physiological and psychological, sharing the personal stories behind what we do and experiences in taking on endurance challenges.
It was a great night and I took home great insights by the other guests and experts in the audience.
In hindsight, I wish I answered some questions slightly differently, giving a bit more depth and express myself better. Particularly one question around the WHY I do what I do.
To put things in the right context, we were discussing the possible long term risks of endurance events, the toll on the body, the dependency on the mind.
This is what I would have liked to say:
It is a bit hard to explain to those who are not part of this wonderful and fast growing niche of ultra runners. Admittedly, fellow ultra-runners also look at me a bit perplexed given the oddity of the challenge, the incredible boredom and complete lack of social appeal of running on a treadmill for 24 hours… but they get it.
All ultra runners have their own reasons to test their limits.
I started running long when my mother was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer late 2010. It was my way to try to make sense to what was happening, to get hold of my thoughts and to flush out all the negativity before summing up the courage to speak to her. Later running became a way to make my contribution to the race against cancer, getting others involved with my OUTRUN CANCER Corporate Treadmill Marathon events, spread awareness, advocate for prevention, and raise funds - over 600,000 AU$ to date - for specific and innovative prevention programs.
Now, running long distances, taking on unusual challenges, pushing my physical and mental limits through running, is my way to be in peace with myself and be authentic.
When I go for my long runs I am a better husband and a better father. I can deal and overcome my worries, personal doubts, fears and pressure of a busy life and high expectations. I find a more balanced perspective on things and all the noise subsides. Running also improves my general health, as I seek healthier food and make better lifestyle choices, and boosts my overall energy levels.
I have the belief that pushing through the moment where you have the choice of quitting or carrying on, functions as a way to prepare for the curve balls life inevitably throws. I doubt I’ll ever need to run away from or chase somebody for 24 hours - although that is a useful skill to have. But I am pretty sure there will be many cases when I’ll need ultra resilience. This is my way to practice the ability.
"Everyone, every moment in your life is there because you attracted to yourself" [R. Bach]
"Going out chasing utopias" [me]
Over the years, these two quotes have become part of my living principles.
But while they are good on paper and as tattoos, they don't have much real life value unless they are followed by ACTION.
I read blog and books, watch talks, listen to podcasts of people who accomplished amazing things. People who follow their dreams no matter what. They push through the hard beginning, and end up doing what they love, in peace with themselves and ultimately, leave a mark and make this world a better place.
While in the moment you get inspired and all pumped up, when thinking of making the leap yourself into the unknown to follow your "calling", it all becomes overwhelming and very daunting.
The last few years I have been trapped by my own fear of change, and essentially two questions:
This is an overly simplified version of the questions, they are just the tip of the iceberg.
There are many layers of personal self-doubt underneath - which I believe is a useful feeling to have to if you grab hold of it in a constructive way: it keeps you grounded and humble.
Fear on the other hand, is very powerful and harder to manage. Unless you get into the habit of addressing it regularly and see it for what it really is, it can become a giant monster in the closet. And the worst thing is that it has a ripple effect on everything you do and the people around you.
They say you are the product of the 5 people you spend most time with. Now that I am a father, I honestly don't want these questions and fear to define the life of my children and the people who are my closest.
Also, if my 3 years old son asked me those two questions the answers would be obvious:
I believe these answers apply to myself too.
So, long story short. I've gone ALL-IN ! Putting my passion and "calling" first and see what happens.
I am most happy when I am in the intersection between running and charity fundraising. I have a few ideas I cultivated over the years I believe are worth exploring and giving it a good crack.
I found when I put myself on the line I can become resourceful in ways I never knew before.