Ultrarunning champion Scott Jurek shares the lessons he’s learned through the years.
Written by: Scott Jurek
This column first appeared on the back page of the April issue of Competitor Magazine.
I think of this while running through mountains, deserts and long, lonely roads. Bipedal locomotion is so much more than the number of miles run. It’s not only a test of physical abilities and mental machinery, but also a lesson about human potential. By looking at running from these vantage points, I have been able to appreciate the power of running more.
I’ve raced ultramarathons for 17 years and have learned a lot about my body, mind and soul. In the early years of my running career, I would come back from a run and ponder new ways that I could train harder and perform better. I read books about exercise physiology and inspiring stories by legends of the sport about how they trained. Back then I mostly focused on getting stronger and faster. It was a noble effort. Learning about my physiology allowed me to push my body to new limits, and doing so enabled me to explore the deeper aspects of my mind and soul. I never thought about what running could teach me, but as I gained more experience, I began to appreciate what else running had to offer. As the solo journeys into the forests accumulated and I encountered new obstacles on racecourses, I started asking introspective questions. My mental fortitude became stronger, enabling me to solve the physical problems that would arise and deal with the discomfort that comes with running 100 consecutive miles.
Runners are inquisitive creatures. We ask questions so we can reach our full potential. We dig deep to discover how to tackle seemingly insurmountable challenges while charging toward the finish line. We seek validation for why we put our bodies, minds and souls through all the discomfort and joy.
Ask yourself what you are learning from your running. Sometimes it might be how you can better control your heart rate, how you can fuel more efficiently, or how you can get through that mental barrier at a low point in a race or training run. You might even learn something through running that can help you persevere in everyday life. When you do this you become a more complete runner. It might get you a PR or better yet, make you a better person.
So, let’s run and ask questions, because no matter how many miles we have run there is always something more to learn. Running is a way for us find out more about the individual that we are. All we need is an open road or windy path and a desire to explore.