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5 skills to overcome pain and the struggle during an ultramarathon

by | Jun 11, 2024 | Pain Coach, Uncategorized

Richmond running an ultramarathon

I ran an ultramarathon each month for two years.

24 in 24 months.

Most were solo, meaning I put on my pack and headed off on a trail somewhere unsupported.

I liked that.

Keeping going is at the heart of an ultramarathon.

Despite any pain, struggles, inconveniences, getting lost, running out of something, falling over, and any number of other reasons for suffering.

That’s the deal.

So, you develop ways of keeping going.

Ways of meeting that moment and that struggle.

Here are 5 things I used frequently that you may find helpful.

They are also drawn from ways people with chronic pain can relate and respond skilfully to a moment of suffering. These skilful responses create the conditions to transform the lived experience; ie/ feel better.

Be here now

Be present and open to what is happening.

You can pay attention to something very closely such as each step or your breathing.

Or you can zoom out and keep your attention wide, noticing whatever appears in your awareness (open attention).

Both can be helpful at different times. Try one and see, then switch to the other.

Each moment being different and your needs ever-changing, toggling between is a skill in itself, to meet your needs.

And to create a calm balanced mind meeting each moment.

This keeps the stress low, conserving energy.

Of course, this is the only moment.

The only moment where life is happening for you.

Memories have gone.

The future is purely imaginary.

Going to either consciously and with intent can have their own benefits, but that is a different skill.

Be here now.

This is a mantra.

A mantra

This is a phrase you repeat to yourself over and over.

You can tie this with a breathing awareness practice.

For instance, breathing in I calm my mind; breathing out I ease my body.

I used to practice this for an hour or two at a time as I trotted along.

My steps would slip in time with my breathing and mantra.

All becomes one.

Often featuring a serene calmness and sense of joy.

This can also be a way of soothing yourself.

Easing pain. Settling your embodied mind.

It is worth knowing that your mind and body are not separate.

Instead there is just one experience of what it is like to be you.

Your thoughts and experience of the world and yourself is being generated by your body systems.

This means the state of your body (biology) is shaping what you experience and think.

And vice versa.

We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.

Anaïs Nin

Wear a bracelet or something else you can see

A wearable such as a bracelet is a cue, a reminder of someone important.

A loved one. Someone who adores you, you know is rooting for you and supporting your every step.

You glance down and see the bracelet and know they are thinking of you.

They are so proud of you.

You are inspiring them.

Notice how that feels.

Notice how it lifts your energy.

Focus outwards

Look ahead and see.

Head up, eyes open.

Widen your senses and feel nature about you.

You are nature.

There is no separation between you and the world.

What is around you is supporting you?

The air, the trees, the water, the mud.

No mud, no lotus.

A phrase from Thich Nhat Hanh.

For a beautiful flower to grow, it needs mud.

Light and dark.

Joy and sorrow.

There must be both in life.

Generate the feeling of awe by noticing the vastness around you–awe is a powerful feeling that is immensely healthy and energising.

Just let it all in as you keep stepping forwards on your journey.

Your body is there but somehow dissolves a little.

You become one with where you are.

You lose the ego, the sense of self.

Your experience is a stream of different feelings, sights, sounds and more.

Just let them come and pass.

Remember your reason for doing it

You have chosen to do this.

For a reason.

What is the reason? Or reasons?

Your purpose.

Who are you inspiring?

Notice how you feel when you connect with your reason and purpose.

Notice how it lifts your energy.


There are many other skills and strategies you can learn.

The key is to practice them before your event so you are familiar with which ones work best for you.

Just like learning to swim in the shallow end of a pool rather than in the ocean during a storm, practice when it is easier.

Practice on your easy runs and when you are at home.

A daily mindfulness practice will help with all of the above.

If you are interested, there are a couple of excellent apps.

The Plum Village app is free and packed with practices and teachings.

Waking Up is a subscription based app that is a huge resource for learning and practicing.

However you decide to do it,

I wish you well.

RS – The Pain Coach