﷯Yes you Can... by Stuart "Unless you try something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow" In my humble opinion if you have a strong enough will and motivation, barring serious injury or illness anyone could finish an ultra ( unless there are strict cut off times). All you need to finish an ultra marathon is a little bit of fitness but a lot of determination and mental strength. As long as you believe you can do it, you will do it. I've seen people pull out of races with injuries claiming they are worried about it leading to long term damage, but then seem fine walking around back at the post race hotel. On the other hand I have seen participants with far worse crippling injuries hobble there way to the finish line as they had the mental capacity to block out the pain and an iron will to finish. We almost all stand at the start line of these races making excuses before the off , or talking about persisting niggles or injuries, so that if things go bad we have a safety net of excuses to fall back on. I like to refer to these as someone's get out cards. No one wants to DNF so we have pre race reasons for a DNF already in our minds to try and justify pulling out so we don't feel like a failure for giving up. It is very rare to ever hear a runner at the start of a race say that they their training was perfect and that they did all the miles and hours of preparation they wanted to and that they are in the best shape of their life! What you normally hear is almost a cacophony of stories about lack of training and training injuries and current injuries. Last year I took part in the Jungle Marathon in Brazil (post race blog can be read on commandoactive.com). A week or two before the race I had a bad back, and so there it was, my get out card. If I'm honest I think I moaned and complained about my back for the first 3 or 4 days of the race. The race itself was extremely tough, for me even harder than the Atacama and Sahara races. So as I was in a bad way, and the self doubt about finishing crept it, I had my joker ready to play if I pulled out. I started trying to convince myself that i should pull out to avoid serious injury to my spine. This was to try and make me feel better about giving up. Luckily I managed to silence the demons in my head and plod on to the finish line. Had I of pulled out I knew in my heart that it would have been because I gave up, rather than because my back gave in. The truth is that if my back injury was so crippling I should never have started the race to begin with. I knew it would cause me problems but if I was looking to use it an an excuse to DNF I might as well have saved myself the time and money of going as I would have been beaten already in my head before the race even began. Don't think of injuries and lack of training as a get out card, see them as a reason to relax a bit more about the race, put less pressure on yourself to go hard and fast , and you will be able to enjoy the event and more often than not you will be surprised that you actually exceed any pre race expectations. Very rarely will any one ever start a race completely fresh and injury free having trained exactly as they planned. In terms of mental toughness for ultras, the only way you will know if you have it or not is by doing ultras. A DNF is not a failure if you have given your best. As long as you learn from the race what you could have done differently you will come back stronger for it next time. To even stand at the start line and have the guts to attempt such a race already makes you strong. After each race, wether its a DNF or a finish, you will grow stronger mentally every time. Sometimes we learn more and grow stronger after a failure than we do a success, and it is bouncing back that makes us stronger. Prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Last year before doing the jungle marathon I asked the question "is it possible to finish a multi stage ultra marathon having only run 20 miles a week?" . I found out the answer for myself and will be writing about that in my next blog.