Mental Preparation and Ultramarathons


By: Trey Brush

I wrote a blog almost a year ago now with the title of “Coming up Short at Merril’s Mile”.  I hated writing that entry.  Each time I come across it I just whence a little bit.  Last summer I had visions of 100 mile success in an ultramarathon in my head. 

Well, the story you can read but with the title “Coming up Short” you can guess the end of that story.  Like John Maxwell says, sometimes you win and sometimes you learn.  I wrote down some lessons right after that race and I tried to make sense of them.  Most of them were mental and I really think what I learned was valuable and served me well.  It allowed me to quickly get out of my funk and move on.

Since that time I also took a close look at my strategy and my training and I decided that in June of this year I would take a stab at another ultramarathon experience.  So June 6th I have another shot at the Without Limits Running Series in Greenville SC.  You can always go back and take a look at the lessons I learned but from a running perspective I took a good hard look at what happened and I decided to make some adjustments.  So, when I say “Taking Another Shot” I am doing so with some major changes in what I have done.  I don’t believe in doing it again to just do it again and see the same results.

I decided to put this down and maybe relate it to your past road bumps in hopes something might help you get better. 

So what changes?

1. Increases across the board 

From the total number of runs, to the total number of long runs, to the total number of doubles run in a day and to the stress I have put on my body I have increased everything dramatically.  As you might be coming off of a bad race or if you might be looking to run a longer distance than you have, you must consider what is required.  Last year I tried to just pull it off.  I don’t think I was all in.  I would ask you, are you all in or are you just dipping your toe in the water?  To step up to a greater distance or to run faster and do something you have not been, it will require more from you.  What are you willing to do?

2. Turn the heat up slowly

 What? You can’t just fire up the mega-distance machine which goes back to number one.  Since January I have tried to stay healthy and gradually build the base where it needed to be and once I felt like I could really push it, I did just that.  However, there have been moments where I needed to back off.  When those moments showed up I listened.  We all want to improve but we also have to listen to our bodies in that process.

3. Train the brain

This has been the most mentally taxing training I have done.  I have run more doubles in a day during this season than I ever have.  For the first time in my life I have run 3 times in a day.  I don’t encourage this, but it is something I needed mentally.  For you, I would encourage you to find ways to win mentally.  There are going to be moments in your training where it is not about the pace and not about the performance but it is about pushing through any way.  Your legs might be trained, but how is your head?

4. Short memory

I would love to say every run has been great.  I would be lying!  Just recently I bonked and I bonked big time. Thankfully those have not been runs I have listened to. We all have bad runs and all had bad weeks.  It is important to put those behind you and quickly replace it with a good one.

5. Enjoy the journey

I don’t know what race day holds.  I don’t really know what I can or can’t do that day.  I am still kicking around what my goal is on race day.  The goal I have in my head and further than I have ever run and the number 80 sounds nice.  But 80 is not too far from another number!  We will see.  Here is what I know, I have enjoyed the last few months of running more than any other in a long time.  I have been creative with how I run, when I run and who I run with.  Last year I was not looking forward to some of those runs.  This year, the process has been a real highlight.  I would recommend you find a way to enjoy the journey and keep it fun.

So how does this story end?  Stick around.

Trey is a runner and coach with a desire to help create change in others.  He lost 80 pounds on his journey from a watcher in life to a doer.  His passion for running and creating change led him from the couch to marathons and ultramarathons.  He is a husband and the father of 2 boys living in Jefferson GA.  You can follow Trey on twitter @RunOnPurpose