Whether you’ve been flirting with the idea of ultra running or looking for motivation to get into running at all, you’ll find your inspiration in ultra running champ Amy Rusiecki. With running as a side passion project, Amy has been able to compete in 82 ultras, winning 33 of them.
In addition to being an ultra runner, Amy is a race director and enjoys coaching ultra runners through her work in The Run Formula. Amy joined us on the Tough Girl Podcast to share her experiences ultra running and her tips for success, you can hear more about her story here.
If ultra running has been tucked in the back of your mind or at the top of your bucket list, dive into these strategies and you just might find the spark you need to sign up and succeed in that ultra race.
1. Simply Enjoy the Outdoors
Whether you’re running, biking, hiking or whatnot, you’re getting outdoors. Running just means you’re outdoors and covering a greater distance. When you’re outside, you get to smell the smells, see the sights and experience the full benefits of being outdoors unlike other means of moving your body.
Having this point of view when you take to any kind of running may help you shift perspective from struggle to sunrise (or sunset) views.
2. Carry Your Why
How do you push your body into ultra running as you’re working up from marathon and beyond? Amy always tells the athletes she coaches to ‘know your why’.
When you’re running mile after mile, it’s no surprise your mind is going to wander. And when your blood sugar is low, it’s sure to wander into negative places. You can’t do this. You’re the slowest here. You’re going to miss the cut off. Your mind can be a huge detriment to your performance.
However, if you can remember your why, you can find the ground you need to push through. For Amy, this often looks like carrying a photo of herself and a beloved friend who was always there to encourage her and listen to her adventures. This friend passed away, which reminds Amy further that her friend would give anything to be on this run, feeling this pain. That motivation helps her push through.
3. Get Your Friends Involved
When Amy was getting ready for a 100-mile race, weather delays meant she lost her crew and pacers. Learning this, Amy’s friends got together and made a list of 100 reasons Amy will rock the 100. Each friend submitted their own reasons and they put them together to give to Amy.
This list was a huge inspiration for Amy to turn to in dark moments. Creating something like this for yourself can remind you of the people supporting you and ground you when the ultra running gets hard.
This point is yet another example of the power in community. In pushing yourself to get into an endurance sport, you have the chance to build this community and come together in support of each other.
4. Consider Your Need for Success
Is your passion for running tied to your success in a race? While it’s certainly ok if your enjoyment of a run is much higher when you succeed, this is an interesting question worth pondering.
For Amy, this question came up as she shifted from elite running to more normal, day-to-day running. Would she enjoy ultra running if she was middle of the pack? When she began to run at a different level than before, Amy discovered that she still found the joy in running even if she wasn’t collecting medals. Instead, it was the community and the environment that really brought her that spark.
Wherever you are in your ultra running journey, accepting your results and letting go of expectations can be a powerful step. That may involve letting go of feedback and pressure from other runners or those around you. If this point is hitting you hard, it may be helpful to evaluate your identity and how it’s wrapped up in your results.
5. Find an Exciting Event
Amy’s advice for those runners looking to push themselves into ultra running and beyond is to find an event that inspires you. Feeling motivated and anticipating an upcoming event is what’s going to help you get out the door on freezing cold mornings. While it’s easy to have your friends talk you into something, finding your own inspiration is so much more powerful.
Amy says, it’s even a good idea to pick an event that scares you a little. That fear will have you out the door and finishing your run instead of cutting it short.
It’s also important to note that you don’t have to choose an event that you are sure you’ll be able to complete. Pick something with the possibility of failure. Feel free to dream big! You may not be successful and that’s ok. Failure is part of the process. Not everyone finishes every race. Or if they do, they may not finish every one impressively. Getting out there is more than good enough.
6. Let a Mile Be a Mile
For those newer to the sport, Amy suggests removing any notion in your brain of what a mile should look like. It’s easy to say that because you can’t run a mile continuously, you shouldn’t run one at all. Whether you’re running, jogging or walking, just do it!
Just say you’re going to cover a mile. Do that every day and eventually, you’ll be running more and walking less.
It’s easy to look at photos on the cover of magazines and feel defeated because you’re out there simply jogging or walking to finish mile 1 or mile 10. If you’re open to whatever a mile will look like, you can do it.
You are a proper runner even if you haven’t run the whole way.
Inspired to start running, ultra running or beyond? Join the Tough Girl Tribe on Facebook where you can share your journey, get advice and get inspired by other tough girls around the globe!