Wednesday, November 2, 2011

You're not an Inspiration.

Sometimes you pre-plan your life for errors and think that if you fall asleep in class, you’ll just raise your head slowly and say “amen” because you’re in Divinity School and it’d be mostly okay.

But then you never have to because you run ultramarathons, and your training zaps out the tired.

But then you never have to because you run ultramarathons and your training zaps out the tired.

I rewrote that sentence and removed the comma. I don't like commas because they're like having to pause at an aid station, and I'd really rather run-on. (Ultramarathon grammar pun!)

Where did the tired go? To the land of lethargy where homework takes 30 hours because your brain has less oxygen.

I’ve begun ultramarathon training again—not full force, but I'm getting there. The past three days, my mileage was 17, 19, 27. Small victories. My roommate's boyfriend told me that I don't count as inspirational because inspiration incites change, and he would never want to do this.
Did you just run 25 miles before going on a 10-mile hike to a bog? Yes. Guilty. And this is my bog hair.

In school, I’ve been learning about doxastic penetration. This is important for us.

Doxastic penetration refers to when your beliefs color your perceptions. It means that what you see is distorted by preexisting sensibilites. This is all too relevant for a distance runner. Beginning a run with a negativity bias will make the run actually feel more difficult. Or if you think a 20-miler is long, the distance will be more pronounced in the way you experience it.

There was one study done where people were placed at the bottom of a hill while wearing backpacks and had to estimate the size of the hill. They perceived the hill as bigger than the control group—those not wearing backpacks. The question was about the phenomenology itself. Effort changes vision. It would be harder to climb the hill with the backpack on. There is scholarly contention as to whether the doxastic influence directly affects the raw visual processing or the post-perceptual judgment, but it redounds to the same thing: If we think something is harder, we’re going to be biased in the way we see it. We have the power to alter our vision.

I think about this every time I go outside into the arctic tundra of New Haven, Connecticut for my morning runs. If I nurture a belief that the weather is miserable and probably going to kill me, it will actually feel more oppressively cold.

Be attentive to your thoughts. Ultramarathon training is in reality one of the most difficult undertakings you could attempt. Why make it worse with diffidence or undisciplined beliefs?
Ultras are hard but always worth the effort. Think about the positives. Cognitive penetration works in two ways. Think of why you love to run, and it will literally transform your experience.

You're not an inspiration, though. Because people don't want to do this.


  1. You always manage to introduce me to new terminologies and phenomena. I love having something meaty (or would it be more accurate to characterize it as "umami"?) in my usually high-glycemic, sugary reading diet.
    Even better, it directly applies to ultra running and yields a wealth of wisdom on how to be better at it.
    That is absolute motivation.
    Also, you make me laugh out loud with your writing style and observations. You are a gem.

  2. I am just going to go ahead and think that you put that pun in there just for me. you know how I love a good pun. also, you. I love you. maybe even more than a good pun.

  3. Sorry. Inaccurate premise. When it comes to me, anyway. See ... no matter how you slice it ... YOU are an inspiration to me. Period. :)

    P.S. Glad you are on the way back, Speedy!

  4. Sabrina,
    Awesome to hear that you're back up and running.

    "You're not an inspiration" -- ha, love it!


  5. Hey sis. Mama and I are sitting on the couch reading your blog. We love you. You are so funny. It would be funnier if we could understand it! says!

  6. Yeah, I'm hoping that last line was sarcasm, or a joke because of the lines that led up to it, or something. Because you defs are an inspiration. Lion-taming 27 rambunctious teenagers in a classroom = not as hard as running 27 miles. If you can do it, I can do it.


  7. Great post. And your friend just doesn't realize it. I give him a year. Then one day you will see him out there. It has happened to all of my friends and husband who said, "I would never want to do that." They all end up wanted that "something" that comes from the insanity of running and in my case triathlon.

  8. FYI, you are an inspiration. I have begun to explore running longer distances more regularly, in part, because of knowing you. So, take that, roommate's boyfriend!

  9. Happy New Year! I was drafting out my year's intentions and I decided to throw an ultramarathon in the mix for 2012. I don't actually know anyone who has completed an ultra so your blog is especially fascinating and inspirational to me. Thank you for your writing and I certainly would appreciate any advice you have to give on the subject! :)

  10. You're definitely an inspiration to me

  11. What a nice reminder that attitude really is such a huge part of running (and life). (Also, I laughed at your grammar pun. :))