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It’s no secret that the 2020 trail-racing season has looked radically different. But, if you’ve been following along with the sport you’ve probably noticed that just because races have been canceled doesn’t mean people have stopped challenging themselves to try hard things.
Whether it’s elite athletes going after prestigious FKTs, new runners committing to run streaks and vert challenges or race-starved folks tackling a backyard ultra, there’s been a collective commitment in the running community to continue striving, together. It’s been inspiring and empowering to watch as runners of all abilities set out to do something they’ve never done before.
Trying something new can feel daunting and comes with its own set of risks. Your personal challenge should and will be totally different from someone else’s. You don’t have to be out on the trails setting records to gain the same mental strength that comes with proving to yourself what you’re capable of. Here are some tips for psyching yourself up to do hard things.
Surround Yourself With Support
Races usually come with built-in logistical and even emotional support in the form of race volunteers, other competitors and spectators. When setting out to tackle some kind of personal challenge, even if you’re flying solo, consider gathering some type of support system, whether it’s a friend to accompany you on training runs or a crew to support a more protracted effort.
One of the most amazing things I’ve noticed recently is how people are willing to drop everything and get out and support someone else’s effort. This is a great opportunity to ask for help—something that we could all probably use some practice in.
Connect With Your Challenge
Choosing a personal challenge inherently requires intrinsic motivation. There won’t be any official finish lines or awards, just the deep satisfaction that comes with accomplishing something you weren’t sure you could. When deciding on how you want to challenge yourself, ask yourself, “Why?”
It could be a personal pull that you feel to a certain trail or targeting a challenge (like a vert or distance goal) to prove to yourself that you’re stronger than you think you are. It might mean choosing a challenge that scares you so that you have the opportunity to be brave.
Be purposeful. Be intentional. Be ambitious.
It’s Not About the Outcome
Most importantly, doing hard things is about the journey. It’s about cultivating courage and belief. It’s about being willing to be uncomfortable, to risk falling short, but to feel empowered enough to try it, anyway. Now is the time to reconnect with yourself and remember all the things you’re capable of achieving.
You don’t need race results to validate your strength. You can go out and display it on your own. In some ways there’s more fulfillment and empowerment that comes with seeing just how far you can go when the only reward is connecting with a part of yourself that you didn’t even know was there.
This may be the year without many race results, but we all are being presented with the opportunity to strengthen and hone valuable mental skills. Running is a sport that makes it easy to get fixated on race results and outcomes. Taking on a self-challenge is about growth and uncovering something that makes you want to strive even further.