Why Genes Aren't Everything

Ultramarathon mindset coach Susan Donnelly finishes running Zumbro 100-mile ultramarathon

"How did you not die??"

I laughed. I’d just told the woman I was running side by side with in the early miles of the Long Haul 100 that I’d finished over one hundred 100-mile races.

She stopped mid trail, turned to look at me full length and said, “Of course. You look like a runner!”

It was a compliment but it was also an assumption that implied, “You lucked out and got the right genes.”

I’ve heard it before. Yes, I’m grateful for my genes (thanks Mom and Dad!). My body, among its useful quirks, loves running, especially trail running. It's the only time I feel graceful.

But good genes alone didn’t rack up all those 100-mile finishes.

The real key to my consistency over the years is the work I’ve done on mindset. 

One of the things that captivates me about this sport is that it’s about so much more than physical ability and technique. It requires intangibles like faith, belief, and desire.

Yes, some people are physically gifted and have a body shape “made for” running, but have you ever watched the finish line of a 100-mile race? It’s uplifting (and highly recommended) but if you watch it with an objective eye, you’ll notice a tremendous assortment of heights, weights, and body shapes cross the finish line. Body type and genes can’t explain it all.

“Maybe it’s training,” you think. What you do with the genes.

Sure, training your body for the rigors of a 100-mile race is a exceptionally smart idea, but at a certain point the “work harder” approach nets smaller and smaller returns. Push hard enough and you break or burn out, neither of which sets you on the path to a long and thriving ultra career.

So if it’s not all genes and what you do with them - the physical side - that leaves mindset. Which we don’t typically train.

You’ve probably heard that ultras are 20% physical, 80% mental, which I'd say is fair. If that’s true, wouldn’t you want to train the 80%?

Even if you say it’s only 50/50, would you train your body and leave the other half of the equation up to hope, luck, and a borrowed motivational slogan? Of course not.

The good news in this is that no matter what your genes, there’s a world of untapped potential in the 50% - or 80% - that’s mindset. And every single one of us has it. You included.

So the question is, are you going to actively start using your mindset to your advantage or leave it up to chance?

If you want to use your 80% to build a consistent, buckle-worthy ultra life that doesn’t break you or burn you out, I want to help.

I’m launching an exciting new way to do just that in the next few weeks. Spots will be limited, so if you want to be the first to know, join my mailing list here to get first dibs.

And if you like this post, I'd love for you to tell your friends - please forward or share!

Until next week,

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