My Biggest Ultrarunning Regret

 At Leadville 100-mile ultramarathon, back in the day, Hans-Dieter Weisshaar behind me.

At Leadville 100-mile ultramarathon, back in the day, Hans-Dieter Weisshaar behind me.

Back in 1988, three years after I first read about ultramarathons, I started training for one.

I was 25.

Then, a month and a half before the race, my appendix burst and required major, emergency surgery.

I approached healing like training and calculated that I could coast from the fitness I’d built up and get back to running and training in decent time. I wouldn’t be starting from scratch.

Two and a half months later, a few days before Christmas, I’d been running enough to start back into short long runs when a searing pain woke me in the middle of the night and took me back to the emergency room. Scar tissue from the first surgery had pulled apart and created internal bleeding.

When l finally left the hospital, I faced the same healing road all over again, but this time with less fitness to coast from than before.

It took the wind out of my sails and a lot of energy but rather than give up, I decided to accept that the process would take longer and I could get back in shape by maybe late spring.

Healing was tough both times. The surgeries cut my abdominal muscles and left me with a crooked 5 1/2-inch scar from belly button down. I had to build up to walking - patiently - before I could even think about running again. Every day was training, but for normally get-back-to-work functional life, not my former running life.

When I finally made it to normal life the second time, I relaxed. I intended to start training again for an ultra, but didn’t pick one out. I’d do it “in a while.” I temporarily put running an ultra on the shelf. 

And there it stayed. I had years ahead of me to get around to it and a series of big life events distracted me. I started a new relationship, quit my job, moved to another state, and found a new job. There, I slipped into the routine that magazines, advertising, TV shows and the world around me said was real life, one that didn’t include training for an ultra. 

What I slipped into, I slowly settled for.

Nine years later - nine - I finally ran my first ultra at 34. I can’t tell you how often I wish I could have those nine years back. I wouldn’t be where or who I am now, which I love, but still…

I wish I hadn’t waited.

There wasn’t even a good reason to put it off. I just didn’t have a firm grasp of my values, and my dreams were all far off, someday stuff.

I wasn’t taking action toward my dreams and the things like ultrarunning that excited me. Instead, I was buying things I probably don’t even own now, while halfway trying to decide what I wanted to do with my life, continually concluding I didn’t know “the” answer, and setting any action aside for another day. When I think of the time and money I spent at the mall, I cringe. I can tell you what it was like 15 years ago to run the Leadville 100, down to the dust on the gravel roads, but can’t tell you a single thing about the shopping.

Nine years is a long time to lose doing something you love. 

That’s why I know and firmly live by my own values and priorities rather than drifting along with the crowd or letting someone else insert theirs. 

That’s why I focus my race schedule on the distance I love - 100-miles.

That’s why I favor races and runs that make me happy or spark that certain buzz of excitement, instead of ones like the Barkley Marathons people think I “should” do. 

That’s why I don’t wait now.

I don’t get those years back to do over and I don’t want you to make the same mistake.

So I encourage you to take a moment and think about a dream or an idea you haven’t been taking action on and answer two questions:

“Why haven’t I been taking action?”

“How could today be the right time to start?”

Share your answers below - I’d love to read them and you might inspire someone else.

And as always, share this post with someone who’d like to read it.

Until next week,

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