A few days ago I turned 45. And for the first time in my life, I celebrated my birthday by running a number of kilometers equal to my age: 45. A little over a marathon. Or, in other words, a small ultra-marathon.
I started at 5 PM and finished just before 10 PM. Total time: 4 hours and 55 minutes, average pace: 6 minutes 33 seconds / kilometer (a decent pace for an ultra-marathon). I think it’s worth mentioning that I did this just 48 hours after I ran an official, 42 km long marathon in Nice, France.
I prepared for this birthday race just like for any other ultra-marathon: I carried a hydration belt with isotonic, a few supplements (magnesium), protein bars and a few gels. Everything went on smoothly and I greatly enjoyed the run – most of which was in the dark (because during this time of the year the night comes pretty early), and I recently discovered I really love running in the dark.
I finished this celebration with zero damage: no blisters, no pains, no nothing. A little bit of fatigue, but I guess that’s understandable when you run distances over 40km, just 48 hours apart.
Why I’m telling you that?
First of all, because, if you read my blog constantly, you know that I usually write something like: “X things I learned in Y years” every time is my birthday. This year I wanted to be different. (It’s not that I stopped learning. But lately I’m focusing more on doing and being than on learning.)
Second, because there is a very significant improvement – in terms of general fitness – from how I used to be just 3 years ago. Just 6 months ago I finished my first race over 200km, something that seemed totally unconceivable for me, not only a few years ago, but for my entire life. I think this contrast between how it used to be and how I am is very important. It’s a living proof that change – whatever form we want that change to be in – is possible.
And third, because the content shared on my blog during the last few months was scarce, to say the least, and that is in stark contrast with what happens in my real life. I felt like the blog is not mirroring enough of what’s happening around these days. In my real life it’s quite the roller-coaster, so busy and caught up that I simply don’t find the time to put it on the blog. I wanted this to change as well.
So, how this happened? How it was possible to go from zero to 45 kilometers on my birthday?
Well, the answer is in the little things. I know many of you are coming here looking for some magic cure, for some bullet proof formula that once applied will change your life instantly. For me, it wasn’t like that. On the contrary.
Looking back at how I was 3 years ago, and how I am right now, it’s true: the results are absolutely stunning. Fabulous. I swear I never even dreamed that I could be able to run (and finish on my feet) a 222 km race, or to run 45km on my 45th birthday. I’m amazed of what I accomplished and I publicly admit this.
But when I try to understand how this happened, there’s nothing as spectacular as that. It’s nothing big or flashy. Theres’ nothing magic. It’s just discipline. And focus. And small things repeated constantly, daily. It’s just the grind.
The power, the real power is not in some definitive, disruptive action that will turn your life upside down in a matter of days or weeks. It’s not like you’re starting to run tomorrow and increase the distance 5 kilometers each day and in two weeks you’re going to run a marathon. It’s not gonna happen.
But if you set yourself up to run every other day for 2 or 3 years, if you’re constantly assessing progress and move your bar every time a little higher, if you pick yourself up when you’re tired, bored or depressed, if you do these small, apparently insignificant things each and every day, then something magic will happen.
I met a few months ago a former employee from my first company (the one that I started 15 years ago). We shook hands, looked in each other eyes and he didn’t recognize me. It took 5 minutes for him to believe that I was actually his first employer, and that we worked together in the same room for 2 years. And it wasn’t because, 15 years later, I was fatter, but because I was 20 kilos lighter than before.
I was literally a different person.
It’s the small things. Each and every day.
Running For My Life - from zero to ultramarathoner
The spooky thing about depression is that it sneaks in. There aren’t really trumpets and loud voices announcing: “Hail, hail, this is depression entering the room, all rise!” Nope. It’s slow, silent, creepy. It doesn’t even look like depression. It starts with small isolation thoughts like: “Maybe I shouldn’t get out today, I just don’t feel like going out”. And then it does the same next day. And then the day after that and so on. And then it starts to whisper louder and louder in your ears: “Why would you go outside, you loser? Didn’t have enough yet? Want more people to make fun of how much of a big, fat loser you are?”
And then you start to breath in guilt and shame, instead of air. Every breathe you take is putting more dark thoughts into your body.
Until you get stuck. You can’t move anymore. At all.
If you want to know how I got out of this space, eventually, check out my latest book on Amazon and Kindle.