I’m not much for motivational books — I was going to make a wiseass comment about lacking the motivation — and so I was surprised at how affecting I found Dean Karnazes’s excellent Ultramarathon Man.
The book can be read straight through as a fascinating personal story about the miseries and triumphs of one particularly dedicated ultra-endurance runner. It is even more rewarding, however, as a reminder of the power of motivation, willpower, and desire.
To precis one apropos Karnazes comment, he says that the first half of any long race is run with the body, while the second half is run with the mind. It is such a simple but powerful point, and it is one that bears repeating. His detailed “I was there” description of runs like the Western States 100 Mile are horrific but strangely noble, as he takes you through how he collapsed from exhaustion at one point, but eventually through sheer willpower embraced the pain, running in it and through it.
In reading Ultramarathon Man I was reminded of a comment from a top climber in the Tour de France a few years ago. After a particularly brutal mountain stage, one involving 13,000 feet of climbing over 150 miles of baking French road, he was asked how climbers like him could do it while those behind on the road suffered so much. He said, “Climbers don’t suffer less, we just suffer faster.”
Put differently, it is a mistake to believe that successful people (from endurance athletes to entrepreneurs) don’t find hard things hard, because they do. The difference is their ability to maintain consistently high levels of effort, despite a big part of them that wants to call the whole mad thing off.