Motivation to Do the Hard Thing!

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In this episode we motivate you to do the hard thing in endurance and life! We speak with Rob Jones, a double amputee who just ran 31 marathons in 31 days. Plus, Trevor recaps his Spartan Beast race in South Carolina and Angie gives a survey of the toughest races in the world -which will change your definition of hard.

Motivation to Do the Hard Thing

Rob Jones was wounded by a land mine as a combat engineer with the Marine Corps in Afghanistan in 2010. His injuries required double above the knee amputations and extensive rehabilitation. He was fitted with prosthetics at the Walter Reed Medical Center where he relearned how to stand, walk, run, ride a bicycle and row.

photo credit: Rob Jones Journey

Rob trained for the 2012 Paralympics where he got a bronze medal in rowing. In 2013 he did a solo self supported transcontinental bike ride where he rode 5200 miles across the US in 181 days. His most recent challenge was running 31 marathons in 31 cities in 31 days to raise awareness and funds for wounded veteran charities (we talked to him on day 28).

Rob successfully finished his 31st marathon on Veterans Day 2017 -running 812 miles total and raising over $150k for charities.

You can find out more by visiting:

Rethinking What We Call Hard

Life can be full of pain. If you doubt that statement then a few minutes of listening to the news should be sufficient to change your mind. Although life is also good it can be hard and there is value in doing the hard thing. One benefit of challenging yourself is that through chosen discomfort you can build better resilience to face the pain that we don’t choose and can’t control. Building mental, physical and emotional resilience can make you a stronger and more compassionate person.

One great thing about training for marathons is that it can help us redefine what is truly hard in life. In the grand scheme of things most of the irritations we experience on a day to day basis are first world problems.

The dictionary defines this as “a relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration (implying a contrast with serious problems such as those that may be experienced in the developing world).” Many first world problems include not finding a close parking spot, having to take the stairs, not having WiFi 24/7, not having a Starbucks nearby, having little leg room on a flight, dealing with a grumpy waiter or service professional, etc. These things are not truly hard.

Marathon training gives us a broader framework to experience the world. And if you’re at the point in your fitness where you don’t find the marathon hard anymore there are always lots of other hard endurance races to choose from.

Here are some of the hardest endurance races in the world:

  • Marathon de Sables– Sahara Desert, Moroco: 150-156 mile stage race split over 6 days through the blistering desert.
  • Hardrock 100– Silverton, CO: 48 hour time limit through the San Juan Mountains, 33,000 feet of ascent with the highest point at 14,000 feet and 33,000 of descent through tough terrain.
  • The Everest Marathon– Mt Everest Base Camp: participants are required to spend 3 weeks in Nepal prior to get acclimated to the elevation which starts at 18,000 feet and finishes down the mountain at 11,300 feet in very cold conditions.
  • The Barkley Marathons– TN: very hard to get entry, 100+ mile course: 120,000 feet of climbing, having to navigate and finish in less than 60 hours. Only 15 people have finished in the race’s 30 year history.
  • Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc– France: 106 mile course loops through France, Italy and Switzerland through tough and gorgeous mountains.
  • The Patagonian Expedition Race– Chile: this team event has a different course of 375-500 miles every year and requires navigation and survival skills as well as rock climbing and sea kayaking within a 10 day period. The race course is not announced until 24 hours before.
  • Self-Transcendence 3,100 Mile– NY City: longest certified road race where runners start at 6am and run through midnight for 52 days in a row.
  • Badwater 135– Death Valley, CA: starts at the lowest part of Death Valley in July and finishes at the end of the road on Mt Whitney. Over 14,600 ascent, 6,000 feet of descent and extremely hot conditions.
  • Pike’s Peak Ascent and Marathon– Manitou Springs, CO: Starts at 6,300 feet and winds along a narrow trail to 14,115 feet on top of Pike’s Peak and then turns around to make the descent.
  • The Munga– Belfast, South Africa: Along the Munga Trail where you have 120 hours to navigate around 400k (250 miles).
  • Iditarod Trail Invitational– Alaska: You can run, fat bike or ski the 1,000 mile course. Only about 58 individuals have finished since the event was started in 2000.
  • The Jungle Marathon– Amazon Jungle, Brazil: It’s called the world’s “wildest eco race” that transverses jungles and swamps through 100 degree heat and humidity. They offer a marathon, a 4 stage 80 mile ultra and a 6 stage 158 mile ultra.
  • Spartathalon– Athens, Greece: 150 miles+ along the route that Pheidippides ran from Athens to Sparta. Dean Karnazes talked a lot about this in his book “Road to Sparta.”
  • Other honorable mentions include Western States 100 in CA, Eastern States 100 in PA, Leadville Trail 100 in CO, HURT100 in Hawaii, Bob Graham Round in UK (hits 42 peaks in the Lake District), The Dragon’s Back Race in Wales (5 day, 188 miles, total climbs double the height of Everest 56,000 feet), Grand to Grand Ultra (Grand Canyon in AZ to summit of Grand Staircase in UT- self-supported 170 miles in 7 days), 6693 Ultra (choose 120 or 350 miles across the Arctic Circle, described as coldest, toughest and windiest), Ultra Trail Mt Fuji in Japan (105 miles in 46 hours), Plain 100 in WA (100-112 miles in 36 hours, totally self supported).

Also Mentioned in This Epsisode . . .

The Spartan Beast in South Carolina

Spartan Race

Does this look fun?

Trevor completed his Spartan Trifecta -running 3 distances in 1 calendar year. Read his race recap here.

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Shout Out!

Hi Angie and Trevor, I am a relatively new listener and live in San Francisco. 5 years ago I was hit by a truck as I was crossing the street. My journey to return to health has been long but in some ways that accident was one of the best things that ever happened to me. It helped me to understand in a profound way how important our health is in order to live an enjoyable life. Somewhere along that journey I got it into my head that I want to try a half-marathon. I searched for a podcast on running tips and motivation, found yours, and it became my favorite right away. I wanted to suggest the book *Running With the Mind of Meditation* as a recommended read. The idea to recommend it came to mind during a couple of your shows, particularly in the Munich marathon recap where Trevor mentioned the emotional feelings he experienced during that race. Thank you both again for all of the good work you are both doing. Warmly, -Michelle

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