What I learn about ultra running from my non-ultra running friends

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It is less than a month to Penang 100.

For the past 12 weeks, I have subjected my body to a degree of what some may call, physical and mental torture. Day in, day out.

Fatigue is but a piece of vegetable stuck in my teeth. Heat became my friend. Haze was that annoying friend you have come to love. Rain set the stage for my dance.

And in turn, the body adapts. It understood the value of responding. It is not merely a reaction, but a series of calculated operational protocols happening in the blink of an eye.

My body was no longer human. It was becoming animalistic. An organic efficient machine trained to hunt. An alpha beast. A predator.

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I was astonished to how I can achieve these. Can a normal athlete achieve all this without much fatigue?

This lead to a lingering question:

Was I becoming an elite athlete?

My resting heart rate has dropped to 40bpm. I was recovering at a rate like an Asian Wolverine. In spite of all this, I have a day job.

But me? 
An elite? It was too good to be true, no? 
A fat kid in the past who dislocated his right foot over taekwondo training?

A part of me wished to deny it. That it was far too amazing for this to happen to an average chap like me.

A part of me, however, believed it. That I deserved to be an elite because I was training so hard. I was entitled to this.

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This inner battle of denial vs acceptance pushed me to train harder. I was trying to ignore it, but the more I ran, the more conflicted I felt.

This led on to a trail of self sabotage thoughts, laced with doubts and a bit of pride:

“I shouldn’t run in the haze. It’s dangerous.”
“Of course I can run a 60km. I’m an ultra mah.”
“Don’t I have anything else better to do than to run kah?”
“If only I put this amount of energy and focus into generating more cash.”
“Running is bad for the knees. I know so and so brother’s wife punya nephew punya cousin who now walks in pain because he runs 10km every day.”

Like how my body became animalistic, some part of my mind was too, I was like a deer caught in my own headlights.

I was beginning to lose focus on what I was running for. Or training for. My mental game was slowly spiraling out. I began obsessing over about how fast I finish. I wanted a personal best for my ultra.

I became competitive, and I no longer recognised the runner that I was becoming.

This was when my friends came into the picture. Their responses reminded me what really matters. Anne, Cikgu, Bin, Steph, Ming Ger, Joos and Just, I couldn’t thank you enough.

They made me remembered the camaraderie of the sport. The support of other runners and the non-competitiveness which got me hooked.

Speed is the least important thing I should worry about. It is stupid to apply the mentality of a full marathoner to an ultramarathon. 42km is already unpredictable, what more to say 100km. I would DNF faster than one could text those 3 letters behind the wheel.

Penang 100 is not the highlight. The journey is so much more significant than the finish line.

To be able to finish the training plan, and toe the starting line, that is the main event.

That starting line, is the beginning of an overnight party to commemorate the victory we had.

It is a celebration of how far I have come. How I was inspired, and inspire in turn. It is a celebration of the friends I have met, the not so successful relationships, the job I have despite the bad economy crisis, the brother, the son, the uncle to my 2 year old niece.

It is the triumph over adversaries, the hurdles I have fallen over. And though bloodied and injured, I get up, and journeyed on. All I possess now is ambition and a plan.

I have not seen the finishing line of Penang 100, and who knows, I may not see it.

But I don’t need that. Persistence through times of doubt, in times of when things are hazy, that is what makes triumph so rare, so precious.

Funny how I would even have those negative thoughts.

Those words only comes from those who do not believe in training. Those who are lazy. Those who are opting for an easy way out, all the time. Those who take shortcuts in life.

I am not that guy.

Finally, this race is a celebration of how God has created the perfect version of me. My path has been written.

Whether I am top 3, top 200, or even DNF for this ultra, it no longer matters.

Whether I was becoming an elite athlete, it was not important.

What is, come 26th September, that I am standing on that starting line of Penang 100, knowing that I have given my best, and that in itself, is already triumph.

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