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Category: stoicism

Fear and Action – Mental Toughness In Ultrarunning

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. One who lives life fully is prepared to die at any time.” – Mark Twain

I was thinking about this quote and had a different spin on it.  Fear and action cannot occupy the same space inside your mind.  The idea is we only have two states our mind and body can occupy at any given moment.  That state is either fear or action.  Before you act, you are in the grip of fear, which normally doesn’t let you act.  The trick is to act before the fear takes hold of you.  Fear makes you believe that 100 things will go wrong before the first step. 

AI image of Fear and Action – Via Bing Image Creator

The power comes after we take that first step.  Every action after the first step melts fear away.  It forces your mind to THINK, “Well, what is my next step going to be?”  You have left the state of fear, and are now in the state of action.  That first step is critical.  Procrastination falls under the classification of fear.  It grips you in thinking no matter what choice you make, it’s wrong.  That’s where we get caught, debating if it’s the RIGHT action.  Action eliminates fear instantly.  You can’t be afraid AND move forward. The fears might be there, but they have a hard time growing roots.  The mind gets focused on making decisions for what needs to be done to keep flight AND move forward!

This brings up the idea of iterative design.  The idea is that we keep improving on every attempt.  “First is the worst” is what I always say.  Iterative design is a design methodology based on prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining a product or process.  Version 2.0 of YOU gets released only after version 1.0.  It’s not complete until nothing is left to add or take away depending on how you look at it.  The issue is we have to create that first version.  That first version takes the most effort.  Each improvement on that previous version is substantially easier.

AI image of Fear and Action – Via Bing Image Creator

That’s the beauty of running.  There’s always next year, next run, and hopefully tomorrow.  I design a lot of my life with the ability to create a better version of myself. I have put many of my “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” on my TO DO list to achieve each year and get completed with daily effort. The future comes one day at a time and no task can survive daily attacks.  If you put in the work then the greatest of achievements will become yours, and thus the greatest version of yourself.  

AI image of Fear and Action – Via Bing Image Creator

My new version of Mark Twain’s quote is this:

“The fear of failure follows from the fear of action. One who acts in life is prepared to fail at any time AND become the best version of themself.”

I force myself to act, to become that version of myself I imagine.  Am I afraid as I move forward?  Sometimes, but if you move fast enough fear never sticks.

Finally, I leave you with one more quote to think about.

“My Dear,
Find what you love and let it kill you. Let it drain you of your all. Let it cling onto your back and weigh you down into eventual nothingness. Let it kill you and let it devour your remains. For all things will kill you, both slowly and fastly, but it’s much better to be killed by a lover.”

― Falsely yours, Henry Charles Bukowski

A Dog’s Purpose

I was admittedly young and naive at 29 when I first welcomed him. Little did I know then, I was effectively entering an unconditional pact guaranteed to break my heart eventually. Loving an animal inherently imparts a few crucial lessons when they pass away.

Lesson 1: Brighten the days of those around you without expecting anything in return.

I was here first!

A dog’s presence is almost always enjoyed. Are people equally pleased with your company? Or are they deterred by it? Interestingly, most times, people are genuinely happy to see a dog. It’s scientifically proven that canines improve mood and well-being, particularly among seniors. When a dog enters your life, it significantly widens your emotional horizon, teaching even the most self-centered individuals to care for someone beyond themselves. The reliance of these furry friends on their human companions is evident through shared adventures, frequent dog park visits, and their significant presence in our daily routine.

Lesson 2:  A dog’s love doesn’t fade.  Their love is a sure thing.  How many people would you say that about?  Near the end, you have to unlove them or change the love to compassion to end suffering.  As you watch the life leave their body you question what was the point of all the time spent, but that’s why I am writing this.  To remember the cliche saying of its better to have loved and lost than not have loved at all.  It’s their final lesson and no second spent with them was time wasted. 

Lesson 3: Nobody is immune to times arrows.  You watch as that puppy ages into an elderly dog, while you feel like you have remained the same but they have not.  The feisty puppy becomes a mature senior, and the things that used to be easy are challenging.  You’re reminded of your own mortality and fragility.   Any act to save him would have been for my own selfish reasons.  It would have just pushed the goodbye back a year down the line while the quality of life degraded.  Dogs are so friendly and compassionate that putting them to sleep feels like a betrayal of trust.  If you are ending their suffering, it is easier to make this decision.  

Give me a kiss!

Lesson 4: Goodbyes are hard, but don’t focus on the “tail end”.

As hard as goodbye are and I sat alone with his lifeless body I knew that if I did anything drastic to extend his life it would be for my sake not his. We had plenty of good times and it’s remembering the journey, not the final tail end you have to focus on. 

Goodbyes are tough.
Goodbyes are never fun…

Final Thoughts:

Where does a dog’s spirit go?  A runner’s spirit goes to his final race.  I think a dog’s spirit goes to a massive dog park with all the friendly dogs it once played with, basking in the sun, and running around until they are tired. They are waiting for their owners to pick them up once their time has expired… Maybe…

They say it can be harder to deal with the death of a dog vs a family member depending on their role in your life. That makes sense as a dog is in your daily routine, from when you wake up, to before you go to bed. Hell, most dogs even sleep in the same bed. I think I agree with that statement.   

Oliver Durante

5/18/10 to 8/6/23

He was the first video I posted to youtube.

Dairy Air 5K by Scoogies Events

When Girls on the Run went to a waiting list and my daughter couldn’t participate I knew I had one choice.  Coach them myself!  I thought it was strange they had such a small cap at her school for who could join, but that’s fine.  My son also joined us in the training as he had recently completed the “Healthy Kids Running Series” quarter mile event.

We started off with a run/walk combo of 30 seconds of running and 30 seconds of walking for 1 mile.  Slowly we lowered the walking and increased the running.  We practiced once a week, and we also play a game that involve a lot of running/cross-training.

My youngest was the first event of the morning, which was a half-mile distance.  She easily ran the entire thing without having to stop.  She would normally scooter with us for the 2-3 miles we did in training.  The motion of scootering is actually very similar to proper running form as mentioned in the book “Born to Run 2”.

Next was the 5K race for my son and daughter.  They knew to pace themselves early and go out conservatively.  It wasn’t until right before the first-mile marker that things started to change.  My son decided the pace was too slow for him and kicked it up a notch.  Initially, my daughter was OK, but it started to wear on her mind as he slowly pulled away.  She didn’t like the fact that he was going to “win”.  I kept trying to remind her to run HER race, stay in THIS mile, focus on something close like the next tree or post, etc, but it was no use.  The entire time in training she had no issue if she or Isaac was faster, but it seemed to be the mix of losing to Isaac AND race day jitters that caused problems.  It was interesting to see how she was handling it.  She had not mentally prepared for the fact this could happen, or the pressure of the race was getting to her.  Around the 2-mile mark, we used a run/walk combo to finish the race, and in the last few yards, she sprinted it in.   

“Children who have not been taught to confront challenges will try to avoid all challenges.”

Ichiro Kishimi

I tried pulling out all the motivational quotes I couldn’t think of, but it made no difference.  The stories we tell ourselves have the most effect, but thoughts are just that, thoughts.  You don’t have to believe them.  They can be intrusive, self-destructive, and I try teaching them that, but it’s one of the most difficult concepts for a child to grasp.  

Thoughts are only thoughts. They are not you. You do belong to yourself, even when your thoughts don’t.

John Green

Before every time she started walking she said the words, “I CAN’T do it”.  As we got closer to the finish line she regained the ability to run, but it was a struggle.  It was both amazing/sad to witness as a parent.  It made me realize you can’t save them from suffering/pain, they need to experience it for themselves.  You can tell them they need to practice more or put in the time, but until they experience the effects of being ill-prepared they won’t listen.  I could have given her all the support in the world, but it just fell on deaf ears.  

They both did an incredible job, but Hannah felt disappointed in her performance.  It was their first 5K, but not their first race.  She was nervous and that is completely understandable, it can be nerve-racking even for adults!  To most adults, 3 miles doesn’t seem far, but for a child, it’s the equivalent of a marathon. Doing hard things that we CHOOSE makes it easier when hard things happen we don’t choose. This was such a good learning opportunity for the kids and FUN, the training leading up was filled with playgrounds and bike rides to promote a more active healthy lifestyle.

Later that night, she told me how much she enjoyed the race and she wanted to do it again.  My son wants to run a 10K.  We will definitely be doing the 5K again next year.

Post-race I asked if they had awards for children under 10.  The race timer said, “O, are you one of those crazy parents that make their child run a 5K?”.  I took offense to that because I didn’t MAKE them do it, I asked and they said YES.  They wanted to train and they WANTED to race.  Did I add some incentives YES!  I actually paid them each 50 “Durante” dollars if they could complete the race. You might ask why would you do that.  Well, I am also trying to teach them the value of a dollar and that is also working very well.  

As adults, it’s easy to see the benefits of running, or maybe not.  A child needs more immediate rewards/consequences for their actions.  We had started adding chores around the house for an allowance.  They are learning the value of a dollar, and slowly I hope they learn the value of running/physical fitness.  If I had to pay 50 bucks to inspire a lifetime passion it’s worth every Penny 😁.

Please note that Durante Dollars are NOT legal tender, except in the Durante household.  Durante dollars can be redeemed for real cash when they actually want to buy something.  

I like to film my runs and make a video to remember the experience. Here was the race through my eyes.