It’s been a few days since I’ve been back now and yet I still can’t believe I ran 156 miles of the Sahara desert when 11 months ago I could only run 5 miles.
Seeing my wife and son again filled me with joy that I simply do not have the words to describe. One of the first things I did was put my Marathon des Sables medal around my son’s head. That was a moment that will never be forgotten.
I’d like to thank everyone for the messages of support. I really didn’t expect so many people to be following me, including people who I haven’t communicated with for years, but who I still have fond memories of. I referred to all the encouragement often to help me get through what was often a living hell for me.
Many of you have asked me what lessons I have learned from my experience. Here are the main four:
1) HOW DO YOU EAT AN ELEPHANT?. As my friend and fellow Marathon des Sables competitor Orgesi Pandeli said to me out there “How do you eat an elephant?….There’s only one way. One bite at a time”.
No matter how big or complex a problem or challenge, if you break it down into small enough, achievable steps then any massive obstacle can be simply viewed as a collection of easy, even “boring” steps. So be fearless in setting amazing goals.
2) BE A STUBBORN BASTARD.
So once you’ve set a goal, this is the time to be stubborn. Be closed minded. Be rude to yourself. Some people say “quitting is not an option”. Of course it is. Quitting is the easiest, most readily available option out there. Just be stubborn about not choosing it.
3) IT’S OK TO FEEL HOPELESSNESS.
It’s OK to cry. It’s OK to question yourself. This is normal. Do not waste energy trying to stop it. There’s times in life when I don’t have the confidence to look someone in the eye, but there’s other times when I feel I like I can stare down a lion. It’s normal to feel up and down. It’s called being human, and don’t ever think there’s a person out there who deep down doesn’t feel this way. Insecurity, lack of confidence, fear of failure, all of these attributes should be accepted and embraced. The real you, the strong core inside of you, will always emerge if you give it time. As my desert tent-mate Chris Valenti said about hopelessness: “It will pass. Just remember, it will pass”. And guess what…it always does.
4) “EVERYONE HAS A GAME PLAN UNTIL YOU GET PUNCHED IN THE FACE” — Mike Tyson
I said being stubborn is key to success, however, one exception to this is when obstacles come your way. Whenever you set lofty targets, rest assured you will face massive, unexpected hurdles along the way. For example, all year I was injury free until two months before the race and both my Achilles were ruined, not allowing me to run at all during the final 8 weeks of training. During the race, I was faced with blisters on the balls of my feet that gave me the most brutal pain for each step half way through the 156 miles. On day two, I got diarreah during the 26 mile day. It’s normal to feel down about this, but you must also just embrace all obstacles and make them your brothers. They are a part of your story.
Along with the above 4 points, I also was filled with gratitude out in the desert. I’d like to thank my tent mate Nelson Snyder, otherwise known as Cyborg. He was the consummate professional, who readily helped me out so much. I ran out of food on many days, and he unselfishly gave me some of his own food to help me get through. He also provided me with great advice and support during my tough moments. Also, I’d like to thank Brien Crothers and Terence McDonagh, both older runners who are also two amazing human beings and fellow tent mates that inspired me to never stop pushing my limits in life, no matter how old I get. Thanks guys.
At the moment, I’m about to head out to work and I must admit, I still feel disconnected and detached from my reality here. However, I know it will pass.
Written by Jit Vaitha, appeared on Medium on April 19, 2014