The Chair is your friend and enemy.
“The Chair” is unique to ultramarathon running. You won’t see marathon runners taking a break in “The Chair” at aid stations. A marathon is a long way to run, but it’s short enough for most people to run without stopping to sit for a while. There’s no sitting in marathons. The same is true for half-marathons on down.
Ultramarathons require a different mindset. You start the race knowing that you’re going to have some time in The Chair. In fact, the longer the distance, the more important The Chair becomes. A 50K race isn’t much longer than a marathon. But, for middle or back-of-the-pack runners, those extra few miles can mean running another 90 minutes or so. They’ll need The Chair. And only the elite runners avoid The Chair for races of 50-plus miles.
You will need The Chair.
You need a few minutes to sit down and rest when you’re running ultramarathons. The Chair is your friend. Your body and mind get a reset when you sit for a few minutes. Usually your crew or an aid station volunteer will fill your water containers and bring you food. And the attention and care you get from the people around you can refresh both your body and your soul if you let it. You will need The Chair!
You will need to resist The Chair.
The Chair can also suck you in and make you forget that the clock is ticking. You’re in a race! You have a goal. You have cutoff times that will give you the dreaded DNF.
The Chair feels so good. You’re tired. Your body tells you that it’s dying for rest. Your mental game has to be strong enough to keep your body moving. And this mindset is hard to activate once you’ve been in The Chair for a few minutes.
You will need a plan.
If you’re like me, you’re thinking, “Why plan when I can improvise?”
Running feeds my free-spirit nature. Training gets me outside and moving. I can reset my mind and let the stress of life evaporate out of me.
But I learned fast that I can’t take that attitude into a race with me. Without a plan, I’ll struggle to even finish. And The Chair has to be part of my plan.
The mental game of planning your race.
Race planning is all about details. You have equipment, clothing, electrolytes, gels, food, socks, chafing-prevention, and a bunch more to think about. You may have crew and pacers to coordinate. Your mind is tempted to say, “I’m done,” after working so hard to get all these details in line.
But a friend taught me a valuable lesson: put down your race plan on paper. This kind of planning is not in my nature. Remember, I improvise. I go with the flow. But I’ve learned better.
The mental game starts here.
Take out a piece of paper and write down your estimate time between aid stations. Then estimate the amount of time you need at each aid station. The total is your goal or estimated finish time.
Your plan keeps the clock ticking in your head when you spend time in The Chair. Remember this — You need time in The Chair. But do it on purpose. When you sit down, your mindset has to be that you will get up in a few minutes.
This is important! Decide well before the race starts how The Chair will be part of your plan to succeed and finish well.
The Chair in your life.
The ultramarathon mindset you need to run and train for going far will also give you grit and resilience for your life goals or going after your big dream.
For me, it’s easy to say, “I need a break!” Tonight I’m going to make popcorn and binge-watch Netflix. I can work on my project tomorrow.
But “taking a break” can easily get to be a habit of being lazy. Just like in an ultramarathon, time in “The Chair” should be on purpose and with the mindset that I get up soon and keep moving forward.
Remember — The Chair is your friend and The Chair is your enemy.