Since becoming a trail and ultra runner, I have spent many hours training, which gives me time to reflect on who I am, why I do what I do and what my passions in life are. For those unfamiliar with endurance running, an ultra or ultra marathon is any race that is longer than the 26.2 miles required to complete a marathon. Below are some things I have learned about myself through running. In some ways, you could say ultra running changed my life.

1. I am not afraid to ask for help. {.p1}

In this day and age, asking for help can be seen as a sign of weakness. We are supposed to be able to tough it out, suck it up or move forward.

I HAVE FOUND THAT THERE IS NO SHAME IN ASKING FOR HELP WHEN YOU NEED IT.

When I first started thinking about running beyond 26.2 miles, I was a bit scared. Sure, I had friends who have done it and I am in good physical shape, but pushing myself that far? I wasn’t sure what I was doing. Even after reading countless articles and books about how to prepare for your first ultra marathon, I felt like I was wandering with no direction. That was when I realized something – I know people who have done this before! Why don’t I just ask them for advice? Once I realized that all I had to do was ask, the answers started rolling in and I felt more comfortable with my new distance running goals. Ask for help. There is no shame in that.

amanda22. Commitment is more about your actions rather than your words. **** {.p1}

When I registered to run my first 50k, I put it out in the universe by sharing with everyone I knew. I emailed, texted, called and shared the news all over my social media. I thought that once I put it out there, it would be that much easier to stick to my goal. While the support I received was incredible, I came to realize that commitment is more about what you are actively doing, not what you are saying. I began to channel my words into an action plan. Words are great, but actions will actually lead you to accomplish your goals.

3. My support system is the key to my success. {.p1}

I would not be where I am today without my support system of friends and family.

ALL OF MY SUCCESSES AND LESSONS LEARNED IN LIFE ARE DUE TO THE SUPPORT I HAVE.

When I decided to run my first 50 miler out-of-state on a 1-mile trail loop, my family saved me. They brought the tent for me to sleep in, made me countless bowls of ramen in the middle of the night and paced me for excruciatingly slow loops from miles 41 to 50. They were always cheering me on when I passed by each mile, ignoring my sweaty embraces and demands for more fluids. They changed my damp, smelly socks when I couldn’t do it myself, they let me swear when I was frustrated and they cried tears of joy when I finally crossed that finish line after 50 miles. I am nothing without them. Make sure you tell your support system how much they mean to you because their selfless actions are what help you succeed. Support can also come in many forms. I have met so many wonderful friends through the powers of social media. Thanks to hashtags, I have found a running tribe who supports my goals, encourages me to dream big and pushes the boundaries I have created for myself. Runners are a weird bunch and I am glad I have found my weird through friends all over the world.

amanda14. When the going gets rough, I can dig deep. {.p1}

Mental toughness is just as important as physical preparedness when running long distances. Our minds are tricky – they can be your best ally or your worst enemy.

I HAVE LEARNED THAT I CAN PUSH BEYOND WHAT IS COMFORTABLE BY IGNORING THE SMALL VOICE IN MY MIND THAT TELLS ME I CAN’T.

When training for my first marathon, I had a lot of summer runs in the humid south. I did everything I could to prepare for the heat by drinking a lot of water the days before a long run, bringing electrolytes on my run to replenish lost nutrients and slowing my pace so I wouldn’t overwork my heart. On one particular run, I was doing a 2.7 mile loop around a local park until I hit 16 miles. At mile 4 or 5, I started feeling awful. Negative thoughts filled my mind. I was hot. I was tired. I was cranky. Other people were passing me. I stepped on a butterfly. Everything was going wrong. I could have stopped at the end of the loop. I wanted to stop at the end of the loop. Instead, I tried to push myself to finish the miles. I tried to let go of how long I was out there, sweating and crying, and focused instead on counting down the number of loops left. In the end, I completed the 16 miles. They were ugly, but I did it. I pushed passed the barriers my mind set up and I persevered.