Friday thoughts #8: Positivity


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A super-positive smile at 87 miles in the 2016 West Highland Way Race, pic by Thomas Loehndorf
This is a subject close to my heart. I am sure of it. Get it? No? What!!! I give up.

Positivity is so important in anything you do. That’s being sure it is something you want to do, being sure it is something you can do and something you will do. Those are good checks to take into any running event. Do I want to do this? Can I do this? And will I do this? If you answer yes to all three of those little questions you have already given yourself a great chance of succeeding. Remember, your version of success is authored by you and you alone. One person’s 30 minute 10k is another’s 30 min 5k. But it is theirs.

Some folks mix positivity and self-belief up. That’s an easy mistake to make. There are nuances between them. Think comparing Wotsits with Cheetos. They may both be delicious cheese flavoured snacks but they are different in enough ways to merit unique packaging. Where I channel positivity more is being able to deal with adversity in the moment. It is a coping mechanism for testing times. It augments self-belief. If self-belief is gas, then positivity is the match which turns it into a flame.

For example, when I have had a particularly tough race or training run that didn’t quite go the way I’d have liked, I immediately draw on what went well. I celebrate these. The things that didn’t go well, I also embrace. I mean, without having the bravery to fail we never progress. Every time I make an error, or misjudgement, I increase my learning which in turn reduces the things I will get wrong next time. That in turn increases my self-belief. By approaching my experiences with a positive and curious manner, being willing to get it wrong, I grow all the time.

I use a phrase a lot when talking about ultrarunning; “earning the right.” We, as runners, earn the right to hurt badly, to have lows, to have dips. These are as inevitable as an outdoor jobby in training at some point. They come with the territory. Yet, if you can take them on board with a positive manner, and have true and real optimism about your ability to handle it, then simply put, you will! Here’s a few things I’d recommend you do in order to build and grow positivity:

  • Play the long game. Issues come and go. So long as your long term trajectory is on track then don’t sweat in moment issues. Letting them fester is counter-productive
  • Talk about being positive, using the language of affirmation that cements the fact you can
  • Don’t be scared to have swagger, not arrogance but a certain amount of gallusness that shows you know what you are trying to achieve is already happening
  • Have a clear vision about what you want to achieve and who you are

I believe that the ability to be positive in the most extreme of situations is one of the greatest strengths a runner can have. It is, quite simply, the difference between DNF and finish to many.

To finish, I am gonna to leave you with my favourite example of a positive quote from one of my favourite ultrarunners, the bold Karl Meltzer, “100 miles is not that far…” 

Wow, I can’t believe I have made it to 8 of these. Last week’s is here. If you find this useful then go on and share it, tell your mum about it or even get a tattoo with the text. On second thoughts… anyway, until next week.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Robert O Donnell says:

    Great wee read again James. In a years time you could publish a wee book on mindfulness/ self help with mini chapters of all these themes/thoughts. (Seriously). By the way – Long time since I’ve had an Alfresco jobby.

    1. That’s a shout Robert, the book that is, not the jobby. I’d never do that. Ever.

  2. Amanda H says:

    Love it! This is my favourite so far. Self belief is a gas and positivity is the flame…and inevitable outdoor jobby chat! Does it get any better than this?!? X

    1. Ha ha, brilliant. Thanks so much!

  3. jordan_love_live_run says:

    Nice James, I enjoyed that! 🙂

  4. ‘As inevitable as an outdoor jobby’ 😂
    Great read James!

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