Discipline And Accountability: The Ultrarunner’s Conundrum

AJW writes about balancing discipline and accountability through one’s life with ultrarunning.

By on December 18, 2015 | Comments

AJWs TaproomAs I begin my preparations for the Hardrock 100 next July, I am spending quite a bit of time taking stock of my approach and my goals. As I have done for years, I often use this time of year to look back and forward with both a sense of nostalgia and hope. This year, in particular, I find myself focusing in on discipline and accountability–that which I call the ultrarunner’s conundrum.

Ultrarunners the world over know the importance of discipline. In order to succeed in this endeavor, it is essential to take a disciplined approach in just about everything we do. Our training, diet, sleep, and mindset all require tremendous rigor and focus that may not be necessary in the rest of our daily lives. At times that discipline can be exhausting, at other times invigorating. Often, the delicate balance between the two is what keeps us sane.

Of course, we are human after all and at times motivation wanes, perhaps we fall off the wagon or even descend into a bit of despair over our lack of discipline. It is in those moments, those times of doubt or fear, that we ultrarunners who are so often internally focused need help and support from external forces. In essence, in those times of challenge, we benefit most desperately from external accountability.

For some of us we can get that from a friend or spouse. Perhaps a coach, personal trainer, or running-store clerk can give us the nudge we really need. In the end it really doesn’t matter who but what. So many people unfamiliar with our sport often see us as rugged, stoic individuals. Toughened up by years on the trail, confident on ourselves and our abilities, and literally brimming with hope and life. And indeed, it’s often true, many of us are such people.

But years of focused discipline and rigor can also wear us down and make us long for something or someone else to keep us in line. Someone or something else to give us support. Someone or something else to, quite literally, keep us whole. For those of us who juggle the ultrarunner’s conundrum, it is important that we always know the difference between wanting and needing. The best of us are willing to accept both.

Bottoms up!

AJW’s Beer of the Week

Stone Brewing Company Enjoy By 12.25.15This week’s Beer of the Week is another winner from Stone Brewing Company in San Diego, California. Long a Taproom favorite, the Enjoy By series rarely disappoints. This season’s Enjoy By 12.25.15 is particularly good. Strong enough to leave a mark and yet mellow enough to savor after a nice long workout, this year’s Christmas Enjoy By is well worth the price!

Call for Comments (from Meghan)

  • Does your discipline and internal accountability sometimes wane, requiring someone or something external to keep you going? If so, when was the last time this happened and do you remember why?
  • When you feel unable to discipline yourself into a particular run or routine, do you find the causes to be warranted–as in a break is needed for mental and/or physical restoration–or do you find it based in something less rational?
Andy Jones-Wilkins

Andy Jones-Wilkins is an educator by day and has been the author of AJW’s Taproom at iRunFar for over 11 years. A veteran of over 190 ultramarathons, including 38 100-mile races, Andy has run some of the most well-known ultras in the United States. Of particular note are his 10 finishes at the Western States 100, which included 7 times finishing in the top 10. Andy lives with his wife, Shelly, and Josey, the dog, and is the proud parent of three sons, Carson, Logan, and Tully.