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Two Runners Share Tips for Powering Through and Building Resilience

How two runners have learned to adapt, grow, and thrive.

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Resilience has never been more important to our mental health (we’ve been through a lot in the last year). Here’s how you can tackle resilience training, from two athletes who know what it’s like to bounce back and grow through adversity.

Emma Bates | 28, Professional Marathoner

(2:25:27) From Boise, Idaho

Emma Bates running in The Marathon Project elite-only marathon road race

What does resilience mean to you?

It’s something that you work on your entire life. All of the things I’ve learned through running, I’ve applied to life. Maybe it hasn’t been so conscious when it comes to life events, but tackling adversity in my personal life, it’s been really cool to see how I’ve grown. Resilience is not just trying to survive, it’s trying to thrive. I try to figure out what my problems are trying to teach me and then figure out a solution.

How has your resilience developed as you’ve gotten older and more experienced?

When I don’t have a good race, at one time I might’ve thought of that as failure. Or blamed it on tactics. Or questioned if I didn’t execute the way I said I would. I don’t treat those as failures anymore. I treat it as something to learn from or something to help me better myself. Resilience only comes to light when I haven’t met expectations.

When I went to defend my NCAA title in the 10,000 meters, I just completely fell apart from the pressure. I didn’t realize that going through something like that was going to make me so much stronger. It took years to figure it out. I realized that I felt like other people were counting on me to win and I wasn’t really focusing on whether I wanted to win. Is this something that I really want to do? I wasn’t focused on the task at hand because I was overwhelmed with outside factors. Now I know to really focus on myself, why it is I’m racing, and what I want to accomplish.

How did you apply that to your experience at the Marathon Project in December? You alluded that the result wasn’t up to your expectations because you had been coping with some personal issues, but you were proud of what you accomplished.

You know, life is going to get in the way and it’s not just about racing and it’s not just about running. Your personal life and relationships are there and are going to throw you some curveballs. But I was really able to focus for a good amount of that race and the task at hand. I stayed within myself and didn’t worry about all the outside factors. In life and racing, sometimes it helps to just breathe and focus on one task at a time. One foot in front of the other.

Jacky Hunt-Broersma | 45, Amputee Ultramarathon Runner

Cancer Survivor From North Carolina

Jacky Hunt, amputee ultramarathoner, pictured running in Arizona, is an expert in resilience training

What does resilience mean to you?

As an amputee, I kind of want to prove what I can do. When I went into running and wanted to get into trail running, everyone was like, “No, amputees can’t do that. It’s dangerous. You might fall. You don’t belong on the trails.” At one point I got quite sad because I don’t want to have fear. When you’ve been told the whole time that you can’t do something, you become a little bit scared. But then there’s a side of me that’s stubborn and I decided to try it. And my goodness, everyone was wrong.

So has your resilience grown because you took that chance? You’re the first amputee to run the TransRockies six-day stage race in Colorado, the first amputee to run 100 miles on a treadmill. And now you’re training for a 240-mile trail race.

I think the more I’ve been doing, the more I realize I can do more. It strengthens the stubbornness. You definitely start thinking, “I’ve done this before so I can keep doing it.”

Which of your races are the best illustration of your resiliency?

The first one, a 40-miler I did. There were so many obstacles in the way. I hadn’t run in those kinds of conditions before and I didn’t have the tread on my blade yet. I kept pushing forward and I had to think of solutions as I was going. I could have just sat down and said, “I’m done.” And everybody would have just thought I tried my best. There was so much mud I literally had to get on my bottom and shuffle down some of the embankments because I had no grip.

But even training runs don’t always go as planned. Sometimes you have to refocus. I’ve face-planted on the ground, but you learn to pick yourself back up. I remember that I’m out there for a reason. Just move forward. Keep the momentum going. Just adapt.