August 7, 2023
Published by Melissa Padilla
“Running gives me mental clarity. It’s a way to blow off steam without thinking about it and purposefully trying to work through the gears of what’s going on in life. It just brings me a lot joy. I love to run and also love the community of running.
Running is a mental game that takes us all on unique journeys. For some, it’s competitive, even a career, and for others, it’s personal. It brings a sense of community, consistency, or accountability to oneself. For Jason, it’s the latter.
Growing up, Jason was a casual runner. He did half a season of cross country in high school, however, it wasn’t until he saw his dad train and run his first ultramarathon that he began to see running in a different light. He mentioned seeing anyone accomplish something that’s out of their comfort zone as inspiring in and of itself, but it’s a slightly different feeling when you watch someone close to you, someone you love, accomplish something like that. “ My dad hadn’t really trained too much, but seeing him really struggle and finish with high emotions at the end, it was definitely an inspiration to say, hey maybe the body can do more than what we think it can.”
Jason was so inspired that he decided to run that same ultramarathon the following year at the age of 16. Though he had some experience running some longer distances with cross country, he wasn’t prepared for the beast that is an ultra. 13 miles in… he had to call it. “ It definitely wasn’t as long as it was planned to be. I had no clue what I was doing out there I just knew I had to keep the legs moving. I got overwhelmed. I think I could have finished that race, but I just didn’t know what I was in for at the time. I didn’t know how to push through that mental aspect which is super important during those kinds of races.”
"Running gives me mental clarity. It’s a way to blow off steam without thinking about it and purposefully trying to work through the gears of what’s going on in life. It just brings me a lot joy. I love to run and also love the community of running."
This sport is not just physically demanding but mentally demanding as well.
A person can have all the motivation and physical energy in the world but without an equal amount of discipline mentally, they will always be limited. A study conducted by Ashley Samson at California State University, Northridge, narrowed down the thoughts of a long-distance runner into three categories- “pace and distance; pain and discomfort; and environment.” While some of us may be able to acknowledge these three categories of thoughts and push through, 16-year-old Jason was in a different headspace entirely. Mental training wasn’t something he had experienced but would naturally face throughout the next 16 years of his life as his love for running continued to grow.
Jason has since completed various races, including Black Forest in Pennsylvania. A race that took him 15 ½ hours, with the first half consisting of post-Hurricane Ian rain, didn’t allow any crews or spectators and had a midnight start. Yet, somehow his finish time was two hours faster than his previous ultra marathon the year before.
"I don’t know why my time was faster, I guess I was just lucky, and by the last five miles I was just done with it. I just started going as fast as I could, crying my eyes out, and said I don’t want to see anyone else anymore. Nobody’s passing me anymore."
With ultramarathon finish lines now in his pocket, and 450 days of consistent 5ks, Jason seems to have settled his mind when those thoughts of pace and distance, pain and discomfort, and environment start to creep in, Though training looks a little different for him, perhaps in comparison to others, or as he calls it, Mission: Move the Body, he treasures what running does for him and doesn’t stress himself out with putting a lot of pressure on his finish time. There’s no hard-set training schedule or demands he puts on himself, instead, he listens to his body and ensures he gets some movement in on a daily basis. In no way does this mean he takes it easy, but rather it seems he treats his goals less like expectations and more like curiosities.
Although there’s nothing wrong with setting hard goals for yourself, it’s refreshing to take a beat and run a race for the pure joy of it. Racing with curiosity rather than demands and asking questions like “Has the work I’ve put in paid off? Can you be faster? How far can you push yourself? Can you do more than you ever thought you could?”
Jason encompasses the idea that running isn’t always a linear journey, but what we discover about ourselves along the way makes it worthwhile.