Lifestyle and mindset changes since I started training for an ultramarathon

At a low-point in my life, an awfully difficult day of desperation and distraught, I turned to my computer and searched for meaning in the form of upcoming (sold-out) ultramarathon races in Ontario. ‘I’ll get out there next year instead’, I said to myself.

I had slowly been getting back into running after a long-term injury in 2018, and a desire to get out on the weekends and explore new trails nearby. But on this particular day, I decided that it was finally time to do what I had always wanted to do at the height of my cross-country running career – run an ultra. Since then, I’ve witnessed some significant, and some small but mighty changes within myself and my life.

Since taking on this path, I feel happier with who I am and where I’m going in life, and consistently have more energy to go about the day in the ways that I want. With that, here are the top four ways that training for an ultramarathon has changed who I’ve become, within the last eight weeks.


This time last year, I was dead-set on cycling day in and day out indoors, avoiding the cold Canadian winter set to come, and the darkness of the morning that ruins the motivation to run. I even wrote about how to stay active in the winter, as though running was no longer an option. I enjoyed this at the time, and it allowed me to focus on one of my other true passions – the analysis of professional soccer. I could watch a match and take notes as I cycled, allowing me to watch upwards of 10-20 matches a week. Fun. But a bit absurd.

Since returning to running, I’m finding that I’m achieving a better balance in my life. I’m writing about the same amount that I was this time last year, but I’ve also been reading more, and focusing more on paying attention to who I am as a person, and how I need to achieve success (and better health) in my life. I must have read fewer than five books in 2021. Now I make reading a daily habit, as I lay my feet against the wall and reverse all the damage the work day has done to my varicocele. Not only is this great for recentering, but it’s great for my recovery process – particularly in getting circulation into the feet and ankles.

My priorities have changed and some sacrifices have been made in this quest. But overall, I think the sacrifices that have been made have allowed me to achieve a better balance in my life, and come to a greater understanding of who I am and how I can achieve the life I want to make happen.


In university, my friends would often brag about me to their other less cool friends, by telling them how much I ran. Weirdly, they also often spoke about how much I ate, as if constantly being hungry was cool. Those close to me would often remark about how I was ‘always eating’. This is not unfamiliar for any long-distance runner. In fact, most within this space will preach three meals a day, and snacks in between. For a couple of years post-injury, I wouldn’t eat more than two big meals a day (usually breakfast and lunch). The whole ‘snacks in between’ thing, sounded absurd. After all, when would you be able to do anything if you constantly had food in your stomach?

I still fall under this belief, but I’m finding it harder to practice what I preach. I fall somewhere on the line of thinking always being hungry and always eating are problematic concerns. But the fact of the matter is, I’m getting hungry faster (burning through my calories faster), and needing more fuel to aid my runs the next day. I’m only noticeably feeling the effects of this now in Week 8, where being full after eating rarely lasts for long until I’m craving more food again.

I will likely cope with this by upping my grocery bill, and identifying the foods that do not disrupt my sleep. The last meal before bed is particularly key for me since I do all my morning runs before work without any food in my stomach. This means that if my nutrition intake changes to incorporating both a dinner and late-night snack, I’ll need to ensure the foods I’m eating before bed are more protein-focused rather than carb or potassium heavy, and don’t give me energy until the next day.


Throughout my life, I’ve always had an affinity for aloneness. I would describe my adult self as an extravert, but I also love the time I can spend on my own – writing or running away. Throughout COVID, I became lonelier than ever, and often became too attached to those that made my life enjoyable – as though they were the only things in my life that made my life enjoyable. I lost touch with running, and all the useful self-reflection that comes up along the way.

Now that I’m back into running, I’ve refound my love for being alone. I no longer feel like I need anyone else in my life to make me entirely happy or complete. I’ve simultaneously become slightly less social, and so maintaining that balance will continue to be key. But for now, I’m really enjoying my weekends to myself, where I can run back-to-back 30k’s, write, and reflect on all things life. Being alone really isn’t so bad.


One of the most profound positive effects of my return to running – my overall mood and wellbeing has notably improved. I’ve always strived to be a positive person, but I’m finding that I’m coming into my own again with my understanding, acceptance of self, and my enjoyment of life. It comes down to many of the aspects I’ve discussed so far – the recentering of priorities and the taking of time to be within myself in the moment. But it also just comes down to pure excitement to run, and do something that I enjoy every single day. I genuinely enjoy those back-to-back runs, and I vehemently look forward to it throughout the week (especially the Saturday run when the legs are still feeling fresh and happy themselves).

I feel more like myself, have the amount of energy that has traditionally made me who I am, and feel like I’m getting back to my peak in physical health and endurance. This has all culminated in positive feelings and vibes, which I’m hopefully able to transfer onto others.

All and all, since I started training for an ultra, I’ve witnessed some marked changes within myself. Being in touch with this and recognizing these facts are crucial to staying in-tune with your body and supporting your training process. So with that, how have you changed since you started training for your ultra? Share your thoughts below, and don’t be shy about checking out more of our content!

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Strava Profile | Rhys Desmond


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