Why Going Too Far Is Really Just The Beginning (Interview with 100 Mile Marathoner Karl Meltzer)

October 23, 2012

When You Push Yourself Too Far…

There was a time in my life when I pushed myself too far. It was several years ago when I was in Nursing school at Western Michigan University. I had a very caring and compassionate side and believed that Nursing was the right profession for me. At about the same time that I entered into the program, my friend and I got an idea to start a business. I knew it would be tough to try to do this and Nursing at the same time… but I thought… why not try anyway?

When I was a year away from graduating, one of my professors pulled me aside and said, “Todd, you can’t do both. You are just barely passing your classes and your heart is no longer in it.” You see, I had been stepping out of class to take conference calls, flying to different locations to raise capital and getting B-‘s on my exams (you need a C to pass so I really was just skimming by).

After much prayer and contemplation. I decided to take the plunge and leave the security of Nursing (at that time, Nurses were in very high demand) and start my company. I lived off of credit cards, the little capital we had raised and a part-time low paying job. My studio apartment was my office.

After 3 years of struggling… my credit cards were leveraged to the hilt, I was exhausted and we were no closer to getting the business off the ground than when we started.

I had gone too far.


What Did I Learn From Going Too Far

I don’t regret my choice of leaving Nursing school. I know it was not the right profession for me. I am passionate about preventative health and getting people moving.

During that time of building my business and even now, I continue to learn some very importance lessons about going too far:

Resilience: As humans, we are more durable than we think we are. Often our mind tells us that (a) this phone call is going to be too difficult because they may reject me or (b) I can’t go out and run because my legs are sore, it’s too rainy, it’s too cold,  it’s ______. Guess what? Do it and then decide if it was too hard. 9 times out of 10 you’ll be surprised and think, wow the hardest part was breaking down the mental barrier to just start.

Loss of Fear: Last week, I found myself petrified about finances. For about a few hours I couldn’t even get out of bed. It was like I was glued in there and thinking the whole world was crashing down.

My wife and I had a hypo-birthing class that night so I had to put myself together. At the end of the class the teacher led us into hypnosis. During hypnosis, she had us do a visualization where we released all fear associated with birthing (It was more for the woman so I used the visualization to help me release past fears of failure.).

She told us to visualize us sitting in a chair with a book in our lap. The book contained our life. She then suggested that we open the book and find pages where we had failed. I found pages that contained my old business failures, past rejections from girls in grade school, and a ton of other things. Then, she told us to imagine the pages getting lighter and lighter until they disappeared right off the page.

I can’t even begin to tell you what happened in my mind… but this is a blog so I guess I’ll try. πŸ˜‰ All of my fear of failure vanished. I felt like superman. I realized that nothing I did in the past was necessarily a failure because I had learned from it and it was just part of my life experience.

And believe it or not… the fear of failure hasn’t returned. I know and trust that things will work out. It’s not necessarily a confidence in myself  but a belief that I can’t fail as long as I am living in the Lord’s will and trying my best. The rest is up to Him.

Be willing to go too far my friend. Don’t play it safe in this life. In the words of Mike Mahler, “Live Life Aggressively!

“In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.”
-Fred Lebow, New York City Marathon co-founder


Who Is Karl Meltzer?

Karl is a specialist in going “too far.” He is one of the most prominent and accomplished ultra marathon runners in the sport. He holds the record for the most 100 mile trail wins (34), he is an Ultrarunner of the Year and All-time winner for the Hardrock 100 (5 wins), Wasatch 100 (6 wins), Massannutten 100 (3 wins), San Diego 100 (3 wins) and the Squaw Peak 50 (5 wins). He also performed what is called the “Red Bull Human Express 2010” in which he ran the distance of the Appalachian Trail. This was 2,176 miles and he did it in 54 days 21 hours (for you mathematicians out there that’s about 40 miles a day… straight).

You can learn more about him at KarlMeltzer.com.

I decided to reach out to Karl so he could share how he trains his body and his mind in order to go such long distances.

*Living a life of greatness is achieved by going “too far” by ordinary standards. I truly believe this. Reflect for a moment on areas of your own life where you are “going too far.” Then remember…

β€œMan cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Andre Gide

Interview with Karl Meltzer…

SOA: How did you get into running?

KM: When i was a kid, about 10 years old, my dad started running with his neighbor. It seemed fitting to follow him around, before you knew it, i was running faster than he was, and started to win little 5k’s and 10k’s. I became addicted from there, and then started running with high school teams in 8th grade. Soon, i became a state champion cross country runner.

SOA: Why did you make the transition to ultra running?

KM: In 1996, i ran my first ultra, the wasatch 100.  From that point on, i was very addicted to getting  better. I got pretty good, pretty  quick,, and decided to focus on it for a while, it turned out to be the right decision, it has made my life wonderful and very fulfilled.  I don’t live to work, i work to live, and now make a living being a runner and coach.

SOA: What would you consider your greatest accomplishment and why?

KM: Running wise, the greatest accomplishment is winning 34 100 mile races, none will touch that for at least a while, and who knows, i may go down with that world record, it would be cool to be 80 and still have it.  In the “non running” world, my greatest accomplishment is living the life i’ve wanted to live. I never really do what other expect me to do, i do what i want, and theres alot to be said for that. I’ll never be rich, but in my eyes, being rich is being able to do what you want.  At least within reason.

SOA: What does your training program look like?

KM: I don’t have a specific training “plan”, i typically run on “feel”.  I run what i feel is enough every day.  It’s usually about  8-15 miles per day in the mountains with about 2-5k of vertical climbing.  Also about 60-70 per week max. If i do much more, i get tired and it’s not very effective.

SOA: How do you prep for a race?

KM: I am pretty simple, i figure out how much gel i need and maybe some clothing, put them in drop bags and go. Having done it so many times, it’s very easy. I don’t do any specific training beforehand, other than run easy the entire week before the race and take and extra day off.  I don’t really look at maps, or study sections of the courses because in general, we all forget anyway.  The experience of running a course “blind” can be fun and frustrating at the same time, but that’s part of the fun.

SOA: What do you do when you get injured?

KM: Deal with it, but if i don’t know exactly what it is, i go see my doc. He gets me in within a day every time, this way i know what the injury is and how to treat it. I could guess by surfing the internet, but only a real ortho doc can really know. My doc is the best in town and always nails what is wrong with me, if i can’t figure it out on my own. The way i train, i don’t see injuries that often because i listen to my body well and never go overboard in training.

SOA: What does your nutrition look like normally and during a race?

KM: I eat what i want, but that does not include junk food.   I rarely go out to dinner and eat healthy whole foods, about 90% of the time. I love beer.

SOA: What was it like to run the Red Bull Human Express?

KM: This could be a long answer. πŸ™‚  but in general, it’s a priceless thing to do.  Not many folks get to run supported like that for over a month. There are always issues, but basically, i got to run all day supported for over a month. It gets easier as you go along, even with the bigger mileage because your body starts to adapt to the stresses of running all day.  I would do it again if i could, in a heartbeat. It was tough, no doubt, but when i do something like that, and like the Appalachian trail, i just have to laugh and tell myself…..”none gets to do this”.

SOA: Did you ever have moments when you wanted to quit?

KM: Yah sure, but nowadays, i laugh at those moments and tell myself to shut up and keep going, it’ll be done soon. It seems to work, i think as we get older we cherish the moments out there in the mountains or woods and it becomes easier, even if it hurts. I will only quit during a race if i am injured…..Not tired or sore.

SOA: What do you do to push yourself past these moments?

KM: I tell my self to shut the fuck up and do it.  (sorry for the language, but it’s the real thing)  πŸ™‚

SOA: When you have sleep deprivation while running how do you prevent yourself from falling asleep?

KM: Good question, i had the sleep monster on my back at hardrock this year for the final 30 miles, i could barely stay awake.   But again, i just laughed at the fact and kept trudging along, i got it done, it wasn’t pretty, but it was one of the most rewarding finishes ever, because i could easily have just stopped and gone home, but i persevered.  Many races like this make us better in the long run, at least mentally.

SOA: What would be your answer to people that say they could never run long distance?

KM: All you gotta do is at least try.  You’ll never know if you don’t make the effort, even if under-trained, we learn a lot from our ultra experiences.

SOA: Any final thoughts?

KM: Running is a way of life for me, it’s enjoyable, difficult and rewarding, and i’ve been blessed with good genes, so i’ll do this till i can’t run anymore.

Thank you so much Karl! I appreciate you sharing your wisdom with the Shot of Adrenaline community.

Hey SOA’ers! Now it’s YOUR turn. What is the longest distance you have run and do you think it was too far?

*Put Your Comments Below…


King Shot Administer

Show/Hide Comments (3 comments)
  1. George Waldman

    I’m not a runner. I’m a walker. The longest walk I’ve walked so far has been from where I live in Flushing, NY, to a friend’s house in Bay Ridge, NY. It took me about 5 hours. I understand the concept of , “Just do it”, like it was said in the interview, but I’d like to know how to build that kind of muscular endurance with exercises before I start any endurance walking, like a marathon or longer.

    • Todd Kuslikis

      Wow! 5 hours is a long time! My recommendation is slow and steady George. πŸ™‚

  2. cyber monday

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