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An attribute that separates champions from other competitors is a concept called “mental toughness” and mental toughness is actually something that can be learned, according to researchers at University of Southern California. Seasoned ultra runners are aware that the recipe for successful ultra running includes talent, training and toughness, defined as the ability to suffer!

Howard A. Roop, PhD says that mentally tough athletes are focused, disciplined, and accept responsibility without whining or giving excuses. They are good at visualizing, tolerating pain and maintaining a positive approach. Dr. Roop, who compared the qualities of success, found that “where hundredths of a second separate winners from the rest, top-level trainers and coaches know that the defining difference is in mental preparation built upon strong physical ability and skill. The study of cognitive processes in athletes recognizes the importance of concentration, attention, memory, perception, mental imagery and decision-making. Visualization is considered to be a critical aspect in developing the athlete's mental toughness, creating a "mental image" and scripting responses to situations before they may happen. For others, attitude is most critical.” They found that common to most all successful athletes was a strong desire to do supremely well and word hard to actualize his/her innate potential. Taking it even further, Dr. Coops description of the “military warrior” sounds especially like most ultra runners I know… “the ability to ignore pain and persevere in uncontrolled conditions. As the body gets stronger, the pain threshold increases. The mind is conditioned through conditioning the body. The will controls the mind to complete the mission. The warrior must be able to focus, persevere and possess the skill of self-discipline. The mentally tough warrior is intense, determined and possesses a "can-do" attitude. This individual is unwavering, strong-willed and possesses a "never-give-up" attitude. "Get through it" is repeated frequently, often silently. The mentally tough person conjures the ways to "complete the mission" and must function effectively in a multi-tasked environment. As one SEAL instructor said, "It is all about desire and sucking it up! It is about psychological strength and discipline.”

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