A Life in Arizona
Running through the Arizona wilderness, through saguaros and red rocks, the heat of the day and the cold night, for no less than 25 hours is not what most people have on their list of life experiences. But for Luis Contreras-Vidal, an ultramarathon of that magnitude was an opportunity to celebrate the end of his undergraduate education.
“From economical adversities, to moving to different countries and switching schools, it took me nearly 10 years to finished my undergraduate degree. I wanted to commemorate that journey with something just as hard. I thought running a 100 miler would be a good idea.” said Luis.
However, his first attempt at a 100 mile endurance run was not to be. After 65 miles Luis decided to drop out of the race. It was 4 o’clock in the morning, and he had been running for 21 hours. “I was afraid. Friends who have run 100 milers told me sh*t wouldn’t get real until mile 80. The idea of running another 35 miles was overwhelming.” Although he didn’t accomplish the goal, it was a valuable experience.
There’s always an endorphin release during a jog, but generally people don’t feel great after running for hours on end. But taking on an endeavor like a 100 mile ultramarathon will, at the absolute minimum, help you develop a deeper understanding of how your mind works and what motivates you. For Luis, he learned what it takes mentally and physically to run 100 consecutive miles. It wasn’t just a lesson on running, it was about what it takes to achieve goals.
“I’m more motivated to train for my next run. It made me realize that I need to train harder. And that goes for everything in my life.” said Luis. “I’m getting ready to go to grad school for a PhD in physics. That’s going to be very hard as well, so I need to build a base. For all of my goals - I need to be more disciplined, and put more effort and energy into building a better foundation to achieve whatever goals I have.”
Luis moved to New Mexico from his life in Mexico City nearly 5 years ago, where he first began running to supplement his fighting. “I think running is the best analogy of life. You have moments of joy, you have moments where everything sucks, but is just comes down to persistence, to keep moving. It’s the same with life. You only need to be persistent and keep moving.”
Dropping out of a race after months of preparation and training is something most runners experience at some point in their careers. It’s not a good feeling. But most of the time, how the experience feels doesn’t necessarily make it a good or bad experience. It’s what the individual takes from it that matters. “I see opportunities for personal growth, and an experience to love as much as possible.” said Luis.
The run was tough and it didn’t end up the way he wanted, but weeks later Luis is still finding value in his decision. “I feel better about dropping out now. I’ve had pain in my foot since the race, so if I had kept going I would have definitely been injured.”
Not many people can relate to running 65 miles out of 100, but everyone has experienced some kind of disappointment. Luis has turned his disappointment into a blessing. “It's not about achieving or not achieving, it’s about what you learn and how you grow. That’s all that matters.”