What Running 100 Miles Taught Me About Trust

Scott Welle 100 Mile Ultra Marathon

“You’re going back out there.”

It was 6:38pm on Saturday, June 7, and I had been running for over 12 hours, since 6:00am that morning, in the 100-mile Kettle Moraine Ultra Marathon.

Looking up, the hot sun still commanded the summer sky…and showed no signs of relenting anytime soon. I sat—slumped—down for only the second time all day on a nearby picnic bench.

I had a BIG problem. I was only at mile 63—and was lucky to have made it that far.

The last 15-20 miles had, for lack of a better term, kicked my ass. I was hot, tired and dehydrated. Everything on my body hurt, including my socks. Dirt and blood had caked on my legs from falling down twice.

I looked, and felt, like a beaten, defeated man.

Life is filled with defining moments and this was the defining moment in Kettle Moraine. The course route takes runners 31.5 miles out on a winding grass and dirt trail to a turn around point, where you promptly reverse directions and run 31.5 miles back to the exact same location in which you started.

In a race where more than 50% of the competitors will give up before crossing the finish line, this is the point where your ultra marathon finishing dreams go to die.

I was already exhausted.

I was back at my car, which I was begging to take me to my hotel, the hot tub, the cold beer and my comfortable bed.

And with 37 daunting, unfinished miles left in the race, I was keenly aware that I was nowhere near done. The finish line may as well have been on another planet. It felt THAT far away.

As I sat on the picnic bench, I slowly lifted my head from my hands and turned to Diane and Missy, two of my good friends who had agreed to be my “crew” for the race and said, “I’m done. I’ve had enough.”

They looked at me, paused slightly, and replied, “No, you’re not.”

I was not in the mood for a debate.

“Maybe you didn’t hear me—I’m D.O.N.E!,” I shot back. “I’ve already ran 63 miles, which is farther than I’ve ever run in my life! I have nothing more to prove. Nothing left in my tank.”

Impressively, they stood their ground.

“Scott, you’ve got this! You came here to finish a race and that’s what you’re going to do. You’ll never forgive us if we don’t make you try. You’re going back out there!”

In every speech I give, I advocate surrounding yourself with great, trusting people if you want to Outperform. And a criterion that determines whether someone falls into this category is if they’ll tell you not just what you want to hear, but what you need to hear.

At that moment of the 100-mile Kettle Moraine Ultra Marathon, I so badly wanted to hear that it was ok to give up; that I was validated in my decision to quit. Instead, I received a harsh dose of what I needed to hear, that I was selling myself short and was capable of doing more than I thought possible.

We ALL need these people in our lives. When I look at any accomplishment (personally, professionally, athletically) in my life that I would consider “significant” or “valuable,” not a single one happened without being surrounded by other Outperformers.

It is because of them that I succeed.

I always say races, like life, are roller coasters, not train rides, and after I was lifted up from the picnic table and pushed to continue on, I had some of my best miles in the race. Don’t get me wrong, there was no part of the last 37 miles that felt easy…but it did become more manageable and I gained confidence with each passing mile. I ended up finishing the race in 21 hours and 6 minutes, taking 14th place in my first (and, likely, only!) ultra marathon.

I can honestly say that, if it wasn’t for Missy and Diane, I wouldn’t be a 100-mile runner. I would have given up. It took people believing in me at a time when I didn’t believe in myself. That’s what I think we were put here to do—to pull others up when they need it most. I’ll always be thankful for the people that have helped me do that.

Scott