It’s four o’clock in the morning, the temperature ten degrees below freezing in the pitch-black Georgia forest. Troy Espiritu has been running for 20 hours, and he’s so exhausted that he’s hallucinating that the trees around him are falling inward. Is he lost? There’s no way to know. He keeps running, one foot in front of the other. It’s at least another five miles to the next checkpoint. Nausea twists his throat. He stumbles, falls to his knees, and retches a watery bile onto the frozen ground. As the spasms subside, he huddles on the ground, trembling. I’ve just got to get to that tree over there, he tells himself. He pushes himself to his feet, stumbles a couple of yards. He’s moving again. He’s running.
Espiritu is an ordinary guy, a 39-year-old podiatrist with a wife and four kids. Four years ago he was just another casual runner, jogging a few miles a couple of times a month. He’d heard of ultramarathon races, and he thought that the guys who ran them were insane, not his type at all. Man, he thought, there is just no way I would ever do that.
Then he became one of them.
How can a person learn to become tough? People have wondered that since the dawn of time, but only recently have psychologists begun to come up with detailed answers. One of the most important insights is that there is not one variety of toughness, but many. Read the rest of this entry »