Become an athlete

Suffer from excess weight, alcohol addiction and other bad habits. Or complete 5 distances of the Ironman ultramarathon and enter the list of the 25 strongest men in the world. Would you like to be in the form of an athlete?

This story is about a man who suffered from alcohol addiction at the age of 40, and 22 extra pounds made his days even harder. But he did the impossible. A few years later, Rich Roll completed 5 distances of the Ironman ultramarathon and entered the list of the 25 strongest men in the world.

This story is about spiritual and physical transformation, overcoming difficulties, which proves that anyone can become an "ultra". And you too.

A beginning that almost ended

Running happened in my life with a capital F, which ingrained in me the thirst for a real sports challenge. I signed up for the Wildflower triathlon. This is a tough race through hilly terrain for a "semi-iron" distance (swim - 1.93 km, bike - 90 km and run - 21.1 km). I knew I wasn't in shape for a full Ironman yet. But the strength was whipping over the edge, and I thought that I was quite fit for the “half”.

Having no idea how to really prepare for a triathlon, I adopted my homegrown "weekend athlete" style. Once or twice a week I ran in the morning, went swimming a couple of times a week, and on Saturday I went cycling with friends. I may be a complete newbie to triathlon, especially cycling, but this is nonsense. Already on Wildflower I do not blunder.

But I was wrong. On day X, after just 500 meters of an almost two-kilometer swim, my lungs began to burn. Hobbled to the bike rack, I had a hard time finding my bike, and then I was bent in half and vomited right on my bike shoes. The cycling part of the race only added to my shame. I pressed the pedals with all my might, but it seemed as if I was moving not forward, but backward: rivals flew by me without visible effort, as if on racing cars, one by one. It seemed like an eternity before I managed to get my running shoes on. And I tried to run. When I overcame a hundred meters, something incomprehensible began to happen. I just couldn't move my legs.

That's when I gave up. Not from a lack of will, but simply because the body flatly refused to function. The triathlon turned out to be a bigger challenge than I thought.

Goal - Ultraman

A year has passed since my "ladder epiphany" - a year in which I took a giant step in improving my own health. But it was obvious that I was not so hot in endurance competitions. It needed a goal. And this goal was expressed in a single word - Ultraman.

Three-day race around the island of Hawaii. Swimming 10 kilometers, cycling 418 kilometers, and on the third day - running 84.4 kilometers. Twice as big as Ironman!

And a year and a half after my "ladder epiphany", when I could barely overcome 9 steps due to shortness of breath and decided to change my life, I mustered up the nerve: Ultraman, here it is, a way to test yourself for strength. I barely survived my first triathlon? Didn't make it to the finish line? Spit! “Probably I'm crazy,” I thought in the next second, and a storm of self-doubt almost blew out the flame of enthusiasm that had just flared up.

Then I took a deep breath and called Chris, my trainer, with whom I recently started working out. “I chose my competition,” I stammered. — Ultraman. - Wow! Chris said and chuckled. And then, endless silence. I braced myself for a harsh rebuke. “You can't handle this… You'll never be…” But Chris, to his credit, somehow managed to keep his monstrous doubts to himself and limited himself to a simple remark: - Well, let's try!

Road to Ultraman

And away we go. With less than half a year left to temper my body, mind and spirit, I had no right to make even the slightest mistake.

Chris and I decided to increase our training volumes slowly to eliminate the possibility of injury, given how many years - no, decades - my body had been in hibernation. At first I trained 10 hours a week, then 20 and even 25. Massage, self-massage, iron pulling. But there are only twenty-four hours in a day. And then, in 2008, there was no time at all. The clock was ticking…

Let's be honest. If you start training 25 hours a week and simultaneously work as a full-time lawyer, you will spend so little time with your family that it's embarrassing to admit. On chilly rainy evenings, when I, wet as a mouse and cold as a frog, ran along the poorly lit streets, the same voice asked in my head: “Why are you doing this to yourself?”

To know the answer. Wanted to punish yourself for wasted youth? Or tried to achieve in triathlon what he did not achieve in swimming? Or - the most attractive version - having pulled his notorious average age into the ring, now intended to show him who is in charge here? Maybe for all these reasons at once. Or maybe none of them.

The only thing I knew for sure was that from the depths of my heart a voice constantly comes: “Don't give up. You are on the right track."

Family, money and sports - who wins?

The autumn of 2008 has arrived. It's been four months since I started training for Ultraman and I've been amazed at the rate of my progress. I could run 64 kilometers and cycle a hundred miles every Saturday. But these feats were given to me at a high price. The seat suffered from scuffs. There were many days when I could barely get my aching bones out of bed.

But the biggest trouble was just beginning to loom on the horizon. Despite all my efforts to achieve a harmonious balance between all areas of my life, my passion for sports began to affect finances. Too much Ultraman attention. And not enough - work.

For the first time in the marriage, unpaid bills began to pile up. Mentally, I began to reproach myself. "You screwed up, Rich."

The Case That Changed Everything

The crisis came into its own during my last trial weekend in early November, mere weeks before Ultraman. I left for the 210-kilometer race at 4:00 am and was cold for a good four hours until the sun came up because I couldn't afford a cold-weather outfit. Not only that: I miscalculated the calories, the food ran out, and I began to suffer from cramps.

When I got to the ramshackle hamburger place, it turned out that not only did I have no cash, but my bank card was empty. "Here's an idiot!" A hundred kilometers from home, hungry, penniless... I had to get out. With trembling hands, I rummaged through the trash cans behind the diner, hoping to find at least something to feed my exhausted body. I managed to find the remains of French fries, onion rings and half-eaten cheeseburgers. The rarest deviation from the regime. But as they say, desperate times call for desperate measures.

Now I understand that I should have just asked for food. But I was confused. In fact, he was in shock.


I crawled home like a turtle, begging my body just to hold on a little longer - and darkness was gathering around me, and I began to shake from the cold again. But the deadly weariness was nothing compared to the feeling of irresistible shame. I was in complete despair, not understanding how I had let things go this far.

"That's it, it's time to quit this ridiculous idea, cretin," yelled an inner voice. I couldn't bear the thought of my family suffering while I prepared for this stupid race. We have a lot of problems, and who, if not me, the head of the family, should solve them.

And then a strange thing happened. While pedaling in the dark (only a few kilometers to the house), I stopped feeling the road under me. The wheels suddenly began to rotate freely, as if someone had canceled the law of universal gravitation; my body rushed effortlessly upwards until everything around me disappeared except for the boundless darkness.

And at that moment I felt an inexplicable unity with the Universe, and also joy and gratitude. No, something more is love.

I fell into deep meditation (I am a meditator and a follower of the Slow Life movement because an athlete needs to keep the mind still and be able to stop) when the mind is completely calm and free of all thoughts. It is this state in yoga that is called samadhi. Since then, I have heard many similar stories from the lips of ultra-athletes. "But what was it?"

Julie, my wife, didn't hesitate for a second.

- Don't you understand? You have been helped to see who you really are,” she whispered, placing her warm hands on my head. “Money comes and goes. It's not a problem. We'll manage. But you have to stop thinking the old way. Forget about your ego. Because the solution to our problems is faith. Everything else doesn't matter. Stay strong. And keep doing what you do.

These were not just words. Julie gave me a valuable gift, reminding me that if the goal is consistent with faith, then success is guaranteed, and everything else will follow.

Friends, how do you like this story? I think she's mega inspiring. When you read about such people, you understand: a person is capable of anything. You just need to make an effort. And you will be ready to do the impossible.

Based on the materials of Rich Roll's book “Ultra. How to change your life at 40 and become one of the best athletes on the planet.