Jamie Ramsay : the marathon of a lifetime
Jamie Ramsay’s “switch” story is perhaps one of the most extreme we’ve ever heard. While working in the City in London, Jamie started to realize that he spent most of his time daydreaming while gazing out the window, thinking of what he could be doing outside instead of in front of his computer screen. One day in 2014, he dropped everything to take on an insane challenge: run across America. A feat accomplished by running over 17,000 km alone, without assistance, over a period of 475 days, 367 of which he spent running. Since then, Jamie has found his calling and blazes his trail through the craziest challenges and most hostile races on the planet. We met up with Jamie while he was recovering from the Cape Wrath Ultra, a 400 km trail race set in Scotland, to talk about his incredible life change, his training, and what keeps him moving no matter what the race conditions.
Jamie, when the going gets tough on your adventures, what keeps you moving?
The key to keeping my focus during my longer adventures is treating everything I am doing as an opportunity to test my abilities and strengths to their fullest. I want to be at that point when I need to dig deep and prove myself to myself, learn new things about myself and unlock something I didn’t know existed. I also treat every adventure, race or challenge as a job and as a result something that has to be completed to the very best of my abilities. When I set off on an adventure, I normally have a very clear objective, get to the end as quickly and efficiently as possible. I then get myself into a daily routine and focus on refining every element of that routine to extract the very best performance.
If it scares you or make your feel inadequate then it is probably the very thing you should be focusing your resources on.
How do you keep getting out of your comfort zone?
When I worked in a conventional job in the City, I believed I had limitations. These were, of course, self-imposed limits created by doing what I thought was expected of me and falling into the habit of just doing enough to keep those around me happy. When I stepped into the world of adventuring, I was suddenly in control of all the parameters of my “success” and as a result what I needed to do to get there. I could determine what success and failure was and it was by doing this that I learned to impose a new habit of continually pushing my personal barriers. I also learned that repeatedly doing what is comfortable means you put yourself in a position where you could fall into mediocrity. Fear pushes me forward. Now, nearly everything I do is about pushing a specific boundary of my comfort zone, be it working as a team, changing discipline, the environment I am in or its duration. If it scares you or make your feel inadequate then it is probably the very thing you should be focusing your resources on.
I am the biggest ROADBLOCK. I can achieve so much more than I have already done but it’s me that slows or blocks that process.
What was the biggest roadblock you’ve ever encountered? How did you get past it?
I am the biggest ROADBLOCK. I can achieve so much more than I have already done but it’s me that slows or blocks that process. Self doubt, fear, and lack of confidence means I have not ticked all the boxes I want to do. However, I have also realised that the biggest GO I have is also me. I spend a lot of time thinking about all the things I could have done better, decisions I could have made differently and ways I could push myself further. I then take all of this and wrap it up in my next adventure. I make them part of my defined success and then restart the process. The next step for me is extracting all the value from everything I have achieved. The real value in what you achieve or create is how you utilise it in the time going forward, that is where the value creation is and that is where I need to be pushing myself.
What is your life philosophy?
My overriding life philosophy is cliché and shared by many but that’s because it works: Be the best version of yourself. We all have different skills, opportunities and strengths. It is our responsibility to take those ingredients and make the best of what we have. One of the things I try very hard not to do is compare myself to other people. For every success someone else experiences they have their same level of failures. What differentiates us from others is not just what we achieve but how we turn our negative moments into positive outcomes. I am very aware I have more weaknesses than strengths but instead of that being something I should be negatively affected by, I just need to flip it on its head and realise that it also means I have more opportunities ahead. When I am on an adventure or in a competition, I just tell myself I can do better over and over again. If I stop or falter then I just repeat it again and again.
In the last 3 years, I have adventured over 24,000 km across 25 different countries. During that time I have learned a lot about myself, my drivers, my weaknesses and my strengths. In all that time, the thing that continually amazes me is how the obstacles to our success are always changing and no matter how hard you push you must always be driven by curiosity to see how much further you can develop as a person. When I finished my 17,000 km run from Canada to Argentina the feeling at the finish line wasn’t, “Well I am glad I have proved I can do that” it was more “Now I realise I can do that, what else can I achieve, how much further can I push myself” and “Who could I be if I keep pushing?”.
You’ve said that “controlling your mind is the most essential part” of your journeys. Can you explain?
When you are in the middle of nowhere, doing something extreme, it is very easy to focus on the negatives of the situation you are in. If you let this happen then they will consume you. You have to train yourself to put the negatives to one side and not let them cloud what your initial intention was. By controlling the focus of your mind and training it to never falter then you never lose sight of what it is you set out to achieve, your intention. Everything we do should have an intention and if that intention was strong enough to convince us to start then it should be strong enough to make us continue to the very end.
I have the advantage of having made a decision to change career later on my life. Now, if I start to doubt what I am doing I quite literally sit down on the side of the road, or wherever I am and remember that decision. If I give up then I am more than aware of where my life would have to return to. That simple realisation makes me get back up and push forward. Every step taken forward is additional accomplishment and therefore valuable.
Everything stems from the mind and therefore mental strength is the most important thing to train. I recently completed a 400 km expedition race and my body started to falter at about 200 km but because I have a strong mind I was able to keep pushing. Training the mind is very similar to training a muscle and therefore you need to push it a little every day. If you arrive at a challenge knowing that you have overcome something smaller but similar, then you are going to be far better placed than others to overcome that hurdle.
What motivates you? What’s your north star?
I spent 12 years doing something that didn’t inspire me. That led to me becoming a version of myself that I wasn’t proud of, I became dissatisfied and ultimately a little self-destructive. Having the strength to identify the problem, the courage to do something about it and the determination to continue to push forward is all the motivation I need to keep doing what I do.
My north star is something that I am still sculpting. I am very aware that what I do will take a toll on my body as the years go by, especially as I came to this career rather late. So, my goal is to build something that will be sustainable, scalable and will ultimately encourage others to readdress their preconceived limitations. If I can help one other person achieve their dream, then I have hit success and that will give me the fuel to continue and achieve more.
As a speaker, what topics do you like to talk about? What do you share with your audience?
I want people to see that I am just a normal person who found the inner strength and motivation to change the direction of my career and life and as a result became a more productive human being. I am a big believer in showing my inexperience, vulnerability and failures so people can relate more to what it is I have achieved and am setting out to accomplish. I see no value is standing in front of an audience and showing them the barriers to success, my job is to illuminate the path to success. Being an adventurer, I come across so many different obstacles and the skills needed to navigate around them can be transferable to both personal and business situations.
I also try and promote as much interaction as possible. I like the audience to tell me what they want to hear rather than me just reciting a speech…and I also invite the audience to come on a run with me after the talk if possible!
At the end of each year, make an assessment of what you achieved so you can ensure that you are continuously moving forward.
What would be your best advice for an entrepreneur?
If you are not working then you are not achieving or building value. However, make sure that that work you do is productive, well thought out and going to produce efficiencies. Too many times do you see people doing work just because they feel they should be seen to be working. Make every minute count. Also to make success sustainable you need to be constantly adapting and learning new skills. At the end of each year, make an assessment of what you achieved so you can ensure that you are continuously moving forward.
Read the full interview in Swenson Mag Vol.03
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