6 lessons learned from running 150 miles in Costa Rica
By: Mady Peterson
“You can, you should, and if you are brave enough to start, you will” – Stephen King
This summer, I had the opportunity to adventure in Costa Rica. I went somewhere I’ve never been to do something I’ve never done with people I’ve never met: travel 150 miles using only human power. This would involve 31,500 feet of climbing over six days in one of the hottest parts of the world.
Here are my six lessons learned from six days on the trail:
Day One: Keep focused on the process, not the final destination
I was pretty sore but after a few miles, my legs came around. It was all part of the process and in a weird way, I let the trail just come to me. Being outside and challenging yourself every day, you learn the value of patience pretty quickly. Sometimes you never value the moment until it becomes a memory.
I had to take care of my nutrition, my feet and skin or else the journey might end sooner than I wanted. Taking care of the little things along the way was the only way I could finish this journey. I think the same thing is true in life too — those little things usually make the most difference in the end.
It can become very easy to want the outcome rather quickly — no matter what you are going for. But if you focus on the moment that you’re in, take care of the little things, learn and embrace it, the outcome and result will take care of themselves.
Day Two: The comeback is always stronger than the setback
Tuesday. Was. Tough. We had a 4-mile river section with crazy rocks and super technical jungle terrain that our guides used machetes to clear. Luckily, this led to a 6-mile beach section with soft sand in the afternoon sun. We got lost — and went from a planned 28-mile day to a 31-mile day. That night, as I tried to sleep in my 95-inch tent with my pulsating feet propped up on my bag in an attempt to get the swelling down, I had no idea how I was going to get up and do it again the next day.
But the next day I got up and had one of the best days of my adventure. Yes, I was sore and tired and sunburned. BUT, I was out there — with pure determination to get back after it. I didn’t come this far to stop now.
Life has a crazy way of knocking us all down sometimes. Strength grows in those moments when you think you can’t go on — but you do anyway. All the good comes with the hard.
Day Three: Be drawn to the things that scare you the most
Landing in Costa Rica with no idea how this journey would unfold was a crazy combination of fear and excitement. I’ve never done anything close to this — and was surrounding myself with strangers. I knew that it was OK to be a little scared. It just meant I was about to do something brave that would provide the growth I wanted.
Whether it was descending down treacherous mountains, crossing rocky rivers or avoiding ginormous snakes, I never let fear paralyze me. Fear is temporary and regret is forever. So on we go.
Day Four: Keep your eyes up
Seems like a weird thing to take away, right? But spending over eight hours outside every day, you come to some realizations. I think often our eyes stay down — looking down at our phones, computers and letting the influence of others impact our confidence or even self-perceptions. Externally, we keep our eyes down to often stay within what we know — and rarely step outside our social circle or comfort zone.
For me, it was amazing to log offline. To breathe and meet new people along the trail — those who were suffering right along with me. To share a meal with people from new places and learn about their lives. To take time to just hang out outside and tune out, stare at the stars, jump in the ocean, give fist pumps to others who didn’t speak my language — to just be. That was one of my favorite things about my adventure — and now I’ll do it more often.
Day Five: Be fearless in the pursuit of what sets your soul on fire
That finish line was a happy sight — but as with most finish lines, it was not what brought me the most joy. The little moments had the biggest impact. From the long 11-hour day and the 50k day in over 100-degree temperatures to the daily 3:15 a.m. wake-ups calls and climbs that seem to go on forever, the process was tough but rewarding.
It’s OK to dream BIG. But you don’t need to run 150 miles. Stay in your lane and know that what you’re afraid to do is maybe a clear indication of the next thing you need to do. Don’t sit on the couch and wait for it. Make a change. Be excited. Do new things. Be fierce and challenge yourself. Great things never come from comfort zones.
Day Six: Life is exactly what you make of it. Make it a good one.
I left Costa Rica with new friends from all over the world and pure gratitude that God gave me a healthy body and world to go play in. My adventure taught me so many things about myself — but best of all, the reminder that: I can do hard things. (And so can you.)