On the first day of class each semester, a colleague of mine tells her students that you can’t prepare to run a marathon by watching marathons on tv. You can’t train by reading about races in a magazine, or talking to friends about them. And buying all the latest gear won’t turn you into an accomplished runner. None of that works.

There is only one way to prepare to run a marathon. She ends her speech by pointing out that, to prepare to run a marathon you have to run. And so is the problem with ultra-distance running and cycling. To prepare for these unique events you have to do something unique: Run and ride long distances. Extremely long distances.

When asked how he trained for the Trans Am Bike Race, an event that takes cyclists from Oregon to Virginia, the 2018 solo winner, Peter Andersen said his preparation was simple. Over the six months leading up to the event, he steadily increased his time on the bike from 200 miles a week to over 700. Over 700 miles riding each week. On the bike. Then, when he ran the race, he broke the old record for the event by nearly 12 hours, finishing the entire race across the country in 16 days, 20 hours, and 41 minutes. On the bike.

What’s the problem with running and cycling long distances? Nothing per se. Well, except life. As I have increased my fitness regiment, I have come upon a problem in my training. Life gets in the way. As a not-so-serious hobby runner and cyclist, I could workout a few days a week for an hour each. Maybe put in two hours once a week. No big deal. But, as I have begun to prepare for longer events I have found that I need an increasing number of increasingly longer blocks of time to train. At this point I need to be running and cycling for a few hours a couple days a week. And it is just difficult to find the time.

The question is – How bad do you want it?

If you want to take your ultra-running or cycling to the next level, it requires you to push past the distractions and limitations of everyday life. Find the time. Put in the effort. Invest an extraordinary effort if you want to do something extraordinary. Often what separates the winners from everyone else is simply their willingness to focus solely on the goal, and put in the energy to achieve it.