The Finnish Mindset Secret To Going From Marathons To Ultramarathons

marathon mindset running ultra May 24, 2024
The Finnish Mindset Secret To Going From Marathons To Ultramarathons

Last weekend, I completed my first-ever ultramarathon, the Ultra Trail Australia 100km, with over 4500m of vertical gain in 13:42:59, earning me a silver buckle (men who finished in less than 14 hours get this recognition for the effort). 

Before last weekend, the longest run I'd ever completed was a 44km marathon with 500m of vertical gain.

So, how did I get the confidence to sign up for an ultramarathon with more than twice the distance and almost ten times the vertical gain?

Of course, following a science-based running and strength program and seeing my running ability improve steadily over the past months gave me confidence. 

However, the ultimate reason I knew I could finish the 100km Ultra Trail Australia was that I knew I had sisu.



Possessed by sisu climbing the Six Foot Track towards the Aquatic Centre aid station at km 56.2km.




Sisu (pronounced see-soo) is a Finnish word that cannot be translated. It comes from the word "sisus," which means "insides" or "guts." 

Some people translate sisu as tenacity or grit. To me, having sisu means accessing the savage part of your human nature. 

When you are fully possessed by sisu, there is no doubt that you can finish something. 

It's a beautiful thing. You are very present. Just moving forward and grinding it out. 

By the way, sisu is not the only factor determining whether you can finish an ultramarathon. No amount of sisu will help you overcome being unprepared physically or logistically. For example, nothing will save you if you don't consume enough calories during an ultra.

You have to put yourself into the position to use sisu, and you do that through proper physical training, planning and sticking to the plan.

Experiences that require the most sisu turn into the best memories.




Grinding in the sunset towards the Queen Victoria Hospital aid station at 78.8km. Moving with sisu.


How To Find and Cultivate Sisu


The thing about sisu is that you can only discover it through adversity. Sitting on your butt won't do it. You must do something hard. You don't have to run if it's not your thing. You could learn to play a new instrument or study a new language. Those things are hard. 

The opportunity to discover sisu appears when things get uncomfortable.

When your legs are burning, but the steep and long ascent has just begun, when you've been trying to play a piece of music but can't get it, when you've been studying for hours, but it just doesn't make sense. 

When the first thoughts of quitting start popping up. That is when the window to discovering sisu opens. 

You have to get after it, discover it and cultivate it.

Sisu will give you confidence in your abilities to endure and overcome. 

Finished at 13:42:59, 17 minutes ahead of the silver buckle cut-off. Tired but very happy.


My advantage was that I've done enough physically and mentally challenging things that have required sisu, so I already knew it was inside me from past experiences before signing up for the ultra. 

Now I know I have the sisu to finish a 100km mountainous ultramarathon in a respectable time. 

The next question for me is:

What's next? What else can I do? 

Do I have the sisu to finish a 100-mile ultramarathon? There is only one way to find out...


What about you? 


How can you cultivate sisu in your life?

Reach out by email at [email protected] or Instagram, and let me know how you are pursuing more sisu in your life or if you need help in coming up with something to aspire to.

Big Love, 



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