Timothy Olson on the Five Steps That Helped Him Define His Destiny
From the lowest lows to the highest highs, learn how American ultra-runner, Timothy Olson, took hold of his life and forged his own trail.
51 days, 16 hours and 55 minutes.
This is the fastest known time to run the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). This is Timothy Olson’s record time.
But not all victories come without defeat. Timothy’s life didn’t always look this way. It took dedication, self-discipline, blood, sweat and tears to become the ultra-marathon runner we all know today.
Growth is not linear. You make progress, fall back down, then learn from those mistakes. Timothy shares his story and advice on how he changed his life from its lowest point, to its highest.
1. Persevere through the impossible
“After high school, I stopped working out and started partying more. I did not take good care of myself and was not eating well, doing a lot of drugs and drinking a lot of alcohol. At this time, exercise was not even part of my life. I was really depressed, had difficult and challenging moments in my life, and made a lot of poor choices.
“By going through all of that, I realized I really wanted to change my lifestyle; I wanted to own my destiny. Running was something I wanted to do to see if it would help me quit drinking and using drugs. I used running to detoxify and to purify my life. Trail running in particular changed my life.
“Running changed me and it took me from the lowest moments of my life, to the highest. After I cleaned up my act, I ended up coaching cross country and track at a local school. I’m like, “Oh, I would like to help kids who are going through the same thing I have gone through.” While trying to make running fun for these kids, it helped me fall in love with running again.”
2. Be your own best friend
“When I started my recovery journey, I was all alone. I didn’t have a lot of help and I really had to be disciplined. I could tell I was feeling better, but it was hard to be my own motivator. I was trying to detox and recover from being addicted to so many different things that when I set a time for myself to run, I knew it was non-negotiable.
“The hardest part can just be putting on your shoes and doing what you need to do. When you want to make changes in your life, write it down, put it up on the wall and make it non-negotiable.
“A huge lesson I have learned when trying to push and support myself is to not judge yourself. I used to judge myself over and over again. If I didn’t run or meditate exactly how I wanted, I judged myself. If I messed up on anything, I judged myself. But judging yourself only hinders your progress. You can be your biggest enemy or biggest supporter. Choose the latter.”
3. Put yourself first
“I focused on changing my entire lifestyle. I changed my whole diet, started running every day, and quit drinking. This is when my life really changed. This is when I started to define my destiny.
“I continued focusing on myself and went through massage school. Once I completed it, I knew I wanted to promote my business. So, I started running in local races and I would give free massages afterwards to promote my business. While I continued running and advertising for myself, I realized how passionate I was becoming for running.
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“I had some professional runners tell me, “You’re doing really well. You should maybe look into running more; even train with us if you’re interested.” I started running more and began to really fall in love with it.
“By focusing on myself and my passion, I started to gain sponsorships from companies, including adidas.”
4. Push yourself past your comfort zone
“Ashland, Oregon, is where I started to heavily focus on my running and there were some amazing runners there. They were so advanced that when I went on a group run, I literally thought they were trying to kill me. At the time, I didn’t realize I was training with really talented ultra-runners, but this was a blessing in disguise.
“A pivotal moment for me was when they invited me to do a 50-kilometer run. I’d probably done around a 20-mile run before so I thought I was fit enough to do this one, but I was so clueless and naive. I didn’t bring water with me or any food.
“Coming back, I started having this hallucinating, tunnel vision and I was ready to lay on the ground. I couldn’t move. Someone came by and gave me a small snack, which brought me back to life and did the last few miles until we finished.
“When we came back, I was fine. I was alive. We all just talked and had such a good time afterwards. People were sharing beer and telling their story of the day. This is when I realized how cool this community is. They pushed me so hard, and it was very uncomfortable. It was extremely challenging, but it was such a beautiful and rewarding place to be in.
“Pushing yourself past your comfort zone is very important in life. Those different challenges really crack you open to new perspectives and possibilities. Surrounding yourself with inspirational and motivating people will help you push past your comfort zone. When you find the right community of people, I didn’t even realize I ran 15 miles because I was just talking and having a good time with my friends.
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“Don’t worry so much about the end goal, just focus on the now. For me, I don’t worry about the mileage of my runs because it doesn’t matter; I just get out there and enjoy the time.”
5. Create your own reality
“There were a handful of moments when I felt like giving up when running the PCT. Every morning it was really hard to get up and keep going. Every day it was my choice to get up and keep moving. It was extremely hard because I was so sore and sleep deprived. But there was always an option. I could have quit at any moment and pulled the plug, but I didn’t. That wasn’t my destiny.
“I wanted to keep being curious. I wanted to know what was going to happen next. A big intention of doing the PCT was to heal; to heal as a family, to heal as myself. I find trail running to be one of the deepest forms of therapy. I call it trail therapy. Going out there and getting to connect with your breath, welcome in so many happy thoughts, and work on overcoming negative thoughts.”
“For a while in my life, I really played the victim. I thought life was out to get me. I had so many negative things happen to me, like getting arrested, but I didn’t realize at the time that this was my own choice. When I started working on my negative thoughts, I made the conscious choice to see that life wasn’t happening to me, it was happening for me. This is when my entire mindset really flipped and helped me realize that I was the creator of my life. I create my own reality.
“You can really create what you want in life by making intentions and creating changes in your lifestyle. When you change how you eat, how you sleep, how you exercise, how you breathe, there are outcomes that can be positive or negative. You have the choice.