The Chimp Paradox - A book every ultra-runner should read

So this might not be on all endurance runners "must read" list but I recommend you do. The author Steve Peters has spent the last few years as the head psychologist for the British Cycling team (who apparently have been doing pretty well recently). He has now been put in charge of the minds of the Athletics team for Rio in 2016.

The book is not specifically about mind management for endurance atheltes but some parts of it will resonate with you in your training and racing as an ultra runner.

The book is very simple and fun to read. Steve Peters simplified what goes on in our heads as a battle between a Human and a Chimp. Sounds silly but it is quite a fun and useful way of thinking about what happens inside your head, particularly when you have run 60 odd miles, it's cold, wet and dark, you are exhausted and grumpy and feel like the whole world is conspiring against you. And you still have 40 miles left to run.

The premise of the book is that we are made up of a Human, a Chimp and a Computer (and some other stuff). The Human is the part of us that is measured and rational, it needs purpose and meaning. It is this part of us that sets ourselves goals and gets pleasure from achieving something that is not part of basic survival (such as finishing an ultra marathon or winning an Olympic medal).

However whilst trying to achieve these goals we are often hijacked by the chimp. The chimp is the part of us that is obsessed with basic survival. It is much stronger that the Human part of us and will have a tantrum whenever it feels threatened (such as there being the wrong coloured jelly babies at a checkpoint or a downpour of rain during a race). It will usually recommend quitting to safety. There is no point fighting it head on, it is too strong and is the result of millions of years of evolution that has made the Human race so successful. The only way to deal with it is to manage it.

This book gives great advice as to how to do that. I read this just before I ran the Spartathlon this year and glad I did as I feared (like with other events I have quit this year) that I would quit too easily. I didn't and I think part of the reason was the way this book allowed me to think.

I would definitely add this to my shortlist of essential reading for ultra runners (and any sport that requires a huge amount of commitment through tough times).