You may know him as the best-selling author of ‘Out There’, a personal story about overcoming addiction, and you may have caught a glimpse of him as he attempted to break the 12-hour treadmill record at our NOMAD studio several weeks ago. Ultra runner David Clark battled alcoholism and drug abuse while struggling with obesity before committing to turning his life around. Years later, the transformed David Clark has completed several ultra marathons and embraced sobriety along the way.
A truly amazing person, we caught up with David when he was last in the city to ask him a few questions about his journey. How does one go from being morbidly obese to an ultra runner? And what keeps him from slipping back to destructive behaviors? Read on to get the word from David and prepare to be inspired.
Could you tell us a bit about your running journey? I'm reading your book and you mentioned starting out with 15-second intervals. How did you keep pushing yourself through? When did your love affair with the sport really set in?
For me the stakes were high. Not getting out there and running meant I was quitting on myself - and I wasn't going to do that anymore. Running was about proving to myself that I could be reliable.
In completing my first marathon I had done something unlike anything I had previously. I had never willingly put myself in a painful situation like that, and I responded by persevering - that skill set transcended running for me and spread into life. That is when running became a part of who I am, not just a part of what I do.
What do you think running offers, as a coping mechanism or way to address addiction?
Running teaches us that it's ok to be uncomfortable. In fact it teaches us more than that, it shows us that pain is needed to grow. There has to be a surrender to the process of running, just like recovery.
Overcoming addiction is incredibly difficult and very inspiring. How did you keep yourself on a healthy path without wavering?
Battling addiction is not about wavering or abstaining from substances - it's about finding out how you go so lost. It's about complete honesty and total self discovery. In that way I have started a journey that alcohol is not a part of, and in fact would interrupt the journey itself.
What advice would you give to individuals struggling with addictions to the ones you battled with?
It's more important in the initial stages that you accept how bad your life has become - look around and feel the hurt and pain. From that place we find the strength to move forward, even if we don't see the way yet. Run, move and meditate. See what happens.
What inspired you to want to break the 12-hour treadmill record? And how do you keep your mind focused for such an extended period of time - do you listen to music, make to-do lists, meditate?
The record is a complete search to see what I am capable of. When I started running I never thought I could be fast, never thought I could be good. Eventually I realized that was a bunch of self-imposed bullshit. I want to see how far I can go. The first time I tried to win I race I did - the only thing that changed was my commitment and my goal. So, I don't care as much about the record as I care about always searching for the limit, always trying to believe I can do more.
I try to turn my mind off when running long on the treadmill. Trying to distract is a losing game. It's about letting go and being quiet. Unless it's about heavy metal - sometimes it's about that too.
What is your favorite treadmill workout?
Incline tempo run 7 to 9 miles varying from 7 - 9mph at 4-7% incline!
You've completed a lot of intense running events and experienced significant success in the sport. What would you say has been your most meaningful or transformative moment? Why?
* Every finish line has provided me with a new understanding of who I am, how much I am willing to handle and how tough I can be - in that way every run has changed me. But crossing the finish line at the 2011 Leadville in 23:50 minutes seemed like something impossible given where my running started - it was the day I proved to myself that I could do anything.