Dion Leonard doesn't love running. In fact, he often finds it boring and painful.
But despite his attitude about running, he's completed more than 20 ultra-marathons (any race longer than a standard
Last year, Leonard shot to internet fame through his unlikely friendship with a small dog he encountered while running the six-stage 155 mile Gobi Desert
Just as Leonard was due to return home to Scotland, Gobi ran away. Determined to bring his new friend home, he raised over £38,000 (roughly $48,362) to return to China, find his canine companion and return with her to Britain.
"Finding Gobi," released next week, tells the story of his emotional journey and triumph over a challenging youth that included a period of homelessness in his early teens.
Here are Leonard's three tips for developing mental toughness:
"Horrible things drive me," he says. "I had a tough, volatile childhood, and I think of all the awful things that people have done to me or said to me. It doesn't drive me to think about fun-loving ideas or high-fiving everyone."
This kind of self-awareness is useful when overcoming challenges. Whether you're running a race or vying for a promotion, understanding what motivates you and harassing it can be a crucial first step.
When Leonard ran his first ultra-marathon, he doubted he would even be able to finish, but he managed to persevere by breaking the daunting 155-mile Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon into shorter daily challenges.
"I thought, 'There's no way I'm going to be able to do this race,'" he says.
Leonard even admits that he was prepared to quit entirely. "If there had been any opportunity with a hotel with a pool and a bar that I spotted at any point, I would have been a dolphin and said 'See ya at the finish line,'" he jokes.
In order to approach the daunting task, he took the week-long race one day at a time.
"I thought, 'Well, I'm here, this is really going to suck, and I'm just going to run this as quickly as I can to get to the finish line to make it as enjoyable as possible.'"
He ended up coming in sixth, ahead of many professional runners. By breaking big challenges into smaller goals, you can see your progress and stay motivated over a longer period of time without burning out.
Because Leonard lacked a stable home life as a child, he knows the importance of surrounding himself with people who will support him and hold him accountable.
At the age of 14, Leonard left home for his own well-being. "I was forced out due to a volatile relationship at home. I couldn't live in that situation anymore, and it was harmful to me. It was depressing, it was sad and it was not the life that I wanted to lead" he says.
"I didn't have a father figure and my mother was suffering from a tough time herself. Hence the relationship with her, and I broke down completely – but
Leonard relied on sports as a support system. He played hockey and cricket competitively and found a sense of family. "It gave me the feeling of teamwork and the feeling of being important. People needed me. It was the first time I had ever had that feeling in my life."
Leonard has found this to be just as important in his adult
But perhaps his most famous supporter is