What Tony Robbins and Firewalking Have to Do with Running Marathons

The other day, I did an interview at BlogcastFM.com.  It’s mainly about blogging, so if you’re a blogger or you’re just interested in what goes on behind the scenes at NMA, go check that out.

Coals and marathons aren't so different

But the reason I’m bringing it up is because in the beginning of the interview, we talk about Tony Robbins seminars, and how to make sure your excitement after one of them doesn’t just fade away within a week or two and then you go right back to sucking at life.  And since today I’m headed up to New York to return to Tony’s Unleash the Power Within seminar, I figured that’d be a good tie-in.

One reason not to hate on Tony

Really, I understand that a lot of people think Tony Robbins is corny or a cult leader or that he looks like a giant with a scary face.  And that is totally cool with me.  We all learn differently and are motivated by different things, so I try to temper my nerd-dom and not write about him too much here.

But the truth is that I found the motivation to start this website just three days after I went to my first Unleash the Power Within last year (which is also where I was convinced to stop eating meat, so you should at least like Tony for promoting a mostly-plant-based diet).  And my life has changed drastically since I changed my diet and started this site.  So in that way, when I say the event was life-changing, it’s not an exaggeration.

So anyway, I’m headed back again this weekend, and I’m going with my wife, Erin.  Tonight we’ll walk across coals, as nearly everyone does to kick off the weekend at Unleash the Power Within.  That might not seem like something to look forward to, but it is.

Getting past “No f*$&ing way”

The point of the firewalk, as it’s called, is to get you to break through a fear.  To demonstrate to yourself that you’re capable of doing something which on some level seems impossible (walking across a bed of coals, in this case).

Before I did it last year, I knew intellectually that I could do it.  Lots of other people do it, so surely I could too.  So since it didn’t seem impossible in that sense, I thought it wouldn’t affect me much.

But let me tell you, when you’re actually standing there in front of those coals, all of that intellectual knowledge that plenty of people have done this goes out the window.  It’s just you and 15 feet of red, 1200-degree coals, and at that point, some part of you says “No f*$&ing way.”  But by that point, it’s time to go, and you just have faith and do it.  You storm across those coals, and a few seconds later, you’re across.

And then in some way, you’re different for having done it.

It’s such an obvious parallel to running a marathon, or a half, or a 100-miler.  It’s just that those are drawn out over many weeks of training.  Or if you prefer, over the 2 or 4 or 30 hours it takes to run one.

It seems impossible to your friends and family, and on some level, it seems impossible to you.  But you have faith that you can do it.  So you train for months, sometimes to the detriment of other things.  And then even when it’s time to do it, some part of you still says “No f*$&ing way.”  But then you do it, and when you cross that finish line, you’re different because your circle of “possible” just got a little bigger.

So you see?  My obsession with Tony Robbins isn’t so different from your obsession with running. 🙂

Alright, I’m out.  I have a few guest posts for the rest of this week and part of next, and I’ll try to check in early next week after I get back.  And if I seem a little different, now you’ll know why.



Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

The 7 Foods Worth Eating Every Single Day

wooden signpost near a pathOur 7-Day Kickstart Plan is unique in that it focuses on the highest quality whole foods (including the 7 foods worth eating every day), to make sure you get everything you need on a plant-based diet.

The Kickstart Plan includes:
  • A 7-day meal plan, built around the foods worth eating every single day
  • 14 of our favorite recipes that pack in the nutrition, taste great, and are easy to make
  • Focused on simplicity and speed, to minimize stress and time commitment
It's the best way we know of to get started with a whole-food, plant-based diet, for just 7 bucks. Learn more here!


  1. I am very jealous of you both. I have only ever heard him on cd or read his books.

    During my first half last week, I struggled mentally, I remember thinking ‘this is hell’ and I used robbins techniques to get me into a better more positive frame of mind.

    I think he has some great tools for runners.

  2. Matt,
    Just curious… When you did your firewalk, did you wet your feet before, by whatever means – I know… the question sounds like ‘did you put your feet in a bucket of water before?’. But it’s a serious question. If yes, could you share the procedure? Cleaned the sole with a wet fabric or materiel, etc…

    • Luc, no, no wetting of the feet. Why?

      • Matt,
        I was just curious. Because it is, like many people I suppose, something I would like to try to do. And because some time ago, I read a scientific attempt of explanation about why people were not burning their soles when doing it. It had to do with thermal exchange, moisture, etc… Hence my question. I think the bulk of the explanation is now on Wikipedia. But doesn’t address the mental state, psychological preparation and such, which actually interest me very much.

        • I did the Firewalk two weeks ago at Tony Robbins UPW Dallas, we stepped on wet grass before crossing the coals. Tony is incredible live, he led us non stop for 13 hours straight the first day and I mean Tony never stopped, no bathroom break or any break, he rocked the house non stop!!!

  3. I have always wanted to do the coal walk… and I would love to meet Tony and go to a seminar one day.

    I have completed all of the Landmark Forum education, and know the benefit of life changing awesomeness. 😀

    Have a fabulous time!!

  4. very timely post, for me at least. i just did my first 50k last weekend and now i’m thinking about my first 50 mile. this experience was my firewalk! beforehand, i really didn’t know if i had it in me to run anything longer than a marathon. but i felt so fantastic at the end of it that i’m already thinking about my first 50 mile.

    unleash the powah!!

  5. I always love reading your posts… they are so inspirational! I’m getting ready to run the philadelphia marathon in a couple of weeks and you always seem to sum up the emotions that go along with training for an event like that. I also am a fan of Tony Robbins and am so glad that he inspired you to set up this blog, because in turn you are inspiring a lot of other people! 🙂

  6. I love the line about how your idea of what’s possible expands after a marathon. It’s such a great feeling.

  7. Kate Phillips says:

    Hey Matt! I’m so thankful you were my firewalking partner. Although we had just met, your confidence and encouragement were just what I needed. The No Meat Athlete website is great and I have a couple of friends that are sure to become regular readers. Best wishes and live with passion!!! (I just couldn’t resist!)
    Kate P.

  8. Just listened to the interview. Great job! You had some really good advice for people like me.

  9. Hi Matt,
    I think I met ((hugged)) you at UPW this weekend (I remember your shirt). I am doing the 10 day (30 day or whatever it turns into) challenge Tony recommended and I feel great already. It’s only day 4 so that to me is amazing.

    I ran/walked the Phila 1/2 marathon a couple years ago and the group I was with were to tired to do the last 1/4 mile to cross the finish line. I wish I could see the look I gave them…”are you freakin’ kiddin’ me?” I went 13 miles and “I AM CROSSING THAT FINISH LINE!” Where did that energy come from? I agree with you, the firewalk was a similar AMAZING, UNBELIEVABLE….”i never knew I could do it” feeling.

    I enjoyed reading your blog. Funny how life works, I googled raw food sample diet and found this. Congratulations on your accomplishments and wishing you many many more!

  10. Hi Matt,

    I came across your blog as I was searching on Tony and whether he has actually run a marathon.

    I’m a head marathon coach with Team In Training and know the power of inspiration when coaching beginners( straight off the couch) to completing their first 10k, half marathon and full marathons. They are truly the reason why we coaches love every minute of seeing these athletes achieve their dreams.

    I’m also member of an amazing bunch of ” crazies” called Marathon Maniacs. If you want to hear inspiring and incredible stories- hop into a marathon and just look out for our yellow shirts- run alongside anyone of us and your breath will be taken away by their stories.

    In any case, I wanted to comment on Tonys seminar. This was my second one in ten years. The first was in Sydney, Australia. The following day , my life changed forever. Fast forward, now living in the greates city on the work- one where ” citizens of the globe” reside, NYC- working for tremendous organizations, I can only day that subconsciously- the Firewalk experience molds one life to where their radar is tuned. So make sure your ” frequency” is adjusted and GO FOR IT! Whenever anyone asks you ” why?” your answer must be ” Why Not”?

    So question for you- will u be doing Date With Destiny?

    Looking forward to hearing more .

    Coach Rev

  11. hey-
    i went to UPW in Oct of 2008, and I took my mother.

    The firewalk was just as you described. I eFFing LOVED it. And I love knowing I did it. And telling other people that its possible.

    Anyways, I randomly came across your site, and then I randomly found this post, and it made me smile that you were a fellow Tony Robbins firewalkee.

    After UPW my mom and I quit our jobs and went to work on our biz full time. Its been a scary (at times) 2 years, but overall more rewarding and amazing than either of us truly could have imagined 2 years ago leaving UPW that weekend.

    Long live the harnessing of the firewalk power of knowing that things, crazy, ridiculous things, are possible.

  12. Hey Matt!

    I just found your site when searching for Tony Robbins workout diets and I’m VERY excited to have found you! I instantly subscribed to your newsletter and I’m interested in devouring everything on your site.

    I just did Unleash the Power Within in November 2010, and then Date With Destiny in December 2010.

    All I can say is that my “life will never be the same” again.

    Immediately following UPW, I continued the 10/30 day challenge and have been full blown alkaline/vegan since. (Only 2 months to date…but it’s a lifestyle as I “survived” the holidays without breaking down)

    Anyway, your summary of the firewalk was great, and as I read it, it brought me right back to standing in front of those coals. (It’s amazing how a few seconds can change your life…if you don’t include the few hours of firewalk prep at UPW)

    I did my first half back in September, and will be doing a full this year. I may even go on in the next few years and run the entire United States, coast to coast. (If I can find the right cause to do it besides to be able to say “I’m a Forrest Gump”)

    Anyway…I’m looking forward to everything you’re doing with nomeatathlete!

  13. Frank Rizzo says:

    I just dated a girl (2 dates) who said Tony Robbins was her Jesus.. She was a complete nutcase… She openly told me that after going to a UPW she got a life coach them started sleeping with them, divorced her husband and quit her job to sell stuff on Facebook ..She told me about how she goes to these events and is on the Tony Robbins CREW .. She said they all crash in a couple hotel rooms and stay up all weekend doing drugs (MDMA) and drinking…I get the positive thinking your life gets better… No none needs to walk across coals to be successful in life…Tony Robbins preys on weak minded individuals looking to grab on to some purpose in life…. This is just a business for him to get rich… Call it what it is

  14. I am considered a “Robbin-ette”. My BFF and I follow Tony all over the US. Did UPW many times and DWD. Life changing is an understatement. I am crewing for my second time this week in NJ at UPW. Tony has shown me how wonderful life is and how changing your focus 1/8 of a percent can make all the difference. He is AMAZING. Once I started my life journey with him, after years of sitting on the sidelines in NYC, I committed to running the NYC Marathon. In 1993, I completed it with Tony sitting on my shoulder, pushing me every step of the way. Completing the marathon was symbolic for Everything I wanted to do in my life. I am forever grateful to this incredible man, and will live my life listening to him. Janine

Leave a Comment