For most of us, exercising is a way to stay in shape. Vanity, pride and fear keep us going to the gym, hitting the road and trying that new workout that promises to burn 800 calories an hour (really?). I would argue that mere physical condition isn’t enough to keep runners going. In fact, if getting “in shape” is the reason people start running, it is almost never the reason that they keep running.
We runners are a different breed. Whether you are a 5K runner, a marathoner or an ultra-marathoner, you are a runner and you are different. We do grueling workouts under extreme weather conditions. We build our days, our diets and our social lives around our runs. We travel the world to race the same distance over and over again. We wake up early to pound the pavement or the treadmill.
Our sport is your sport’s punishment.
And we do it willingly.
And we’ll do it again tomorrow.
But why do we run? Like I said, the first answer out of most people is “to stay in shape.” I get that. Me, too. But when we dig deeper, it is something else, isn’t it?
For me, it’s a challenge to do something I’ve done for 21 years and see if I can do it better and better every day. I run to prove to myself I can get faster, go farther if I dedicate myself to it. I run against only one person: me.
This is not unusual for most runners. The pros try to beat one another, sure, but we amateurs are out there running against only one person: ourselves. We are our own motivation to keep going day after day.
So how do you stay motivated when the only competition you have is the person in the mirror every morning?
#1. Run with people who are faster than you. I remember the exact moment when I was 14 and I passed the #3 girl on our varsity cross-country team. I had worked hard all season to get into shape and was always 6th or 7th (read: last on our team) but in this race and the ones after it, I was 4th and 3rd. I will never forget how those 6 women pushed me in our workouts to work hard and never give up.
#2. Find a race. Your marathon might be over, but that doesn’t mean your racing season has to be! You’re in probably the best shape of your life when you toe the line at a race you’ve trained 4-6 months to run, why leave it at the finish line? Find a 5k or a 10k to really race in a month or so and start tailoring your workouts to a shorter distance. It will allow you to recover from your long training runs, but keep you from diving headfirst into a training slump.
#3. Run for a charity. I’ve said it over and over again: running for someone or something else is far more fulfilling than just running for yourself. Believe me on this one and go out for a charity you hold near and dear to your heart.
#4. Set goals. I want to run a 7-minute mile. I want to run a sub-4 hour marathon. I want to beat my best 5k time. I want to run a mile without stopping. Set your goal. Map out a plan. Take the first steps out the door. Do it.
You can do anything you want to, you just have to be brave enough to TRY.
Motivation is not always an easy thing to find and it’s even harder to maintain. But if you are proactive about it, you can keep your motivation levels high throughout your training season and have some fun while you’re at it. Besides, if it isn’t fun anymore, why the hell would you still be doing it?
Now go out and run!
Whether you’re a runner or an athlete of a different kind, what keeps you going??