Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Motivation to Run

I was running with two of my friends the other day and one is a runner who used to be more into running but was describing how after moving to Dubuque she has just not had the motivation to run that she used to. The question was then proffered, ‘how do you get motivated to run?’

That is the million dollar question, and for better or for worse, I have buckets of motivation for running while others do not. So while we finished off the run I gave a few examples of what motivates me to run. As I did that I thought, I should come up with an exhaustive of a list that I can about the things that motivate me to run. The list is in no particular order because my motivation varies on a daily basis.

  • I started running in middle school to be a little fit. By the time I was a preteen my parents could no longer keep up with me. I knew that I had to do something, starting in middle school, to be active or I would wind up behind a desk out of shape with health problems. So I tried some other sports, but running was the only thing I was half decent at.
  • Running is so simple and natural and feels so good. This is not quite a motivation but I know that when I go running the endorphins and other stuff will make me feel better after the run. Nothing else that I do has the same feeling post-workout. Cycling or climbing are just not the same. From experience I know that more than 99% of the time I will mentally feel better after the run. Sometimes when it’s cold and rainy or wet and snowy and I am sore from a workout I end up not happy after the run, but that only happens a few times in the average year. When people say I am addicted to running, it is this feeling that I get after a run that I am addicted to. I figure it is a good thing I met running instead of cocaine.
  • I have running goals that are mostly long term. I have mentioned the Olympic Trials several times, and that’s kind of the big one, but I have a few others. Having goals makes it easier to get changed and get out the door, which is often the hardest part of the run.
  • I wear bright clothing. No lie, it started in high school with orange tights and a yellow cycling jersey and I realized that wearing bright colors helps make it easier to get changed into my running clothes, which if I haven’t mentioned before is often the hardest part of the run.
  • I have a huge collection of shoes. That way I know that I will always have a dry pair at the start of every run. Also, paying so much money for shoes motivates me to go out and use them.
  • Having friends that train like I do. Without my high school and college friends on the cross country and track teams, I would never have become the person that I am today. Part of that is that being a team, someone is always excited to be at practice, while most people might be tired on any given day. It makes it easier to run every day when I know that there are people that expect me to be there. Now, over the last two years I have been off of a team so I have been lacking that particular advantage directly. However, indirectly, my college runner friends all keep running logs and I will read up on how their training and race results are going and since many of them are having good races, it motivates me to keep working and produce good results. If I could room with a college friend or several also competing at the 2016 Olympic Marathon Trials that would be awesome!
  • I run in exotic locations. While the Mines of Spain park and the Heritage Trail are hardly considered exotic by typical standards, they are a welcome change from sidewalks and streets. To me running on a single track trail in Iowa or New Hampshire or Colorado or Costa Rica all have enough things in common to keep me satisfied on trails that most people would hardly consider exotic. To be honest, I feel like Huck Finn or Tom Sawyer running around on the shores of the Mississippi river.
  • I look good when I run a lot. I was never the fit kid growing up. I did a fair amount of eating and sitting around. I still do that stuff but I pump a whole bunch of exercise in there as well. It’s nice to look in the mirror and see my abs. It’s fun to see some new physical feature every few months. The veins on my quads were popping out the other night after a bicycle ride. That’s new. Plus as a single guy, it can’t hurt to look half decent. Of course assuming I get to the point where I have a significant other, she would be an even better reason to look nice.
  • I follow the running news and read all about running. Reading about what the top guys are doing motivates me to keep working to get better. If one of the top Americans or really almost any of the athletes gets better or comes back after a long set back their struggle motivates me to do a little bit more in my training.
  • I can be a little competitive and running is a great outlet. I would not say I am incredibly competitive, in face I would describe myself as cooperative more than competitive, but I do like to compete. I feel like running is the best competition because it doesn’t matter how expensive your bicycle is or that your parents gave you a season pass to Aspen and a new set of skis every year from the time you were four or that you have access to the fastest pool in the world. Economically, I am sure that runners at the Olympics come from the most challenged financial childhoods compared to other sports. Plus, it is a sport that requires your whole body for a length of time. There are no half times. There are no whistles. There is a start and a finish. The limits that are placed are mental. A race is a man versus man (or woman versus woman) fight to the finish to see what each one is made of. I sort of stole that from a Prefontaine quote, but whatever. Running races shows me what I am made of. My thoughts and emotions are revealed to me unlike anything else that I know. Although, I must say a long day in the mountains is very revealing as well in a slightly different and often deeper way emotionally.
  •  I keep a running log. When I look at the graphs and numbers they tell me what I am missing. There are things I like to see (like 100+ miles for the week) and those little things give me short term goals, as in goals on a weekly or even daily basis.
  • I run because I can. It sounds simple but I had a teacher who was in a wheelchair, perhaps she never desired to run, but I figure I have this ability, I am going to use it. Furthermore, this concept propagates itself. Now I am a good enough runner that not running races regularly seems a waste. I feel obligated a little to run races so that when my friends ask about my most recent race I have something to talk about. It is basically the perfect kind of obligation. Something I want to do anyway.
  • I run because I dream. Running is a sport where there is a best. There are world records and Olympic champions. In science and engineering or any of the other aspects of my life the comparison is not as strait forward. In other aspects of my life I never know entirely if I am succeeding or failing, running lets me know that I am X far away from the dream.
  • Runners are generally friendly and nice. I like to meet other runners when I am running because there is a comfort with life and drive to succeed that runners have that not everyone has. I like to spend my time around people that are happy, and most runners I know are happy.  After you spend enough time suffering running and also having successes most people obtain a positive outlook on the whole experience. They appreciate the experience as much or more than the destination.
So that is why I run. Perhaps it is not every reason, but after spending close to two hours thinking of things it covers most of the bases. If you have any other reasons that you run, please comment below, thank you!

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